Photo Credit: @larue.photo
The anxiety of raising your hand in the middle of class with an answer you know is right, the feeling of dread when having to read the words that just escaped your head, standing in front of a crowd with a mic and letting your poetry escape as melodic sounds. It’s all terrifying and while some of us never get over that fear, others like Rorie have slowly walked towards confidence and been able to rise above to share her music with the world. Two EPs to her name already, this DC singer-songwriter will soon share her debut LP, ‘Valley in the Mirror,’ on January 31st. We talked about the album, strange song places, and more in this lovely exchange.
Kendra: We both began writing early in life, and both were shy to share the endless pages we’d created. For me, it was a teacher who broke me out of that. What was it for you?
Rorie: That’s a great question! I’m glad you had a good teacher that saw that in you! I definitely relate in that I had teachers who encouraged me along the way, and their confidence helped me to be bolder and take more risks. I also had some key friends and family members that I would play my first songs for. Sometimes it’s actually harder to share your music with those closest to you, because you know they will be honest and tell you what they think.
They are also usually aware of the story behind your song without any explanation, which can be nerve-wracking! I remember playing my song “Storyteller” (which is now on my first EP) for a close friend, and before I started I literally said:, “I will never play this for anyone publicly.” I meant it. I thought it was too vulnerable and that I had just written it for myself to process a bad breakup.
When I finished playing the song, my friend looked at me and said “I think you definitely need to play that song for people. A lot of people are going to relate to it, and it will impact them.” I think realizing that other people might relate to the words that were spilling out of my heart helped me to be brave and start sharing.
Kendra: Today you’re an indie, DIY artist with her debut album on the horizon. From when you first started to now, how do you feel you’ve grown not only as an artist but someone who wears almost every hat when it comes to getting things done?
Rorie: It has been quite the journey! I found out early on that being an artist isn’t just about passion and skill, but also about being an entrepreneur and business person. I love the different aspects of this – from the photography, video, design, and overall feel of a project, and even some of the administrative work. Some of it takes a lot of time though, and I’ve stayed up way past midnight working more than once. It’s definitely a lot being completely independent, but in some ways it has emboldened me with the ability to make my own choices about what I want to represent as an artist. I’ve definitely grown since the beginning, made some mistakes, and learned how to make decisions more quickly and confidently as a result.
Kendra: What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned as an independent artist?
Rorie: To remember why you started, and stick to that vision. It takes guts to even set out to be an independent artist, so that same fiery spirit that caused you to take a chance in the first place is what will enable you to keep going. There are so many opinions and pressures that fight for our attention. Now, I’m not saying that all opinions are bad. I love my fans and love hearing from them. They matter more than anyone, and they are how I get to do what I do! However, not everyone out there will have your best interest at heart, so I had to learn that not all advice or comments are equal.
At the end of the day, you have to be able to look at yourself in the mirror and know that you made honest choices that you can live with. I always come back to this same phrase that I think applies to more things in life than just music: “it’s not easy, but it’s worth it.”
Kendra: When it comes to ‘Valley in The Mirror’ you seemed to work around the clock when it came to the material. Where’s the strangest place you penned a song and what made you pick up a pen and start writing there?
Rorie: Yes, I write a lot of songs late at night! “Drift,” which is the third song on the album, was written at 3am when I lived in a house with many housemates in college. I sat in my room with my guitar and had to whisper-sing into my phone so that I wouldn’t wake anyone up. I wrote this song when I realized that I was drifting away from a person and a place, and instead of accepting that, I was fighting back by dwelling on the past and trying to figure out things that really needed to be let go of. Every once and a while I’ll write a song and something that I was feeling anxious about will sort of evaporate with it, and I’ll never dwell on it again. This was one of those rare occasions, and it was such a relief!
Kendra: When it comes to “Train,” I think a lot of people are going to be able to relate. Especially in a world where we’re all struggling and may not see how it’s damaging those around us. Was that inspired by your struggles or those of another?
Rorie: I hope so! At the heart of this, the song was about my own struggles and experiences. However, as I wrote the song, it was abstract enough that I instantly related it to experiences of a few others in my life, even though I wasn’t writing about them. I tried the song out at a show and a lot of people told me afterwards that it related to something specific that they were going through, which was exciting and always so interesting to me!
Kendra: You’ve got a couple of shows coming up in February but what else can we expect in the early part of 2020 for you?
Rorie: Yes, this year I will start with two album release shows and will continue to pursue more touring opportunities from there. I also plan to film at least one more music video for ‘Valley in the Mirror,’ and have been writing a lot of new songs, so it will be a matter of deciding the timing and plan for future releases! Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with me!