RISING DURING THE PANDEMIC: AN INTERVIEW WITH RORIE KELLY

interview by Michael McCarthy

photos courtesy of Rorie Kelly

“You can’t keep this fucker down,” sings indie favorite Rorie Kelly on her ferocious new song, “Up From Here,” which she just uploaded a live version of on Youtube this week. It’s just one of several new songs the powerful singer-songwriter has unveiled as of late, most debuting during Monday Night Muses, a weekly livestream concert she’s been doing from her Facebook page. Although she has been recording some exclusive live tracks for Youtube recently, so far the only way to catch Monday Night Muses is to watch it live or to stream one of the recordings from her Facebook page. Aside from performing fan favorites and new tracks from her own lengthy catalog, she also does covers with a lengthy two-page, four-column list of tracks people can request. But if your request doesn’t appear there, it still doesn’t hurt to ask as there are over 100 other songs that she can play as well, reckoning that she knows between three and four hundred. To our ears, she’s like a cross between Juliana Hatfield (her raw guitar chords), Tori Amos (her feminist edge), Alanis Morissette (her flair for the catchy) and, lastly, Lisa Loeb (her quirkiness). Rorie simply describes her sound as “ladybeast music” and her mission statement is “to inspire others to love themselves fiercely and to become their own heroes.” We previously interviewed her way back in 2016 and she’s been inspiring us ever since.

MM: So, how are you holding up OK with the pandemic going on?

RK: Pretty good. You know, it’s the quiet life right now. It’s not the biggest problem. In a way, I feel good that I’m getting so much time to spend on my music and time to spend at home. I’m like an accidental farmer. I’m gardening every day. It’s something I don’t get time for most summers because summer is my busiest time. And, obviously, it’s weird. There’s like a guilt there because I know this is not for a good reason. A lot of people are really sick and it’s really scary. It kind of takes the silver lining, you know?

MM: Are you guys having food and essentials delivered or are you still venturing out for those things?

RK: Venturing out just for groceries. Everything else we’re pretty much getting delivered. But we’re doing the careful thing like masks and hand sanitizer and gloves. We’re doing the whole nine yards. I say we but only one of us will go out at a time. Like now they’re saying only one person from a household should be in stores and all that. So, those days are like a big, stressful adventure. But then they’re done.

MM: I know the feeling. I went to a doctor’s appointment yesterday and it was the first thing that I’ve gone to since all of this started so that felt very stressful and surreal.

RK: Oh, wow, yeah. And it’s scary going to a doctor’s office even if it’s something like routine. It’s a doctor’s office, you know? You have to worry.

MM: And I knew I was there for a whole bunch of injections so that doesn’t help matters either.

RK: Oh, yeah, that’s like already a stressful situation.

MM: How worried about getting the virus are you personally?

RK: I might’ve had it and I don’t know. I was sick right after lockdown started. At the time, whatever I had, it was mild symptoms like a really, really bad cold. But there were no tests available until I was already like way better and in New York State it was very hard to get a test. So, I don’t know if I had it still. I still have to be worried and both assume that I could be carrying it for other people’s safety and assume that I haven’t had it for my own safety. I have to take it seriously. And Alex never caught it from me, whatever I had. We were very, very careful. We quarantined within our house, you know?

MM: You’ll have to get one of those antibody test at some point.

RK: I know but I’m like, do I really want to go to a doctor’s office right now? I’m sure you felt the same way.

MM: Yeah, that’s true. It’s not worth the risk of getting it to find out if you’ve already had it.

RK: Yeah, right. It’s kind of paradoxical.

MM: Plus, it’s like, they aren’t even a hundred percent sure if that gives you any immunity because with some viruses it doesn’t.

RK: It’s questionable, right. We’ll see.

MM: Do you have an opinion on how Governor Cuomo is handling the crisis?

RK: I happen to think he’s doing a great job. I feel like he really has been more responsive than the government has been on a federal level. He’s been really, really here for his citizens. Like with closures and getting together a very data-driven plan about reopening when we’re ready for that. And, also, this is going to be an economic crisis for a lot of people more than a health crisis, just like making sure that everyone like self-employed people like me have access to unemployment. And that extra six hundred dollars a week of unemployment for people who are already receiving it is huge. Cuomo’s stuff in New York has so far exceeded the one-time stimulus check that went out federally. It makes such a difference. How is it in Massachusetts?

