How to Have a Musical Vision Quest

It started with an album. I had bought this album at a used record store maybe six months earlier, because it was a band I’d been into a few years before that. Then I completely failed to listen to it for half a year, which is a bad habit of mine. I was occupied by other music. It takes me a long time to digest (or sometimes even taste) new albums.

I finally got my act together and put the thing into my car stereo. With a good album, the first listen is never the best listen for me (kind of like having sex with someone new for the first time). Usually a few tracks jump out at me as exciting right away, but mostly I’m just enjoying getting back into the idiosyncracies of the artist in question and trying to take in the songwriting. It’s by the third or fourth time around that I start to get a handle on how I really feel about an album.

Then I drive around with the album on nonstop for a period of days or weeks. Look, I know other people find this weird or simply annoying but I’m over it. Music is my religion. Lots of people return to the same passage of a religious text again and again, getting new answers and insight from it each time. I don’t do that type of religion, but this is how music is for me.

So with this album, I realized as usual that I was not going to stop listening to it anytime soon. At some point I usually start to feel a little nervous and uncomfortable. “What will people think? Is it weird that I can’t stop listening to this? Maybe it’s been too long? Is this some type of mental health issue I should address? Maybe it is not normal to love something this much.”

This time, for the first time, I told the voice in my head to get over itself. Listening to this album repeatedly was making me happy, and not only that, but it just felt like it was something I deeply needed. In the way some people turn to spirituality for insight, I sensed that the insight I was craving at the moment was encased in this CD somehow. I was right, by the way.

For several years I’ve been wanting to go on a “vision quest”. This is a weird set of words for someone to keep coming back to who isn’t religious or even really spiritual. But for a lot of my life I’ve felt I was searching for something (a non-physical something) that was eluding me and I longed to go on a journey to find it (in fact, this may be why I put so many thousands of miles on my car each year). I never really had a solid plan on how to attempt such a journey in a meaningful way. Then one day I thought: “Duh: music.”

So I decided this was my vision quest and that I was going to go all in, instead of feeling awkward or embarrassed about how instense I get about music. I’m a musician, for chrissakes! I regularly say music is my religion and I mean it sincerely. I’ve sacrificed health, sleep, money, and social experiences to the dream. The least I could do for myself is let myself go on a friggin’ musical vision quest if I felt like it.

I’m right in the thick of it now, and I’m here to tell you that it’s going extremely well. I’m not really sure how a vision quest is supposed to go, but based on things I have read it’s fulfilling the major requirements. Insight. Hope. Acknowledgement of the dark shit that has been clouding my spirit. And it sort of leads me along by the wrist instead of me having to do a lot of work to Try To Have an Epiphany. Just what I’ve been looking for in a vision quest, really. I wish I’d done this years ago.

How to Have a Musical Vision Quest, If You’re Rorie Kelly
(these instructions may or may not apply to anyone else in the world)

1. Start listening to an album and realize that you can’t stop and don’t want to.
2. Give yourself permission to keep listening to it until you either get sick of it or something awesome happens.
3. Find that you don’t get sick of it, but instead feel the need to listen to the other albums you have by this artist, too…
4. …And also, to get every other piece of music they’ve made that you don’t have. This might take some time but don’t worry. Vision quests move at their own pace and you still need time to digest each album before moving on to the next.
5. Listen to whatever album is calling you, as much as you want. Singing along seems to help quite a bit too.
6. Certain songs will call to you. Learn to play them. This will feel cathartic and important, and as an added bonus, now you know how to play some awesome new songs.
7. Also, listen to them again and again, on repeat if needed. Epiphanies will happen! It will feel awesome.
8. Make a vague effort to keep up with all your real world commitments, by the way. No need to cause future trouble for yourself by becoming flakey.
9. Talk about it or don’t talk about it as you see fit. There’s no need to defend your vision quest or the artist in question to people who don’t “get it”. They don’t have to get it. It’s your vision quest; they’re probably too dumb and cynical to ever have such a special experience and it’s their loss. Boohoo for them.
10. Repeat as necessary until you feel done. (I don’t feel anywhere near done yet.)


“‘Cause I see sky out my window

And the sun is rising, rising, rising…

Just like I will.”

Original music from rorie kelly… please repost!


"When it comes down to it and they’re handing out pills with the milk, will you be on line and grateful?"

Awesome dark/dystopian song from singer/songwriter rorie kelly.


Original song “And If So” by singer-songwriter rorie kelly.


Candy Crush and Cognitive Dissonance

Sorry, We're Closed

If you love music but don’t want the current top 40 platform to dictate what you listen to, it is up to you to support the music you think is more deserving.

Several historic music clubs in NYC have closed over the last several months. Everyone I speak to is saddened and shocked by this. Conversing with them further, I learn that the last time they visited any of these clubs was years ago. Who do they think is finding the time to visit these places if they have ceased to make the time for it?

