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Chester County Press

Songwriter's Nicaraguan journey inspires a creative outlet

01/13/2015 12:24PM ● By Richard Gaw


It's early Saturday morning in the middle of the winter – far too early an hour for accomplishment – and the sloping driveway that leads to Al Hahn's home studio in Landenberg is slick with wet snow.

There is no earthly reason for three grown men to be tinkering around with musical instruments in the Hahn home at this hour, let alone having to ascend its driveway, and yet, it doesn't take a visitor long to realize that he is in a creative place where work takes place, like the way paint finds a canvas and makes a portrait or a landscape.

Bassist Hahn, drummer Steve K., lead guitarist Dave Walker and singer-songwriter Bill Rose are in the middle of recording Rose's second album, tentatively titled "The Sound," a nearly two-year journey of songwriting that began and ended during Rose's two-year stint in Nicaragua.

Rose, who is the director of the Garage Community and Youth Center in West Grove, spent the majority of the last two years managing Palmetto Medical Initiatives projects throughout Latin America, helping to establish a health care facility in Nicaragua. He saw the project through from concept to completion: The construction of the facility, the hiring and training of the staff, as well as the hiring and placement of medical professionals from the U.S. And Canada.

For as much satisfaction as Rose had with the job, he missed the emotional ties with his friends back in Chester County. His wife joined him in Nicaragua for a a year, but she eventually had to return home to begin a new job.

After his wife returned to the U.S., Rose was emotionally alone for three months. He was a foreigner in a foreign world. He was not part of of the culture, and consequently, he found himself constantly fighting against the system. He was afraid of being on the streets. There were locks on his door and barbed wire around his house. He felt like he was living his life locked in a cage.

"I spent a lot of time alone down there, where I found myself to be an observer, to witness the struggles of what Nicaraguans go through down there, and compare it to what we in the United States look upon as struggles," Rose said. "It really pushed me in terms of how I was approaching my life. I needed some way to kind of process these feelings, so I was grateful to have the creative outlet of putting my feelings down in songs."

Rose's new songs take on the subjects of truth, second guessing, decisions, "and realizing that no matter what, we're all going to end up in the grave, so why would we spend time thinking about the 'What ifs' and 'What could have beens,'" Rose said.

As soon as he got back to Chester County in August, armed with about a dozen songs, he reached out to Hahn. "I said, 'Hey, let's get you, me and Steve together.' We just started playing and it just sounded so good," Rose said.

The connection to the new songs was immediate. "Bill and I had played together before he left, and I had gotten to know a lot of his older tunes," Hahn said. "He e-mailed me from Nicaragua in July and told me that he was coming back in August, and had lined up some gigs. I told him it would be great to play some of his old tunes. Then he told me, 'I've written a lot of new songs.' He and I sat down, and I found the new songs very easy to find musical patterns to accompany. The lyrics were also so inspiring."

Eventually, there will be a full recording of 11 new songs – all written by Rose during his time in Nicaragua -- scheduled to be released later in 2015. In the meantime, the band is about to release a four-track EP featuring the songs, "The Sound," "Letter to the World," "Long Gone," and "Sleeper Hold." The band is planning to support the new recording with live shows beginning in the spring throughout Chester County.

"I feel Bill's songs are the kind of music you can get lost in," said band manager Kris Smith. "You can tell there's a lot of insightful maturity. It's not just for fun. I wouldn't categorize it, but Bill, Al and Steve are all about trying to make their own sound, which is what a unique band would do. They're all putting their heart and soul into it."

For more information about The Rose Project, visit www.roseprojectmusic.com, or search "Rose Project" on Facebook.

To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, e-mail rgaw@chestercounty.com.


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