MM: Our governor, Governor Baker, he seems to be doing well as well. He’s being cautious about opening things. I think the 18th might be when some things are opening but I haven’t paid too close attention because I’m not going to rush right out and go dining at restaurants and see movies and everything right away anyways. I’m going to be cautious and see how things go first. But, yeah, he’s doing a good job. He usually does a daily update at some point every day between 12 and 2.

RK: I think the daily updates are very comforting. I get e-mails every day from Governor Cuomo and it’s like a bullet point of five things you need to know today. It’s really digestible and really helpful.

MM: I like listening to him when they talk to him on CNN. I find him very reassuring.

RK: Yeah. I think he really has those leadership qualities. Like he’s somebody you can put your trust in.

MM: I wish he was our President.

RK: I know. My God, a lot of people are saying that. [Laughs]

MM: I hope he runs someday. He’d probably do a better job than a lot of those cronies.

RK: Yeah, I would think so.

MM: What are your feelings about things opening up? Are you hesitant to go out or is there something you’re looking forward to doing in the near future?

RK: I’m nervous about it. Here in New York, they’re doing different things regionally, which makes sense because it’s a huge State – but here on Long Island where I’m at Cuomo just extended the stay at home orders through June 13th and I saw some people – especially like fellow musicians going, oh, man – but I have to say I think it’s the right thing to do. Of course, I understand that everyone wants to get back to their lives. This is usually my busiest time for gigs but I don’t want to rush out. It’s not worth it, just for us all to get really sick, you know?

MM: Yeah. It’s like, anything I think about potentially doing, I have to ask myself if I want to do it badly enough to potentially die, you know?

RK: Yeah. It’s a crazy question to ask yourself daily.

MM: At some point, and it’s obviously starting to happen with some people, I guess you reach a point where you stop feeling like this is quarantine thing is living and you want to get out and live your life so bad that you’re willing risk it. But I guess I haven’t reached that turning point yet.

RK: Yeah, I kind of feel the same. I also feel, at least for me – like I said, I’m an introvert and all of that, so I’m enjoying time at home. I kind of hope that when things go back to quote unquote normal, there’s a new normal for a lot of us. I feel like a lot of us have this kind of workaholic culture in the United States and I hope that there’s a new normal that makes room for people to work at home and for people to have lives outside of commuting to and from work every day.

MM: Are you able to do any work from home? You did web design, right?

RK: I used to, but I’ve been a full-time musician now for a couple of years.

MM: Oh, great. Congrats on that.

RK: Thank you. And hopefully, that continues and makes it through this quarantine. I don’t know what the next few months will look like, you know? I have been recording – I’m set up at home – and have been working remotely with my Dad, who’s my recording partner – and I’ve been doing a lot of livestreaming. If nothing else, it’s been very rewarding. It’s been good to connect with people that way.

MM: What do you miss most about life before the pandemic?

RK: I think a sense of control. I feel like this has been an exercise in surrender for so many of us. You plan your life out. I’m a very plan-y person. I make schedules and I make spreadsheets and it’s like, oh, actually, all of this is canceled, good luck. [Laughs]

MM: What’s a day like of your life in quarantine? If you were to walk me through a day.

RK: I definitely sleep later. [Laughs] I sleep usually until the double digits in the morning. I’m still a musician. I can’t help it. I usually go out and if it’s a nice day I’ll work in my garden for a couple of hours. I’m like an accidental farmer, which is really wonderful. It’s something I love and I never have time for usually. So, that’s been like a silver lining. And I come back in and do work. As a self-employed person, it’s not necessarily work I’m getting paid for, just rehearsing and doing promotion and those kinds of things, all of those business side of things that most musicians don’t want to deal with. I feel like I have to do it. And I have more time now to do it. And at night I’ll be doing a livestream or a friend of mine will and I’ll tune in to support.

MM: How many gigs did you have to cancel because of the pandemic?

RK: Oh, I haven’t even counted. In March, when we were locked down, I was gigging maybe four times a week, something like that. In the Summer, it’ll be more like six or seven times in a week. I’ll be out every day if I’m not careful during the summer. I stay a full-time musician and what that means is I gig constantly. I do a lot of cover gigs and a lot of bar gigs and all of that and that was like a five-day adventure for me and now it’s… [Laughs] Which is OK for me, you know?

MM: Well, hopefully, at some point things will get back to normal. It’s weird thinking about shows. Like I interviewed Michael Sweet from the band Stryper the other day and he was saying for all we know they might have to wear masks when they’re singing because we now know you emit a lot of droplets when you’re singing. What are your thoughts on that? Would you actually do shows wearing a mask?

