Last month fell in love with Long Island indie artist Rorie Kelly’s awesome new album Rising Rising Rising, which is why I recently brought you an exclusive interview with her. Following that, Rorie invited me to a concert she was doing, which was to be held in someone’s house. You see, Rorie crowd funded Rising Rising Rising and one of the things funders could buy was a private concert at their home. This is often an option on crowd funding sites, but it’s rare that you ever see it sell, which is probably because artists want something like 20 thousand dollars for it. Well, Rorie didn’t ask for nearly that much and, as luck would have it, someone bought it, a woman named Laura Whitmore, who happened to live here in Massachusetts, hence Rorie inviting me.
I must say that attending this show was one of the most unique and enjoyable concert going experiences I’ve ever had. I had absolutely no idea what to expect. For all I knew, it could have turned out to be a rowdy party held by drunk and discourteous twentysomethings, or it could have been… dull as a funeral. As it turned out, it was neither of these things. The host was quite gracious, which can also be said of the roughly 25 jovial people in attendance, and the party/show was mellow but far from boring; nearly everyone was drinking wine, but nobody was drinking hard liquor.
The evening began with a vibrant three song set performed by Laura Whitmore herself, who proved to be quite talented at both singing and playing the acoustic guitar. (Rorie later informed me that Laura runs the Women’s International Music Network (www.theWIMN.com) and also edits Guitar World’s Acoustic Nation blog.) I was especially impressed with her song “The Girl in the Back Row,” which she said she’d just written recently along with an artist named Jenna Paone. Following her performance, a gentleman performed a few songs, but I can’t remember his name for the life of me. He stated that he only does covers, but I didn’t recognize any of the songs.
Rorie performed with an acoustic guitar, which she played rather aggressively, which surprised me. It wasn’t a bad thing at all, just a slight change from her guitar sound on Rising Rising Rising, which is energetic but perhaps not quite so much so. Suffice to say, she was quite the dynamo there in Whitmore’s cozy living room. She began her set with the very fitting “Road Trip,” a song that she’d written for another on-the-road show. She explained that it was her song from a songwriting challenge where “each month the audience thinks up a topic for the next month’s featured songwriters to write about.”
As Rorie performed each song, she explained what it was about, which reminded me of the VH1 show Storytellers. Since I couldn’t write fast enough to get everything down, I e-mailed Rorie and asked her to refresh my memory about the set list and what she’d said about the songs. Here’s her response, as well as a brief interview about the experience:
“Road Trip”: see above
“Lady of the Harvest Moon” – This is a song about declaring that you are going to go after your dreams, and not apologizing for it.
“Pennsylvania” – I never lived in Pennsylvania. I’m from New York but for a long time I was dating someone who lived in Ohio and I did the drive so many times that I know Pennsylvania extremely well now. It’s 310 miles long, if you were wondering.
“Don’t Give In” – This is a song about being true to yourself even when the
media and everyone around you is telling you to change.
“The Weather” – This is a song about dealing with darkness. It’s also about why Brooklyn and I are on a break.
“Coyote” – This is another road song – written after I read a short story by Charles de Lint about a man who believed he was really the Native American archetype, Coyote.
“Eyes of Gray” – This is a song about learning how to be your own hero.
“American Daydream” – This is a song I wrote about walking away from an “opportunity” with a very shady dude.
“What’s Up” – Cover by 4 Non Blondes. This is sort of becoming my personal theme song at the moment, I like to do it as a singalong at the end of gigs. 🙂
MM: How much did you charge for the home performance on your crowdfunding page? How long, if at all, did you know Laura Whitmore before she bought it?
RK: The house concert was $500 on my crowdfunding page, but I did have a stipulation that it had to be within a days’ drive. Laura and I met when I applied to a showcase she runs at a music conference. I just got lucky, she loved my music and has been really supportive of me since. That was 2014 I think? So about 2 years.
MM: Were you surprised when someone bought that option?
RK: Honestly, yes! Everything I read about crowdfunding told me it was smart to have a “big ticket item” because some people really would want to support you that much — but honestly, I still wasn’t expecting it! I was floored and excited when I got the email notification. 🙂
MM: Was this your first time doing a home performance?
RK: My first home performance was at a friend’s dad’s house around Christmas the year that Hurricane Sandy hit. The house had been hit really hard and was only half furnished and partially fixed. Yet it was a really special night. Four or five musicians were in the round sharing our own songs, and later it turned into a general seasonal song singalong.
MM: Did you feel awkward performing in someone’s home?
RK: It’s definitely more awkward than walking into a venue for some reason! I usually feel pretty nervous at the beginning of the night but by the end, I usually feel very welcomed and grateful. It’s amazing how music can bring strangers together and make them friends.
MM: Was it more intimidating than performing at a club?
RK: Definitely more intimidating! Fewer people, quieter environment = “oh no, everyone will know right away if i screw up!”
MM: Do you ever invite people over and put on concerts like that at your home?
RK: No but I’m hoping to in the future! I’ve lived in teeny apartments for most of my adult life but I’m actually in the middle of buying a house. I’m hoping I can have some musical events there.
MM: How far did you drive for this performance?
RK: It was about a 4 hour drive for me? Not too bad, but I think I’m genetically inclined to be a musician. Long drives soothe my soul.
MM: What’s the longest distance you would travel for such a performance? For example, would you do a home performance in Los Angeles if someone paid for your plane ticket and a hotel room?
RK: Truthfully I’d love to travel anywhere to give a home performance–you hit the nail on the head that money is the limiting factor. If it costs me more to get there than I might make in donations at the performance… obviously that is not a good business practice for a musician! But if travel costs are covered I’d go pretty much anywhere. In fact I think that would be a really cool reason to travel to a new city.
MM: I know your husband, Alex, set up your CDs and things at the concert and he’s credited with assisting with the layout for Rising Rising Rising. In what other ways does he help you career-wise? Does he manage you or do your booking?
RK: Alex is a partner to me in every sense of the word. I’ve managed myself and done my booking, promotion, web presence (etc etc etc) for years before I met him. Most people I’ve been with in the past have been supportive but he is the first one to really show up and say “I want to be a part of your career. I am hear to help. Let me take some of that weight off your shoulders.” He runs my bandcamp page, helps out at live shows and ConcertWindow shows, updates my tour schedule and mailing list for me, and helps with whatever big project is happening at the moment. I still do the booking because I have relationships with people and venues, and manage the social media stuff because that’s more my skill set than his (and I like to make it personal). Most everything else he helps with or sometimes spearheads himself. It’s a dream come true.
So, there you have it, if you have the money then Rorie might be willing to perform in your home. If you’re a fan of singer/songwriter type music and have a fondness for acoustic guitar then I suggest you check your wallet. Seriously though, it was a beautiful performance and much more intimate than seeing someone perform in a crowded club, so I would definitely recommend it.