You have a great new single out, can you tell us more about it?
Thanks! Absolutely! My latest single, “Dance Warrior”, dropped a little over a month ago. I think even before I had the idea for Reverend Doctor I knew I wanted to write a song about dance as an act of protest. In a lot of African, Native, and Latinx cultures, dance is a way of expressing a range of emotions and feelings. In the United States, dance is often reduced to a way to find a mate, or to visual pyrotechnics: Something to be added to music or movies to sell a product. But in the house I grew up in, dancing was a way of celebrating and it was also about connection, expression, community, and survival.
I truly believe that dancing can change the shape of a person’s heart. Dancing in moments of grief, defeat, or as a symbol that your spirt has not been crushed can be a powerful perspective-shifting agent. For me, it’s tied to the idea of joy as a decision we can make, instead of relying on circumstantial happiness to dictate our ability to feel alive.
There are a lot of people suffering for a myriad of reasons. I’m not suggesting that people are entirely in control of their own fate, as every day we’re learning more and more about systems of power and oppression and how they have left some of us in society completely incapable of any form of success. I’m not suggesting that people can will their way out of their circumstances or to “put on a happy face”.
Maya Angelou said it best in “I know why the caged bird sings”. I know why the oppressed dance, the silent sing, the shackled play. It’s a declaration: our will will not be broken.
Musically, I recorded, engineered, mixed and mastered it all myself. I had help on drums from Paul Matthis, bass by Ben Shaffer, both of Minneapolis, MN.
Any pre show rituals before hitting the stage?
Most def. I have to look fly as hell on stage. Sparkly, bright, loud. Once I have picked out my hair, put on my shiny shoes, checked myself out in the mirror: it’s go time. Reverend Doctor is a little bit like putting on a character. Keith Rollins is certainly a character, himself. Reverend Doctor is like turning up my rough edges up to an eleven.
I also listen to or read something that makes me meditative or still. Something that challenges my perspective on life or even use a meditative app. Reverend Doctor sort of exists in that in-between space: the chaos and the calm. His spirit is equal parts. I want to channel that spirit of disruption as well as that calm confidence and earnestness that can inspire others to change.
It’s a tall order, but I’ve witnessed the effect my show can have on others and seen its power at work. I don’t believe it’s wasted effort in the least.
What has been your favorite part of 2019?
Wow. It’s been a long year. I loved being on the road. I’m crazy and my tours have been just me and sometimes my partner in a car. This allowed me to have long spaces of seeing nothing but mountains, valleys, canyons, and deserts as I spent a lot of time in the rockies. These were punctuated by small shows in the least likely of places attended by people that became family. Each tour was very much a guerrilla-style effort of planning and execution. Each town giving me just enough love and patience (and cash) to reach the next.
Learning that, even if I was only one person, I could use every hour in my day to build a thing that others affirmed through their investment and encouragement. Seeing that in action? That’s the stuff of revolutions. Communities change. Build hope. Build up each other. Create connections. And that was exactly what I set out to do.
Who have been your biggest musical influences?
What a huge question. The band that inspired me to actually believe I might be able to play an instrument was Jars of Clay. A friend lent me their first album (on CD!) when I was 13. The production and execution of that thing: you could hear the pick on the strings and fingers on frets. Incredible.
People that make me believe in the power of music? Stevie, Michael, Aretha, Brian McKnight, Earth Wind & Fire, the Rev. Al Greene, Mariah Carey.
Richie Havens, Darius Rucker, and Bill Withers showed me that black guys could play acoustic guitar.
In a contemporary sense, I’m thrilled with Gallant’s new album and really need Jack Garratt to release something soon.
Anderson .Paak’s “Ventura” somehow communicated part of my soul.
Do you find LA to be a great place for LIVE music?
Absolutely. LA is a great place for creativity, period. In the midwest when I would tell people I was a musician their response is usually something like “But what do you really do. You know, for money?” In LA, when you work a side gig as a server or something people ask “What do you really do?” Looking for the answer to be something like “acting” or “musician”. The midwest is pragmatic that way. In LA music, art, and culture is everywhere and you barely have to look for it. Walk Venice Beach. Try a random bar or any of LA’s world-famous clubs and venues. Music and creativity is in the fabric of what makes this city what it is.
What are your plans for 2020?
I’d like to begin dipping my toes into festivals, drop my EP Build it Up in Q1 2020, and let people know on a wider scale that they want what I got. I’ve already met a lot of great people that do a lot of different things here in LA and I’m looking forward to collaborating, writing, touring, and disrupting the status-quo with my weird hair and shiny shoes!
Where can we find you on social Media?
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