In the same breath, I will hear people complain that all the music they hear is the same today and they want to see more “real” musicians (whatever their definition of that is) get famous. I could name 20-30 “real” musicians that are playing this week in Patchogue, Babylon, Brooklyn, Manhattan, etc—for cheap or free, at really cool little places that are pretty convenient to get to. These people (myself included) struggle to even get their good friends to come and support them.

America has a bad habit of complaining about what’s wrong with society while sitting on its comfortable couch, during the commercials on its flatscreen TV. The number of people who criticize politicians on Facebook is far greater than the number of people who vote.

I’m not really trying to shame anyone here for their inaction, but I am encouraging everyone including myself to wake up a little bit. If you really want something different, it’s not hard to find — but it is up to you to throw your support behind it. If no one supports what is original, thought provoking, different — than that stuff tends to become invisible.

You’re seeing this because I shared it on one of the world’s biggest social media platforms, designed to allow people to connect with the people and things they love. It’s an incredible tool. We could create so much positive change or, if that sounds a little daunting, we could at least make our lives more full and satisfying with the culture and discussions that can be found here. With a click of a button we can seek out the culture we say we support—the original art, the independent films, the “real” music, the coffeehouses and clubs that become part of music and art history. But most of us are playing Candy Crush and complaining.

Gandhi implored us to “Be the change you wish to see.” I intend to.

Image source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:LGC_Sorry_We%27re_Closed_sign.JPG from Wikimedia user Artaxerxes. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license.


An Open Letter

Dear sir,

Thank you for your patronizing and lengthy dissertation on what I will need to change in order to become a successful musician. As a man 20 to 30 years my senior, it’s extremely magnanimous of you to take a young hopeless woman like myself under your wing and fill her in on what’s really important.

Your ability to simultaneously identify every single one of my problems, and then provide me with your own wise and clever solutions, floored me. Similarly, it is uncanny that you were able to psychoanalyze me and identify the clearly deep-seated issues I have that led to these flaws, after knowing me for only about 40 minutes or so. I want to let you know that your words of wisdom left one person feeling extremely impressed tonight. Unfortunately, that one person was you.

Nobody is perfect and I truly do appreciate constructive criticism, as it allows me to strengthen my craft. I didn’t hear any from you, so I thanked you for your “feedback” instead. Your words did allow me to identify one mistake I made, however, which I intend to correct in the future. I will forever regret not telling you that I think you’re a pompous fool. But, we all make mistakes and I can learn from mine. Next time I’ll be better prepared. 


Rorie Kelly


How to Change Guitar Strings on a Friday Night

Step one. Shake your head in consternation at your broken e string because you were tuning DOWN, not up, and it has no right to behave this way in such a circumstance.

Step two. Pour a glass of wine to fortify yourself for this important task.

Step three. Drink a toast to the brave high E string that lost its life in the glory of battle. Your body is broken but your memory lives on, O Fabled E String!

Step four remove the broken E string from the guitar.

Step five, drink a toast to the gallant service of strings B, G, D, A and low E! May your retirement be long and happy!

Step six, put on a new E string.

Step seven, drink a toast to the long and happy career of your new high E string.

Step eight: Repeat steps six and seven for the remaining five strings. Note: Don’t hesitate to pour more wine if needed. Taking care of your instrument is an important task and it’s worth doing properly.

Step nine, tune your guitar up.

Step ten, wiggle all your strings around profusely to get the play out. You guys, this is the one important step I am bringing to the table here. I learned it when I did setups in a music store. You don’t need to just play and tune and play and tune and play and tune and be sad for the first few days of your new strings. EMPLOY THE WIGGLE METHOD. But do not break any strings because that will send you back to step one.

Step eleven, tune your guitar up again.

Step twelve, drink a toast to your fine handiwork. You deserve it.

Step thirteen, play a fine drinking song on your new strings… 



I have this old metal poster advertising the Beatles at Shea propped up on one of my guitars across from my bed. It’s one of the first things I see every morning but not something I notice very often. I got it years ago from a thrift store.

This morning I looked at it and thought about how life-changing an event it was for so many people—my dad included. My dad, like me, has pursued music since his teenage years and never looked back, or doubted its viability as a career. Like me, he had supportive parents who didn’t try to make him get a “real” job. 

I’m seeing Ben Folds Five, a favorite of mine for years years, tonight on their first tour in maybe a decade. A new favorite of mine, Kate Miller-Heidke, is opening for them. 

Seeing the artists that have changed my life with their work, performing it in person—embodying that change for me and so many others—is something so moving for me it’s hard to describe. A few weeks ago I saw an Alanis Morisette concert for the first time with my boyfriend. I can’t capture the experience with words. It just felt so right for me to be there. It felt like I was connecting with myself and with music in this big beautiful way.

