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ARTIST PROFILE: Rochelle Riser

Updated: Mar 19

Please introduce yourself:

I'm a singer/songwriter based in Nashville, but I grew up on a farm outside of the rural town of Sibley, Iowa. The farm has been in my family for 129 years, so I've got some deep roots there. As a small-town girl, a music career seemed impossible to me, unless it was as a music teacher. I had no intention of ever living more than a few hours from home, but on a fateful day I saw a commercial for a college in Nashville, and the rest is history. I realized teaching was not for me, and that writing songs were the ultimate way to spend my time. It took me 7 years of living here to work up the gumption to play my first show in Nashville, but I've been playing out for a few years now!

What was the turning point in Nashville that got you to play shows?

After writing songs and sharing them with my friends, I eventually started recording some music, and I knew that if I ever wanted to get a chance to get that music heard, I had to play it out! I have always loved singing for people, so the performing part has always felt good.

Who introduced you to Music?

I grew up singing in church, of course. My family gets together every holiday and sings harmony around old folk songs and hymns. Music is very much a part of my family history.

What was the first instrument you first picked up?

I started piano lessons in first grade. I took classical piano through college, and self-taught myself guitar along the way. I rarely write on piano, and I think the classical training just didn’t transfer well to writing for me with it.

What keeps you motivated?

Becoming a better writer! Life experiences. I write songs to process things. So I'm always trying to digest the world around me that way. I'm trying to tell stories that I haven't heard told, especially about my growing-up years, that hasn't been written about much but I think they're relatable to many.

Do you have a moment that stands out to you as the moment you knew you were meant to be a musician?

When I was in high school, I made Iowa All-State Choir twice. It reinforced to me that I was perhaps musically talented enough to go beyond my small town. I had a moment when I was 17 where it very suddenly hit me that I needed to keep doing music with my life, in some way, or I wouldn’t be fulfilled.

When did you start writing music?

I wrote a lot of poems and songs when I was younger, but they weren't in proper verse-chorus form. It was my way of processing the world, and I would share my writing with my teenage friends. They were always very supportive, even though I was the only "weirdo" in my school writing songs.

What's your craziest tour story?

I'm a folk/Americana singer that's very mellow. I do not get asked to play rowdy bars because I don't fit that bill! But one time this group of middle-aged women were so drunk in this small town Minnesota bar that one of them flashed me. The owners had told me my music was perfect for their venue ... I'm guessing they hadn't been at their pub lately?

Why Music?

It’s definitely about the creativity for me. I’m always thinking in patterns and lyrics and melodies. And it allows me to connect with others and share my experience in ways that I would have a hard time doing otherwise. I think that’s what keeps me creating, is that connection to others.

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