RK: I might do it. I think, safety first. Especially where I do so many shows. A lot of musicians are like, bummer, man, I had a couple of gigs booked in June. For me, it’s like, I usually give five nights a week usually. So, I’d rather take the precautions, you know? But, also, I’ve been hearing people talk about doing drive-in concerts. And I don’t know how I feel about that either. It does seem safer for the audience but musicians, we’re still like someone is doing the sound and someone is setting up the mic and someone is doing all of that so there’s a lot of opportunities to spread germs.

MM: I wonder if they would have the music loud enough that you could hear it well within your cars or if you would have to tune in to a certain radio station like how they used to do drive-in movies and it would transmit through your radio or how they would do that.

RK: Right. It’s interesting to think about. I think, the musicians ourselves, have to take it seriously. You’re like breathing into a mic constantly. You’re basically making out with a microphone. So, we’ve gotta really be mindful about the places germs can spread and be careful about that.

MM: I was thinking about how when I lived in California I used to go to karaoke all the time and I remember one of the karaoke DJs that I went to all the time had this spray and he would spray the microphone before he used it but he wouldn’t spray it going back and forth between other people. Only before he used it himself.

RK: [Laughs]

MM: At the time, I thought he was just being paranoid. I never thought, geez, to hell with my safety. I never took it as an insult. I took it as him being paranoid. But it’s like now you would be like mortified if he was doing it for himself and not everybody else. Nobody would even sing into it without him spraying it first now, I imagine.

RK: I don’t think I’d do a gig without bringing my own mic at this point.

MM: Yeah, definitely. On another note, I know from our previous interview, you mentioned that your Dad plays bass and your mother sings and plays guitar. How much do you collaborate with them?

RK: I collaborate with my Dad constantly. With my Mom, it’s more like a casual thing where we might hang out and sing a song together but I haven’t seen her now in a couple of months, which is crazy, but my Dad and I have really become like recording partners. It’s really been cool. With this last project, we were doing it in his studio but now we’re doing it remotely in our bedrooms. But it’s cool to see what we can accomplish as just two people with Pro-Tools. And we have a couple of different skill sets and we try to build the sound.

MM: Do you do any writing together or just recording?

RK: Pretty much just recording. It would be cool to write a song with my Dad. My Dad and my Mom are both great songwriters. I just have so many songs at any given moment that it feels like a race to record them all.

MM: Do you find that they come in big flurries or more at an even pace?

RK: People say creativity isn’t like a faucet that you can turn on and off, but for me it’s kind of like a faucet. Except that it can be hard for me to turn it off. I have songs come when I’m like, oh, I’m too busy. And then I will literally dream songs and wake up. My brain is like, no, you’re going to make music. [Laughs] So, it’s always coming and what’s really cool is now that I’m at home if a song comes to me, I can spend the whole afternoon working on it without guilt.

MM: How many songs do you have recorded that are awaiting your next release at this point?

RK: I think I have a little more than half an album in the can right now. And I probably am going to be releasing a single at the beginning of June. June is Pride month and a lot of the LGBT Pride events got canceled for good reason. Like no one’s upset. We’re all like, OK, it’s quarantine. It’s a song that’s about that community. About being an invisible minority. It’s called “Lying Streak.” So, I’m excited to release that in June and do a little DIY video for it and all of that.

MM: I like the title.

RK: Thank you. It’s really about when people are kind of coming to terms with their sexual identity. Before they come out, you have this weird feeling like you’re lying to everyone. And even yourself for a little bit because you’re still figuring it out. So, that’s kind of what that’s about.

MM: In our previous interview, you were saying that you liked to perform solo as opposed to with a band because you only like to hire a band when you can afford to pay them fairly. Prior to the pandemic, were you in a position where you could do that or were you still doing things mostly solo?

RK: Still mostly solo. That’s partly my choice because I went full-time in the Summer of 2018 and my ability to do that means I have to manage the money super carefully. I have to make sure that I’m gigging enough and have to make sure I’m taking home enough, but I definitely would hire a band for a special gig or something like that. And, also, I was gigging so much that often I would sit in with people or they would sit in with me so I would just jam with people a lot.

MM: Have you been doing any collaborating with other artists since the pandemic started? That seems to be all the rage right now.

RK: I’m going to be. I have a couple of folks who are recording who I’m gonna sing on their tracks a little bit, which I’m really looking forward to. And [with] my own stuff, I think most of my versions are just gonna be me and my Dad like usual, but it’s a different theme, you know? Because it’s like I’m sending him a Google Drive link.

