Exclusive Interview with Synth-Pop Artist RORIE

RORIE is an infectious up-and-coming songwriter from Alexandria, Virginia who masterfully mixes synth-pop energy and singer-songwriter authenticity. After successfully fundraising and releasing two EPs, she just released her lead single “Train” from her upcoming debut full-length album, Valley in the Mirror. I got the chance to talk with her about how she first got into making and performing music, why she chose to crowdsource her debut album, the story behind her single “Train” and so much more. Keep reading to see what she had to say!

Tell me a little bit about how you first got into making and performing music.  

Growing up, I absolutely loved to write. I would fill journal after journal with lyrics, poems, and short stories. I also loved musical theater and anything related to singing. The strange thing was that I was also sort of a quiet/shy person. I started writing songs in high school as a way to process life, and realized that it was the perfect way to say the things that I wanted to say without having to be the kind of person who would just loudly say them. When I first discovered recording, I completely fell in love. Recording music is one of the few things in life where I’ll be working and so completely focused that I’ll completely lose track of time. I also slowly built up the confidence to share my songs live and began to remember why I loved performing so much; I realized that you don’t have to have a loud or dominant personality to be a great performer.    

Was there a specific moment or person that made you realize that music is what you wanted to pursue professionally?  

There were a few. Being involved in my church youth choir was what really made me love music and the idea of putting together a story and vision. Our choir director – his name is Graham Clark – was also my voice teacher in high school, and he would encourage his students to “find their own voice,” and to not be a copy of someone else. Whenever I was discouraged, I would remember that. I continued to write songs all the way through college, and realized that I was so passionate about storytelling through music – but it wasn’t until I moved to New York after college and had another job that I realized how much I truly wanted to share my music professionally. I was working for an anti-human trafficking organization, and was so moved by the realities of what I was learning there that I wrote a song about it. I had the opportunity to play the song at a large event and then was encouraged to launch a Kickstarter to record the song and film a music video for it. I also started playing my own shows around the city, and that really gave me more of a vision and direction as a songwriter and performer.  

You’re based out of the DMV and being based here as well, I know personally that it has a large, really unique music scene. Does it play a role at all in the music you create, whether it be references in the lyrics or just the overall sound of your music?  

Yes! Even though I have lived in a few different places over the last several years, I am currently based in the DMV, and also grew up in this area. There’s definitely a wonderful music scene here with literally every genre imaginable. As you said, it’s really unique and special! The influences are there because most of what I write is a direct response to my life experiences, and I’m blessed to know a lot of incredible and talented people here. There is a “based-on-a-true-story” song on my upcoming album that references DC! 

I’m always genuinely curious about what artists want to convey with their music. Your sound would typically be classified as synth-pop/singer-songwriter, but if you had to describe it without using genre names, how would you describe it?  

A phrase that I typically include in my bio is that I want my music to “tell stories of heartache and hope”. A lot of my songs are written as a direct response to things that happen in life, and I always want to be sure to tell the whole story, both the heartbreak that life can bring, and also the incredible hope that exists through it all. I’m inspired by worlds that authors create in the literary realm such as C.S. Lewis’ Narnia, or Veronica Roth’s Divergent. It might sound a bit unusual, but when creating the themes for my album, I deliberately wanted it to “sound” and be presented as a cross between a “celestial world in outer-space” and a “classic fairy-tale” all while still being rooted in reality and real-life stories. Whenever I tell stories through music, I sort of view it like I’m creating a literary world of sorts.  

Going off of that, who are some of your musical influences?  

I have always looked up to artists such as Joy Williams and Brooke Fraser. I also love bands like Needtobreathe who cross genres with their lyrics and tell really honest and relatable stories about life and faith. Growing up, my dad would take all of his vinyl records, turn them into MP3s, and put them on my MP3 player. So I was at least subliminally influenced by everything from Joni Mitchell to Rush to U2. I love artists who are real and honest with their voice and music, while simultaneously being incredibly unique.  

Let’s talk about your upcoming debut album, Valley in the Mirror. I know you got it funded on Kickstarter. Why did you want to crowdsource it instead of maybe going a more traditional route when it comes to getting an album made?  

