Rorie Kelly: Magick In The Air

There just isn’t a better month than October to spotlight self-proclaimed ladybeast Rorie Kelly, an award-winning singer/songwriter and white witch from Eastern Long Island.

Kelly isn’t trying to be mystical and magical. It just comes naturally to her. And she puts her magic to work in her music. Her most recent album, “Shadow Work,” is, according to Kelly, about “shining a light in the darkness and healing wounds.” The album opens with the song “Full Moon Charm Bracelet,” and other Rorie Kelly songs (including from a previous album, “Magick Comin’”) focus on autumn, candlelight, dreams, wishes, card readings… October, right?

But that’s not all. Kelly’s voice weaves its own spell, with a sweet spot somewhere between the rasp and strength of Susan Tedeschi and the sweet, pure warblings of Dolly Parton. A powerhouse performer, Rorie gigs frequently, lighting up stages with her fiery vocals and her sense of humor. Kelly can begin from an earnest one-guitar-one-voice arrangement and build to a lush soundscape with layers of vocals, guitar, beatboxing and keyboard samples in the space of one song, and evoking both smiles and tears from audience members in that same space. 

Her latest music video and single, “Make It Count,” is indicative of her strong commitment to the LGBTQ+ community. It can be found on YouTube. Rorie’s music has been featured in film and TV shows, received radio airplay around the world, and led her to perform at the Obama White House in 2016.

Tell me about how are you infuse your music with your own beliefs in the spiritual and shadow work?

For me songwriting is like therapy, it helps me process everything I’m going through. I have learned over the years that if something touches me deeply enough that I need to write a song about it — there are other people out there who have been through something similar enough that the song will mean a lot to them too. I named my last album “Shadow Work” because I realized after recording most of it that that’s what most of the songs were about! I really believe that we need to show up for our difficult feelings and experiences in order to move through them in a healthy way. “Shadow Work” was about my own journey through the dark so I could find the light — and it turns out a lot of other people have been there.

My own spiritual beliefs are pretty nebulous and I kind of like them that way. I’m really into the idea of playing with belief as a tool and a jumping off point, rather than having a hard and fast “this is how the whole universe works” set of beliefs. I love folk magic and have been reading tarot cards since I was a teenager. I don’t have a strong belief about what happens “behind the scenes” when I do these things. What’s more important to me is that the act of doing it has helped me in my journey. Lately my spiritual journey has been one of great curiosity and enthusiasm about mystery, and that has come through in all of my recent songwriting. I don’t need to understand it all. I just want to show up as the best version of me I have to offer, and take it in.

Your voice is extraordinary. When did you realize that you had a voice that made people sit up and listen?

Thank you for saying that. The truth is, I didn’t like my voice much at all growing up. Now I see it as a part of my toolbox for self-expression, my oldest instrument, and a dear old friend. I’ve always challenged myself to learn how to create every nuance and sound I could with my voice — if I could hear it, I wanted to learn how to do it. That has looked like a great deal of self-study over the years, and that has given me the tools to just freely experiment when I’m writing a song or performing on stage. I’m grateful that my voice moves people. I hope everyone who compliments my voice knows that their own voice matters just as much.

Tell me about performing at The White House? 

Obama was the first president to make a day on the presidential schedule just to hear about bisexual people and our unique experiences and needs. The bi community is pretty close knit, and the organizers for the day included both artists like me, as well as people who had important sociological and statistical information to share about our community. The whole day was recorded and streamed on The White House’s website. It was an incredible blessing to get to be a part of it.

What would you tell 16-year-old Rorie if you could?

High school was not a great time for me, and my 20s were spent unlearning a lot of bad advice I got during my teenage years. Maybe that is true for a lot of people.

I would tell her first and foremost to trust herself — that only she knew what was right for her, no matter what other people and society had to say about it. I would let her know too that in her 30s, she can do more than she ever dreamed she’d be able to do musically, and is a part of an amazing community full of people who really care about art, social justice, personal growth, and kindness.

Since it’s October, the season of the witch, tell me a little bit about your tarot and other interests?

Well, I’ve been reading cards since I was a teenager. My grandmother was also a reader, and we lost her before she and I could really connect as adults around that interest, but the few pieces of wisdom she did pass on to me have proven really meaningful over the years. 

I love folk magic and I love to follow the wheel of the year. I use the word witch to

describe myself — but I do not follow the religious path of Wicca. For me spirituality has a lot more breathing room than tying myself to a religion. I think turning to ritual, whether it is self-created or aligned with an existing path, has a lot of benefits for us as humans.

What do you love doing on the East End?

Most of the time I’m playing music on the East End, and I do love doing that. But when I get a break I love to do nerdy nature stuff — I love to visit beaches and woods, and I love to get out on the water in any way I can. Long Island has so much natural beauty to offer!

Dates to see Rorie Kelly perform this month include October 13 at Pindar Vineyards in Peconic and October 19 and the Brooklyn Art Haus. Visit

Bridget LeRoy

Bridget LeRoy co-founded The East Hampton Independent and the Children’s Museum of the East End, and has been honored with over fifty awards for editing and journalism from various press associations. Follow LeRoy on instagram @bridget_leroy.

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