MM: Do you feel more vulnerable when you’re up there on stage without a band behind you? Or do you feel like you have more control that way?

RK: I think I do feel like I do have more control. That’s a really good way to put it. If I’m with a band, and I love playing with a band – there’s a cool energy to it – but if anyone screws up when I’m on stage, it’s gonna be me. And I know how to fix it. [Both laugh] I feel more confident. And also, during the past year I’ve been doing a lot of live looping performances so I can layer my vocals, my guitar, I do beat-boxing now – so that’s been like kind of allowing me to create this experience that would be more like a trio might create and just be one human. It’s fun for me. I guess other people might feel like that’s not the same as playing with other people, but I don’t know, I’m an introvert. I don’t always play well with others. [Both laugh]

MM: Fair enough. Now, if small clubs re-open and they can only take in like a quarter or a third of the people they used to would that be feasible or would you constantly lose money if you performed to crowds that size?

RK: You know, it’s a good question. Because a lot of the gigs I do, it’s not necessarily ticket-based. There are gigs I do that are based on ticket sales, but often I get a guarantee. I don’t know what’s gonna happen with these small businesses that are gonna be closed for the next three months. If they’ll be able to keep affording the same guarantees and that kind of thing. I always approach it as a partnership because I’m a small business as an independent musician and they’re a small business, too, so we have to make something that works. So, I’m curious. I don’t know what the finances are gonna look like. I know I have business savvy and a commitment to make it work so somehow or another I’m gonna find a way to make it work, but it might look really different. It might not be the same.

MM: It’ll definitely be interesting to see what happens. It’s frustrating for me as a fan because I live for concerts. I mean, I live for music first and foremost, but concerts are what keep me going. If I get really depressed, if I have tickets to a concert coming up, that’s what I focus on. Those are the things I look forward to the most. But it’s like, do I want to pay money to go see someone singing with a mask on and I can’t even tell if they’re smiling or miserable the whole time and it sounds muffled.

RK: Meanwhile, you’re wearing a mask, too. Yeah.

MM: And as somebody who wears eyeglasses, your glasses keep getting fogged up because of the masks, which is a constant source of frustration. But I do know some places are starting to re-open bars so you might see shows at bars before concerts.

RK: Yeah. It’s funny, that was my exact line of thought. I play in small places. I play in bars. I play in restaurants. And I think this is true in like theatre as well for a performance, you’re gonna see independent stuff start before the big stuff starts. It’s crazy to think about a huge show at Madison Square Garden or Barclays Center. That’s like a nightmare to try and figure out. But at a smaller place where the maximum occupancy is a hundred people and maybe it’s less than that with social distancing, you’re gonna see those performances happen first. So, I hope that the good thing that comes out of this is that it refocuses people on independent arts. We have really kept the fire going during this time. Everyone’s doing stuff online. Everyone’s livestreaming. I think we’re gonna be the ones who are back in it first.

MM: You recently released a live performance video of “Everywhere I Go” from your last album, Rising Rising Rising. What inspired you to make a video for that song at this point in time?

RK: I actually just kind of decided in the last few weeks that I should start putting out a lot more videos on Youtube. I’m livestreaming now a few times a week and I spent the first few weeks of quarantine getting good at that. In the beginning, there were a lot of technical difficulties and things to play around with, but once I got a really good system where I can really just up in fifteen minutes and go, I just said to myself, there’s no reason I can’t be putting this on Youtube. So, my new practice for myself – my new goal – is whenever I livestream, I take an extra ten minutes and I do a performance video. You’re gonna see a lot more videos from me in the future on Youtube.

MM: You’ve done a few shows as part of your Monday Night Muses project. What can you tell us about that?

RK: That’s me and my cousin, Delia Stanley. We’re the same age. We learned to play guitar at the same time. We were best friends growing up and we live far apart. She lives in North Carolina now and we haven’t been able to get together in years and we just said to each other, we could do this, we could go live together. More people would come for two of us than one of us, right? So, we just started doing it. And now, it’s every Monday night. We’re Monday Night Muses and it’s been really special. It has a nice, community feel. It starts on her page and people kind of like start on her page then come over to my page. It’s a really fun thing.

MM: Is it something where you might bring additional artists aboard?

