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Q&A: folk singer/songwriter Rorey Carroll

BY EMMA MCCLATCHEY | APRIL 23, 2015 5:00 AM

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Nashville-based artist Rorey Carroll has traversed from a middle-class Chicago upbringing to a tour guide job in Colorado to strumming her guitar in the New York City subways to living out of her car in North Carolina. After a string of ups and downs, the singer/songwriter is currently on a big up, opening for folk/Americana artist Todd Snider on tour. The pair of bluegrass-inspired musicians will perform at the Englert at 8 p.m. Friday, marking Carroll’s first trip to Iowa City.

Daily Iowan: What are some of your favorite places to perform?

Carroll: I love playing outdoor festivals, like hippie festivals. It kind of depends because I really like to play at some dive bars and then sometimes I like playing big fancy venues. I really like playing in the Midwest; my music is just really well received.

DI: How would you categorize your sound? I loved that your Facebook page described it as a ‘Tarantino film for the ears.’

Carroll: [Laughs] A screenwriter friend in L.A. wrote that. I’d say folk-based Americana. I come from a lot of different influences — I grew up with punk rock and rock ‘n’ roll, and when I moved to the South I started playing bluegrass music and that heavily influenced me as well because that’s where I really learned how to play.

DI: What do you mean?

Carroll: I was living out in Colorado as a mountain guide and I moved to Asheville [North Carolina]. Eventually I quit my job, lived in my car, and played music on the street. I played in this little village and really got taken by the bluegrass scene and really started to learn about my guitar. Eventually I moved back to Colorado for a short stint, and back to Nashville [Tennessee].

DI: Why did you decide to move to the South?

Carroll: When I was 19 I dropped out of college and hiked the Appalachian Trail and fell in love with North Carolina and Tennessee and the South. It’s just a different reality down there. It was very contagious joyful living, almost like the mountains are a little older, wiser, and more feminine and gentle than the mountains in Colorado.

I made a lot of music friends and [Asheville] just seemed like the natural place to go. One day a friend and bass player, she kidnapped me and brought me down to Nashville for a week and I fell in love with it. There’s always something going on and it’s a constant source of inspiration.

DI: What is it like opening for Todd Snider?

Carroll: It’s pretty wild. I remember when I was living on the streets, my friend, a weird shaman type-character, was taking me and my boyfriend at the time to these festivals out West and we went on this crazy long road trip and he played Todd’s music. It delivered a type of songwriting I wasn’t used to, a kind of Dylan-y sound but with a modern influence that struck me. That was about 10 years ago … recently, [a friend] showed Todd my music, he liked it, and he asked me to be his opening band.

DI: Does your music styles seem to gel?

Carroll: I’ve gotten a lot of feedback that we complement each other very well. My style is softer and more feminine but still funny. We talk about similar things and we’re both very much in that folk vein which brings this consistency to it but it’s very different styles.

DI: What can Iowa City audiences expect to hear Friday?

Carroll: A stripped-down version of folk music; just honest songwriting. I’m going to play some newer music and stuff off the album I’m about to release in June called Hotel Room. My first record was bluegrass and this one is very, very different. It’s more what I’ve been envisioning in my head. It pulls from all over the place. I handpicked all the players and had a lot of friends on there and we had a great time in the studio over a month. I’m really proud of it.


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