THE RISING TIDE: AN INTERVIEW WITH KELSEY ROTTIERS
It could come across as biased when covering someone who is a close family friend. Even more so when that person sang at your wedding. But I want to begin by saying that I don’t just think of myself just as a friend to Kelsey Rottiers, I think of myself as a fan. Kelsey is a totally different performer/singer/songwriter than she was when she lead worship at my wedding 8 years ago. She has grown so much in all of these areas that you might not even realize she’s the same person when listening to those early recordings. On her latest album, Kelsey Rottiers and The Rising Tide, Kelsey’s artistry shines through songs of life, faith, and forgiveness. She’s not that little girl anymore. She has a lot to say and presents herself in way that draws you in to her world, a world where you are sure to see glimpses of yourself. I’m so glad to use my little corner of the web to share something special with you; my friend, Kelsey Rottiers.
You have a new album out, which I think it’s your best work yet. Can you talk a little bit about the process of putting it all together. Did you start with an idea or theme, or a handful of songs?
I started writing a few songs my last semester of college after my second devastating breakup. I talked with a friend who is also a songwriter and performer. She said the songs were coming too easily for me not to be thinking about writing an album. So she challenged me to compile 20 songs one per week, and see what happened. Eventually there was a theme of not only break ups and anger but the mystery of forgiveness.
You started performing with your sister Aubrey when you were pretty young. Can you talk a little bit about how you have grown as a songwriter/performer over the years? What were some of milestones that really helped you to become the singer/songwriter that you are today?
I did start young. I started writing when I was in 9th grade. That was the same year we got a manager and he gave us a lot of instruction on performance and “the business”. The process of growing as a singer/songwriting is so synchronized with my experience as a Christian. A lot of my music milestones are really faith milestones. I had a lot of education through Cornerstone University and The Contemporary Music Center on Martha’s Vineyard. They taught me about the fundamentals of music and songwriting, but I have always had a fear of writing which sounds crazy. You need a certain element of courage that what you put down on paper is not only true, but worthy of an audience, and will stand up to criticism. I am so grateful that as hard as this road is, I was not taught to take the easy way out. A couple of years ago I was doing just that, and was contacted by a company that was going to charge me like $400 to place my songs and promote them…etc. Of course they could offer no guarantee that they could place my music, but I really wanted to believe that I didn’t have to do this alone. I was so disappointed when every person I respect in music advised me against companies like this. Then I remembered Ecclesiastes, “There is nothing better for a man than to do his work and live a simple life.” And I felt the Lord over and over again tell me, “Let this road teach you about faith.” Even when it seems like no one is listening to my music, not even God, I do this because it is who I am created to be, and of course over time I see that all along there were listeners that God brought into my life.
How does collaboration and community play a role in your life as a musician?
Collaboration is something I’ve tried in various forms. I’ve tried writing the lyrics with other people, and there is often a power struggle that happens, so I have not had success there. I have had success in collaboration with instrumentalists, artists, and engineers. Really it ends up being a ton of ideas thrown into the mix the more people you recruit. I owe a lot to my friend Derek (Turcsanyi) who has helped me with musical collaboration, and helping me put a band together. I’ve started to develop a network of artists that I know I can rely on to help me, even if it’s just to bounce ideas off of. Community is the food of any form of art. As isolated as artists can get, we need community for inspiration, and not to mention audience.
Can you share some of the biggest life lessons you’ve learned as a performer?
Being a performer has taught me not to dwell on my mistakes. On stage, there’s no time to hate myself for messing up, and often the audience will forget about it if I do, and even laugh at myself a bit. That’s something I really struggle with in everyday life. I also have learned to face fear head on, with my eyes open. The most amazing thing happens when I’ve done this… it’s never as bad as I imagine.
What the one thing that you hope people take away after listening to your record or seeing one of your shows?
I want to be a part of transforming the concept of forgiveness, that’s what this album has been about for me. But as an artist and a Christian, I want to change the way people see Christian music and Christian artists. Following the lead of Jon Foreman, Rosie Thomas, and Sufjan Stevens. A Christian writer who challenges people to think, to step out of themselves, and to be honest with themselves and with God.
What’s next for Kelsey Rottiers and The Rising Tide?
When we started Kelsey Rottiers & the Rising Tide, we had envisioned becoming a full band. Now that I am getting married and moving to Grand Rapids, and my instrumentalists are staying in the Lapeer area, it’s kind of up in the air. I will continue writing and performing. The band will occasionally play together, but I think the Rising Tide is now more of a project name. I am Kelsey Rottiers, the music is taking on the character of “The Rising Tide”, and the musicians who help communicate that rotate and change. I like the freedom of that with such an unpredictable industry and economy.
You can learn more about Kelsey Rottiers and The Rising Tide and buy her new album here.