RK: I definitely could see it. I’m a big community person. Especially with female musicians. I’m always trying to network with other female musicians and get them involved and trade gigs and help each other out. Because that stuff that happens in the music scene all the time but often women get a little excluded from it. So, I’m trying to make a girl’s club instead of a boy’s club. So, I definitely could see that, bringing in some other folks. And every other Saturday I’ve been doing something called Siren Saturday with four or five different Long Island musicians here. Again, socially distanced, from our own homes. So, Siren Saturdays and Monday Night Muses. It wasn’t on purpose but I’m doing a lot of Greek Mythology concerts. [Both laugh]

MM: On your most recent Monday Night Muses you did part of a song called “Standing in the Need of Prayer.” Was that something you wrote or a cover?

RK: Oh, that’s so cool that you asked about that. Actually, it’s an old African American spiritual, I believe. I don’t even know if I would say that I know it yet. It’s in my piano book. I’ve been learning piano while we’ve been quarantined. So, that’s been really fun for me and that song came up. It was a pretty hard song for me on the piano because I’m not a good piano player, but I was like, this is how I feel when I read sheet music. Like it’s gonna take some prayer to get through reading this sheet music. But I think it’s a great song. I was like, ah, let me just play it for you guys.

MM: So, are you simultaneously learning to read sheet music during quarantine or did you already know how to read that?

RK: It’s definitely an area I need to improve. As a singer, I’m a pretty competent sight reader but that’s like one note at a time and a treble clef. As a piano player, I’ve been like, I need to do some flashcards or something. I really need to practice reading music.

MM: Once you’re fluent with the piano, is it easy to take something from the piano or guitar and play it on the other instrument?

RK: Yeah. Right now, it’s like one direction for me. If I learn something and I’m struggling on the piano, if I take it to the guitar it’s like, oh, wow, suddenly I can play this song. [Laughs] That’s part of my practice, actually. Taking songs that I can play easily on the guitar and taking them over to the piano. Seeing how the arrangement might shift. And see if I’m capable of playing the arrangement, which sometimes is no.

MM: You did a new song called “Salt Water” on Monday Night Muses as well. What can you tell us about that one?

RK: I love that you asked about it. I literally just wrote it last week. I wrote it like the day before, I think. It’s a song about passion. Like subconscious inner work. My new album is gonna be called Shadow Work and I’m a witch so I’m really into the concept –

MM: – I’m a witch, too, but you probably already knew that.

RK: Yeah, I think it’s really cool that we have that in common. Because we met through the most athiesty atheist. [Laughs] But, for me, and I think a lot of people, we’re all doing shadow work during quarantine. We don’t get a choice. We’re alone with our thoughts. So, it’s kind of like this state of surrender and stuff is coming up. That’s kind of what that song is about. Really just me giving voice to that stuff that’s coming up internally for me as I move through this. Because this is a different world for me. I’m finding parts of myself that I didn’t know were there.

MM: You did a lovely cover of Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ On A Prayer” during the same set. I take it you must know that and Alanis’ “Ironic,” which you also did, from when you do your cover gigs?

RK: Yeah. And, thank you. I think I have three or four hundred songs in my iPad. So, I don’t have to memorize all the lyrics and all of that. But those are performable, that I can just bring up at a gig. Those are fun. I’m incorrigible, too. If someone is like, do you know this song? And I’m on stage. I’m like, let’s find out. [Laughs] I’ll give it a go.

MM: So, do you have the sheet music there on your iPad that you can refer to or do you just have the lyrics there and you already know the music?

RK: Often, just the lyrics. But there are a few apps and websites where you can get chord charts for songs so you can just kind of see, here’s the basic chord structure of a song. And that plus lyrics and I’m good to go if I’ve heard the song a few times. It’s really fun. It’s something that’s kept me interested where I was gigging so much during the last two years. There are so many songs. I’m like, that’s a fun song, let me learn to play that.

MM: It must be interesting to take a song like “Chandelier” by Sia or pop songs that are mostly just beats and synth and perform them on a guitar. Is that a particular challenge?

RK: It’s become a lot more fun for me since I started looping. Now that I’m doing beat-boxing and stuff like that, it’s become an exciting challenge for me. Because it’s cool to make a really cool guitar arrangement and do an acoustic version, but now it’s cool for me to be like, how can I bring this track out with my bag of tricks? I can do this, I can do this, and I can do this. How can I make this song a cool version?

MM: I know what you mean because I’ve seen artists like Lily Allen do something similar. She performs with a band, but she has a sampler or sequencer or something in front of her that she puts different parts on with and loops things with. I always thought that was interesting.

