Learning to Fly: The Year I Spent Chasing My Dreams, Making an Album, and Healing My Own Heart

Photo by Bryan Downey
Photo by Bryan Downey

In 2015, I chased a dream down and caught it. I crowdfunded a full-length studio album and recorded it from start to finish. The album, called Rising Rising Rising, is about my personal journey out of low self-esteem. I hit a very dark spot in life a few years ago, and while I was there, I realized I didn’t want my life to be over — I just wanted it to be better. I decided then and there to learn how to be a friend to myself and to save myself — because nobody was showing up to save me. And I wrote songs along the way.

I started making music to heal myself. I didn’t realize until I’d been playing out for a few years that it had a side effect of healing others, too. When you share your story honestly with someone else, you both learn that you are not alone. Even sad songs are healing, because when you hear them you realize: “Someone else went through this pain, too. It’s not just me.”

When someone came to me after a show and told me that my songs were helping her heal from a history of abuse, it changed my life path. Suddenly I didn’t want to just be a musician anymore… I wanted to be a healer who used music as her medicine. I kept writing and performing the way I always had, but everything felt different because I knew in my heart that I had found my truest calling.

I wanted to make an album that shared all of that healing and learning in song form. I wanted people to hear it and wake up to their own power. I especially wanted to give women and girls permission to start loving themselves.

Making the album turned out to be an incredibly difficult task. Not the music — that part was joyful for me — but crowdfunding was hard work, and it meant that I had to reach out to every person I had ever known, inside of just a few weeks. I’m an introvert, and while I felt so grateful to everyone who supported my dream, I also felt very drained by constantly starting conversations — especially to ask for help.

The recording process was harder than I had expected, too. Again, I loved making the music, but there was so much administrative work that I had never before had to face. Suddenly, I was managing the schedules of several different musicians, many of whom had other jobs, too. It was a real struggle to line up everyone’s calendars enough to get the album done on time. I was gigging less so I would have time to record, and I found myself questioning my work without getting that validation from performing in front of an audience. Was this music really good enough to put out? Would it be ready on time? Did these songs really even matter to anyone but me?

By the time the recording was complete, I was burned out and not feeling great about myself. I had not been taking good care of my body, and I was starting to feel the effects. I also felt angry at myself because here I was, achieving my dreams, and yet I felt too exhausted and stressed to enjoy them fully. I felt like a fake; here I was, this burnt out person who was struggling to believe in herself, putting out an album about personal empowerment.

Then I put the CD into my stereo for the first time and listened. The musicians who had believed in me and worked hard on the album blasted through my speakers. My own voice came through, as strong and passionate as ever. I knew then that even though I had pushed myself to the point of stress and burnout, I had done the work I’d set out to do. I closed my eyes and listened. As the music I made to heal others poured out of my speakers… I felt it begin to heal me, too.

Going after your dreams is hard work. Speaking your truth and sharing your story is scary. But if you keep trying, and keep breathing, you will get where you need to go.





risingPeople hearing Rorie Kelly for the first time often comment, “I can’t
believe that voice came out of that body.” The singer/songwriter has been
compared to Joni Mitchell and Sara Bareilles for her catchy-confessional
songwriting style, and to Alanis Morisette and Janis Joplin for her raw
powerhouse vocals. Rorie’s new release, Rising Rising Rising, is about
befriending yourself and learning to become your own knight in shining
armor. More information and music are available at www.roriekelly.com.

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