It takes a lot of funding to make all the pieces of creating a full album possible, and since I’m not signed to a label, I knew that I was going to need to crowdfund the project. It’s actually really incredible to ask people to consider being involved in the project from the start, because you can update them along the way and share a lot of “behind-the-scenes” stories in real time. I am beyond grateful to everyone who invested in and took a chance on this project and this music. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without them, and that makes it all more meaningful to me in a way! 

What was the recording process like for this project? How long did it take for this to come together from start to finish?  

I am always writing music, so it was at first a matter of choosing the songs and creating demos for those that would be on the album. The Kickstarter campaign was funded at the end of March, and I started taking the songs into the studio right after that. My last session for this album was in August – and then I stayed up super late for many nights in a row to get everything prepped for release! 

The lead single from the project is “Train”. What inspired this song?  

“Train” was inspired by the “train of thought” metaphor. It’s about when you’re struggling with something and you can see how it is affecting the person closest to you, and you’re wanting to get on the same wavelength of understanding. I originally had the idea to write the song a couple of years ago when running to catch the Subway in New York. I ended up getting on the train at the last second, but the person I was with ended up getting stuck at the station. We had to figure out how to meet up after that, and even though it was pretty funny, I remember watching the doors close between us and thinking that there was a metaphor somewhere in that experience. I chose it as the first single to release because so many people were asking for it after I played it at some live shows. It also seemed like a good way to introduce the album: inviting listeners to go on a journey with me. 

What was the songwriting process like for this song specifically?  

I wrote train completely by myself in my apartment. Honestly, it was an evening in January and I walked into my room, sat down on my bed with my guitar, and wrote it in about ten minutes.  

Something I’ve always been curious with songwriting is how topics come to mind. Did you guys know what you wanted to write about going into the song session that birthed “Train” or did it just come about organically once you were in the session?  

Continuing with my answer for the last question: I did have the phrase “we will, we will catch that Train” stuck in my head for a couple years (believe it or not) before I was actually able to write the song. But I had already completely written the song a year or so before I took it into the studio. 

Was there any major changes made to “Train” once you guys got into the recording studio, whether it be in the lyrics or something sonically?  

We didn’t change anything about the melody or the lyrics for this one. We just used the production to bring the song to life and add some energy!  

I know you also just released a music video for “Train”. What was your experience shooting that video like? Was that your first time shooting a music video?  

I shot the music video for “Train” with my friends who have a video company called Open Valve Studios. They actually reached out after finding one of my first EPs on iTunes and came to DC a couple years ago to film a music video for one of my older songs. I had always wanted to collaborate with them again in their city, so we shot the video in LA when I was there working on music. The entire video was basically filmed with a two-person crew in about 17 hours. It was a whirlwind! 

The storyboard was designed to abstractly (and yet realistically) show the inside of your mind (general your) when you’re trying to get where you’re going but not quite making it there…yet. This was the fifth official music video that I’ve filmed, and each time it gets a little easier to have random people watching you and wondering what you’re doing! That used to make me so nervous, but now I barely even notice! 

You are still relatively new to the music game. What are some music industry-related goals or benchmarks that you’re aiming to reach in the next couple of years?  

Releasing this full-length album in January will be a huge goal and something that I have always wanted to do. I’m especially excited that we are printing a batch of vinyl to sell! The next thing that I plan to do is tour and pursue more live opportunities on the road – which I am so looking forward to.  

Lastly, we’re called Talk Nerdy With Us because we all have an inner nerd so what is something that you’re currently nerding out about?  

Pinterest! I have so many private boards on Pinterest where I’m constantly saving quotes, photos, and ideas for décor, recipes, fashion, travel and more. It makes me feel actually inspired and motivated/is a lot more than just cool photos to me. I don’t know why I love it so much – it might be the way my brain thinks! Lots of ideas floating around, but somehow organized into the right categories [laughs]! 

For more information, make sure you visit RORIE’s website and follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Photo Credit: Jessica LaRue

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