RK: Yeah, she’s really cool.

MM: So, you were saying there are about three or four hundred songs by other artists that you could play?

RK: Yeah. That’s my guesstimate. My last count was like three hundred and change and it’s definitely increased since then.

MM: What’s the worst request you’ve ever gotten that you actually went through playing for them?

RK: [Laughs] Um… That’s a good question. I do get a lot of requests for Bob Dylan. And I know this is an unpopular opinion but I can’t stand Bob Dylan.

MM: Me neither!

RK: I’m so glad to hear it! I think he’s pretentious and over-rated and, sure, he’s written a few good songs, but everyone’s crazy for Bob Dylan and I can’t relate. But I can be bought. If someone puts a twenty in my tip jar, I will bang it out for them. [Both laugh]

MM: What are some of your favorite songs to cover?

RK: I love doing Alanis. I’m such an Alanis fan girl. I really love Alanis. That was the music that I grew up on. When I was learning to play guitar, I was listening to that album. All those really cool, bad ass female singer songwriters of the ‘90s. And now Jagged Little Pill came out so now everyone wants to hear Alanis so I’m like a kid in a candy shop. I will do every song. [Laughs]

MM: There you go. Do you know anything from any of her other albums?

RK: I actually know more songs than I don’t know in her catalogue. And I love to do the other stuff. The album that came out after Jagged Little Pill, I think is my favorite. It’s so raw and so cool. But she’s been steadily releasing albums for the last 20 years. People just haven’t heard about it. And they’re all really good. I really like everything she puts out.

MM: I do, too. I keep up with her but what ends up happening is when she puts a new album out I’ll listen to it a lot but I’m constantly absorbing so much new music that I’ll kind of forget about them eventually and by the time a new album comes out I’ve usually forgotten the previous one. Oh, I just thought of something – do you know the song “Hands Clean”?

RK: Yeah!

MM: That’s my favorite one of her songs for some reason.

RK: That’s really cool. I love the juxtaposition of how it’s a simple, acoustic-driven song, but it calls out this very dark topic.

MM: And she really rips the person’s head off.

RK: [Laughs] Yeah.

MM: In a good way.

RK: It’s really a breaking the silence kind of song.

MM: Do you do anything by Garbage?

RK: No! And I should! [Laughs]

MM: I just thought of that one because we were talking about strong ‘90s singers and it made me think of Shirley Manson.

RK: I know. My first girlfriend was really into Garbage and she turned me onto them. I should do some Garbage songs. That’s a great idea. I think they were supposed to go on tour with Alanis this summer. I had tickets, but it’s not real anymore.

MM: I saw them open for her on her second tour and that’s how they got the idea to tour together again because they had done that before. But, yeah, I’d like to see them tour together again. But Garbage is my favorite band, so in my mind Garbage should always be the headliner.

RK: Oh, I didn’t know that. That’s really cool. What songs do you think are underappreciated? Because everyone knows the singles. What songs of theirs do you think that people should listen to more?

MM: There’s a really, really haunting ballad called “Cup of Coffee” from the album Beautiful Garbage. That’s a really interesting one that you could probably do. And there’s a more subtle ballad also from that album called “Drive You Home” that’s a real nice one. A lot of stuff from their later albums a lot of people don’t know. Their first two albums did very well, but then they kind of fell out of the limelight. Which a lot of people say is because Shirley Manson had cut her hair. When they put out the album Beautiful Garbage she had shaved half of her head and the other half was really short and the single was called “Androgyny” and she was looking kind of tomboyish and they say that kind of soured things, turned some people against them, unfortunately. But they continued to put out great music. Hmm, that’s another song that might be interesting to cover is “Androgyny.” That would be a good one.

RK: I do remember that one. I remember when that album came out. I listened to it a lot. I can’t call many of the songs to mind right now. It’s been a long time. I think I’ll relisten to that.

MM: The first song on it, “Shut Your Mouth,” is a good one. You could play that when you’re playing bars and the audience is being too loud and you want to quiet them down.

RK: You know the trick when you have a noisy audience? You just get them all excited to sing the same song with you. Like “Livin’ On A Prayer” or something like that that the whole bar wants to sing along with. That’s how you tame them. Playing in bars is like babysitting drunk people.

MM: In Boston, you’d just have to do “Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond because they all associate that with the Red Sox and sing that song at every game.

RK: Oh, yeah.

MM: That would be my secret weapon.

RK: That’s true. That’s like here when the Yankees are in the World Series everyone is requesting “New York, New York.”