For me there’s an added connection because music is my life path. For the last few years I haven’t given myself much time to “be a fan” and experience stuff like this. I’ve been so busy trying to build my career so that I can give my life to music… that I don’t have time to give my life to music right now. Allowing myself to have these experiences this summer, reminding myself what drew me to music in the first place, has been really healing and renewing for me.

What I thought when I saw the Shea picture this morning was that that was why I really want to do music. I want to change people’s lives in big and small ways. I want to be the song that gets someone through a breakup, that makes someone realize they have to make a change, that someone giddily lip-synchs along to as they push themselves through a 5k. I want to make people feel something. I want to help them create their own lives, as music has helped me create mine.

Being a small-time indie artist is a challenge in a lot of ways and doesn’t have all or even most of the rewards we associate with rock stardom. Money is not a sure thing. Having a clean place to sleep on the road is not a sure thing. “Making it” is far from certain. All we are certain of is that we have to continue.

The reward that it does have is that the experience of music does not know the division of famous/not famous. My music has not reached the same number of ears and hearts as that of Alanis and Ben Folds Five and Kate Miller-Heidke, but it has made a difference to the ears and hearts that have already heard it. I’ve had people tell me that my music was healing. I’ve had a lot of people, women especially, say that my song “Convenient” really captured how they felt about someone and that it was freeing to hear. I’ve had my song Sincere covered by an awesome young woman I met at a school songwriting workshop.

These are not the sort of accomplishments you can put on a press kit to make you sound more accomplished and awesome. But they are the ones that mean the most to me. They are the ones that keep me going.


@RorieKelly is recording her first ever live album
at Patchogue Theatre, Long Island
on Sunday, September 23, 2012 at 5:00 PM
tickets are $10 which includes a free drink
More info here.


@RorieKelly is recording her first ever live album

at Patchogue Theatre, Long Island

on Sunday, September 23, 2012 at 5:00 PM

tickets are $10 which includes a free drink

More info here.

(Source: )


Being a Fan

Someone anonymous asked me why I haven’t been writing in my blog.

Anonymous, I am torn between answering “BECAUSE I’M A GREAT BIG FAIL” and “OMG someone notices and cares if I write in this blog!” Point being, thanks for caring and for reminding me to get back to it.

Here’s what I want to write about tonight: I went to see Kate Miller-Heidke play at Rockwood Music Hall tonight. Here are some reasons that made me friggin’ ecstatic:

  1. I have been crazy about her music and dying to see her live since I found out about her existence a year or two ago.
  2. I’ve PLAYED in Rockwood Music Hall. I went to go see a musician I am crazy about in a place I have actually physically played. That’s freakin’ cool.
  3. I’ve always wanted to hang around after the show and meet my favorite musicians — just to say hello and gibber some idiotic thing about how much they inspire me or whatever. Tonight was the first night in all my 27 years I haven’t chickened out on that.

I realized recently that I have been trying so hard to put all my energy into getting myself noticed as a musician (for whatever it’s been worth) that I had stopped giving any time or energy to music itself.  For the longest time I didn’t pick up my guitar outside of a gig or band practice, or some late night to write a song. Not because I didn’t want to, but because I felt like there were other things I needed to do more — promotional stuff, business stuff, that sort of thing. The “I’ll be a musician when I’ve established myself as a musician” mentality.

Terrible! And honestly, I think it hurt my promotional efforts too on top of that. It’s hard to really get people interested in something you don’t feel passionate about and I was deliberately overruling my passion to do More Important Stuff.

So I resolved to get passionate about music again. I’ve been playing a lot more, for its own sake, and practicing and learning new techniques also for its own sake. Interestingly I haven’t found a big lack of time for the Other Important Stuff. I’m always busy, but somehow it seems easier to squeeze everything in when I am giving myself what I need most of all — time making music.

I make a lot of metaphors about music as a lover. I don’t mean it lightly. I crave it and need time with it the same way I crave and need time with someone I really care about. When I am not playing it is like there is a hole in my heart, and everything else gets a little harder. I know this and yet sometimes I get stupid and put my guitar aside for More Important Things. Dumb.

Anyway, part two of getting passionate about music again is being a fan. In the past week I have seen two really amazing shows — Kate Miller-Heidke tonight and Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds last Friday. Seeing live music is something else that I don’t always make the time or set aside the money for and I feel so refreshed and refilled by both experiences. 

Both of these shows kicked my ass into next Tuesday. Or to put it a less colorful way, inspired me to make more music and improve and practice more. I’ve always wanted to have a sort of monk-like relationship with music, spending hours a day honing my craft and communing with it the way a monk communes with religion. I’ve always felt I needed to find Success in some measure before I would have the time to do it. Now I’m starting to just give myself over to it anyway, right here and right now. I think it may be the best move possible for me AND my career. 

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