I think it’s safe to say that many of us can appreciate the artistic sensibility of the powerhouse that is ’90s Alanis Morissette, but sometimes there’s only so many shrouded metaphors one can take. Allow me to introduce you to New York native Rorie Kelly, the Alanis Morissette of sensical lyrics.
Rorie comes at you with an unrelenting sentimentality. Her voice holds so much emotion; whether through a whisper or a scream, she brings you into her story, whatever it may be. She gives a refreshing honesty accompanied by an earnest guitar that will make you hit repeat as many times as your heart can handle.
I got the chance to speak with Rorie about her experiences and how she’s working to empower young women through music.
GM: Hello and thank you for agreeing to this interview!
I’d like to start with how you got into music. What made you want to pursue this?
Rorie: Personally, I don’t feel like I was in on the decision. Music hit me like a ton of bricks the summer I turned 13. It was the era of the Lilith fair, and girls with guitars were all over the radio (a really great time to come into music). I realized one night that there was nothing else I could build my life around other than music. Don’t get me wrong, I’m smart and I have plenty of different skills, but if I was not pursuing a life in music with every fiber of my being, I would feel like an incomplete human, faking my way through my existence. I actually feel really lucky to have known from such a young age exactly what I was meant to do. Not everyone gets that experience.
GM: That’s really great. From where do you draw inspiration — in writing, in music, or just in life in general?
Rorie: I’m very lucky in that most of the time, words and music will pour out of me if I let them. Life is my inspiration for that, and writing (songs and words) is the way I process it. It’s both my therapy and my art. In life, lately I am drawing my inspiration from women. Watching the women around me navigate their lives — including the ugly or dull parts — with passion, strength, and grace fills me with hope and inspiration.
GM: If approached by someone who had never heard your music, how would you describe it to them?
Rorie: I have way too many answers for this question, and none of them ever seem to hit the mark. My favorite (probably infuriating to people in the PR field) is to tell people I make ladybeast music and let them decide what that means for themselves.
GM: Love it! I know that, like me, you think it’s so important to talk about and celebrate women in the music industry. What has been your experience as such? And what drives your passion in discussing this?
Rorie: It is so important. My experience as a woman in music (actually, as a woman, period) is that I and other women seem to constantly have to prove ourselves, over and over. If I walk into a gig or a music store or an open mic night, many men (and some women!) seem to automatically assume I’m a beginner. Some of them are really rude and dismissive, and others are just patronizing, thinking they’re going to “take me under their wing” and “show me the ropes.” When I do prove myself “worthy” in their eyes, they act surprised — as if I’m “pretty good for a girl.” What kind of sexist garbage is that? I’ve spoken to other women about this, and they’ve experienced it too, even outside of music. Most men I mention this to are surprised by it, and some clearly don’t even believe me. So I think it is important to celebrate women all the time, as loudly as possible, just to balance the scales.
On another level, in the last few years I have made it my mission to support, heal, and inspire women through my music. I want to do this in a real, honest way, not a patronizing way. I want to empower every girl who has ever been made to feel like she is not enough. And that has made me look at women and girls in a whole different way. I see our strengths and our vulnerabilities, and I see the strength in our vulnerabilities. Being compassionate and thoughtful and sensitive are such strengths, and many women have been made to feel that these traits are actually flaws. Destroy that idea. Every one of us can change the world. And we can do it by refusing to change ourselves — by owning our individuality instead of apologizing for it.
GM: I see that you’ve started something called “Songs to Start a Fire,” which is meant to encourage and inspire girls and young women. Can you expand on that? And what have you seen come of it?
Rorie: Thank you so much for asking about Songs to Start a Fire… it’s my baby right now. Basically, Songs to Start a Fire is the name for my project to empower women and girls through music. I also do special Songs to Start a Fire events that are part concert, part empowerment workshop where we all share our hopes and fears and collaborate together creatively. Every one of these workshops leaves me feeling like a million bucks. We are tapping into every woman’s capacity to heal herself and rise up.
I’m still working on a website for the Songs to Start a Fire movement, but I’m extremely active on Facebook and Twitter. I am sharing positivity, thoughts, questions, and ideas on Facebook and Twitter every day. This is a community movement, and I am hoping to reach every girl who has ever been made to feel like she doesn’t fit.
GM: Good luck with that. It sounds amazing! You also have a new album releasing soon. What can you tell us about that?
Rorie: Yes! I’m so so so excited about it. The album is called Rising Rising Rising, and it will be released in early 2016. The songs share the story of my own journey, from very low self-esteem to learning to treat myself with kindness and compassion. It’s not all sunshine and daisies; this album deals with all the struggles I have had with self-worth, relationships, body image, and believing in myself. I wrote the songs as I was leading myself out of that dark place, so there is a lot of raw honesty and some dark stuff, but also a lot of hope. The truth that I really want to share with this album is that maybe no one can save you, but you can save yourself. And you are worthy of that. Honestly, I’m on a campaign to inspire girls and women to be their own knights in shining armor.
I’m in the middle of recording now, but in the meantime I am performing, in person and online, and sharing these songs and this message daily. If you want to be in on this movement, sign up for my mailing list on the front page of my website.
GM: Can’t wait! Do you have any advice for young creators (writers, artists, etc.)?
Rorie: FOLLOW AND TRUST YOUR HEART. Many well-meaning adults in your life will try to push you to more “practical” pursuits, and some will even try to make you feel like you are wasting your time. It’s important to remember that, even though this may come from a place of love, you and you alone know what is truly right for you. Treat your craft and yourself with respect and dedication. Do your best to follow the path that feels most honest and most right for you — whatever it is. If the people around you aren’t supporting you right now, do your best to take care of yourself and do what you can to find support and community. You deserve these things.
GM: Finally, where can we find you and your music?
Rorie: My website has tour dates, music, merch, and news. To really keep in touch with me, follow me on Twitter and Facebook — this is where I share the most every day (don’t we all?). My twitter handle is @roriekelly and here’s my Facebook page. If you connect with me on social media, introduce yourself and say hi! I want to know you and connect with you. It’s not a one-way street.
GM: Thanks again for answering my questions. I’m sure it’s a busy and exciting time for you, so I really appreciate your time!
Rorie: Thank you so much for having me! I love what Germ Magazine is doing, and I am honored to be a small part of it. ♥
Check out this Germ exclusive music video of Rorie’s song “Quiet Eyes, Slow Breath”:
As always, if you know a local band that you think deserves some recognition, let me know, and I’ll check them out. Maybe you’ll see them on Germ in the future!