MM: Do you do that one?

RK: I do! It’s fun. I’ve been playing in nursing homes in the last year and I’ve learned a lot of songs from the ‘40s and the ‘50s that are more like that generation. Like the pop music that they would relate to. It’s been really cool. Some of those songs are just really great. Really special.

MM: Definitely. So, it’s been four or five years since your last album. Are you gearing up to release another album? Was that on the books at all before the pandemic?

RK: Oh, gosh. You noticed, huh? [Laughs] I have to admit, I’ve been slow. Two years after I released Rising Rising Rising is when I left my day job. And then all my brainpower was going into that. I was like, I’ll get around to recording. And now I’m like, oh, God, I have to release this album. I wanted to release it last year but it was like, oops, that deadline just flew right by me. But I really do need to. That’s the focus I really want to have. And now I have time to focus on recording. So, I’m really hoping I can get a lot of that done while I’m cooped up.

MM: Is your home studio adequate enough that you could record tracks that you could have mixed and mastered?

RK: Yeah. I’ve been recording. I have a pretty good couple of mics and a pretty good set up to get good sounds for like my guitar and my voice. And just sending those tracks back and forth.

MM: You mentioned on Monday Night Muses that you’re on Patreon. What do you do on there?

RK: It’s really cool. I don’t have a ton of patrons. I’m not a big, fancy musician. But I support a couple people on there. And for my patrons, every couple of weeks I’ll post stuff that I’m working on. For example, the song “Salt Water.” The day I wrote it, I was like, this song is a complete song and I put a little mp3 up there for my patrons to hear. So, it’s kind of like a sneak preview kind of thing. And I also do a monthly, all-request concert for them via a livestream. Which used to be a special thing, but now I’m livestreaming a couple of times a week.

MM: What do they offer that, say, Rockethub, which you used before, doesn’t? What’s the biggest difference between Patreon and other platforms?

RK: Well, it’s a different model. Patreon is an ongoing model for people to support the arts. And I think the person who made it super famous is Amanda Palmer. People can contribute either every time you release something or once a month, basically. It’s like a regular subscription, like the same way you pay your Hulu subscription or whatever. And in return, you have this ongoing relationship [with the artists]. I think it’s a little bit like joining a fanclub used to be in the ‘90s. You’re getting these really special perks that are dedicated to you. Whereas a crowdfunder like Kickstarter is for one thing, like making an album.

MM: Interesting. I know one of the people I follow on Facebook does a blog on there. So, I know people use it in some capacity for writing as well.

RK: Yeah, you could probably do something as an author. I follow a lot of artists on there. I follow podcasters. I follow a tarot reader, a friend of mine, on there. It’s cool.

MM: And how much does it cost people?

RK: I have different tiers for kind of whatever. You can be a part of my community for as little as a dollar a month. I release singles early to my patrons and show them things no one else gets to see and everyone is in on that. And then there’s a five-dollar a month tier and that gets you access to the concert and a Discord chat and then there’s a ten dollar a month tier whereas I’m recording I’ll give you mixes and things like that. Behind the scenes stuff as stuff is developing. I try to make it so anyone can join the party. If someone is generous with me, I want to give them something special.

RANDOM QUESTIONS

MM: If the world was going to end in an hour – say somebody set off a nuke or something – and you only had time to listen to one album again before you die, which would you listen to? I know you probably wouldn’t spend the hour listening to an album, but for the sake of argument, if you were going to die and could only listen to one again, which would it be and why?

RK: Wow. I think I would listen to Ben Folds Five’s self-titled, first album. That was such a big, formative part of my existence. And my all-time favorite song, “Best Imitation,” is on that album. That would feel like a good choice. What would you listen to?

MM: I was just wondering about that as I was asking you. For some reason, I’m thinking Motley Crue’s Shout At The Devil, that was the first album I ever bought with my own money. Yeah, I think if I was going to squeeze in one more, I’d want to hear that again.

RK: That’s cool. It’s funny how we go back to the first music we started listening to. It’s almost like this completion of a circle idea, you know?

MM: Yeah. And my next question is actually, has the pandemic affected your tastes in music at all? For a long time, I didn’t allow myself to listen to much older stuff because I have this insatiable appetite for new music and I’m always having to check out new stuff to find artists to cover, but since the pandemic started I find that I’m allowing myself to go back and listen to a lot of things I haven’t listened to in years.

RK: It’s funny, it’s almost been like the opposite to me. I’ve been listening to music a lot more. I’m used to gigging three and four and five times a week. I’m used to doing so much that when I get in the car or home or whatever I don’t want to hear more music. My ears are so tired. I’ll listen to a podcast or a book or something. But now – I think because I have that breathing room – I want to listen to music all the time. I’m listening to the old stuff that I love. I actually set up my turntable and my CD player and all of that for the first time in years. I’m also hearing a lot of great new music. A lot of it is indie stuff. Like people I’m sharing a livestream festival with or who I just know from my community. People are making such great music now and I’m excited that I get to hear it.

MM: Who are some of the artists you’ve been listening to?

RK: I’ve been listening to my friend Nico Padden, who’s also a good friend of mine. She’s released a couple of new things and I got to hear her new songs before anyone else did because we’re friends. She’s really cool and she’s really a badass. Speaking of which, she has written five or ten new songs since the quarantine started and it’s really cool. Every time I livestream with her, I hear these brand new songs. A lot of it’s like that. I hear people live then I get excited. There’s also an artist that hasn’t put anything out yet but if you can catch a livestream you absolutely should. Her name is Laurie Anne Creus.

MM: What charity would you give the money to if someone was giving you a million dollars to give to charity and it all had to go to the same charity or cause?

RK: That’s a really good question. Part of me wants to say the Long Island Crisis Center, which is a place I used to volunteer at. They answer suicide hotlines. Actually, yes, that is my answer. It’s a great organization. They answer suicide hotlines and a few other crisis hotlines and also have like a sister organization called Pride for Youth, which creates a safe space for LGBTQ youth up to 21 years of age here on Long Island. They do such good work. And it’s all volunteer-run. Al human powered. And I know the money would do a lot of good.

MM: I’m sure they must be getting a lot more calls from suicidal people now.

RK: Oh, God. I would have to imagine. It’s been a few years since I volunteered, but you get to know how things work. You get more calls on the holidays. People get really depressed on the holidays and have a hard time. And we would get more calls on a full moon. [Laughs] But, yeah, I think with the quarantine everyone is stressed right now. You’re probably right.

MM: There’s a friend of a friend of my family who’s a Boston cop and he said he’s never seen the suicide rate so high in his 40 years as a cop.

RK: Wow. That’s a shame.

MM: I’m sure a lot of it is due to the economic crisis.

RK: Yeah, I have to imagine.

MM: On another note, if you could resurrect any one musician from the dead and they would be happy to be back and make a new album, who would you bring back?

RK: That’s a really hard question. I have to choose the right dead person. I know, David Bowie! Oh, man, do I want to hear his quarantine album!

MM: Final question. Are there any series or books or movies or anything you’ve been entertaining yourself with that you’d recommend to people?

RK: Yeah, I have been listening to the set of audiobooks by this author Rysa Walker and they are time travel books and they’re really interesting. The basic storyline is that there are bad guys who keep trying to change the timeline in a bad way and there are good guys who are trying not to let that happen. Traveling through time and going to all of these really iconic, historic places. It’s really interesting and really cool and it’s a different listen in quarantine. I listened to a few of the books years ago but she’s doing a new trilogy that’s based on the same things so I’m doing a re-listen and I’m listening to it in quarantine and I’m like, oh, man, that hits me different. It’s interesting.

MM: Do you find that you have an easier time listening to audiobooks as opposed to reading an actual book?

RK: I got in the habit of audiobooks just because I was always on the road so much. I drive so much. In normal time. Now, I haven’t driven my car in a few weeks. I love reading actual, paper books, but now that I have the time to I can’t go buy a book at a bookstore. So, I’m doing the audiobook thing. I’m doing the Kindle thing a little bit, but my eyes are under so much strain with all the screen time. So, the audiobooks have been working out for me a little better.

Extra special thanks to Rorie for being kind enough to chat with us during a pandemic!

Connect Rorie Kelly:

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Written by

Paris365

An entertainment journalist for 20 years, Michael McCarthy was a columnist and contributing editor for the magazines Lollipop and LiveWire. He co-created and wrote for Cinezine, one of the '90's most popular movie E-zines. The only time he's not listening to music is when he's watching television shows and movies or reading, usually music magazines.

2 Comments to “RISING DURING THE PANDEMIC: AN INTERVIEW WITH RORIE KELLY”

  1. Samantha says:

    I like her songs, thanx for the introduction.

  2. Jacob Riley says:

    I really enjoyed this one. Made me think. Brava.

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