Kelsey’s father will tell you that her career started in a tree: when she was a girl, she sang high in the branches where she thought no one could hear her. Thankfully, she climbed down, and she’s been sharing her original compositions with the rest of us ever since.
In 2009, after graduating from the Contemporary Music Center on Martha's Vineyard and earning her bachelor's in music from Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Kelsey had eleven years of training under her belt and a lot of music in her notebooks. Joined by Derek Turcsanyi (guitarist and back-up singer), she formed her band, Kelsey Rottiers & the Rising Tide, and hit the road, playing coffeehouse shows and festivals around East and Central Michigan. (While Derek was the original “Rising Tide,” the Rising Tide has become more of a concept than a traditional band, and Kelsey performs under the name whether she’s solo or backed by a full roster of musicians.)
After EP releases in 2008 and 2010, Kelsey completed her first full-length album, the self-titled Kelsey Rottiers & the Rising Tide, in March 2011. Written on the themes of heartbreak, forgiveness, and really tall ex-boyfriends, the album struck chords with appreciative audiences across Michigan and beyond. “Red Wonder Boots,” one of Kelsey’s most popular tracks off this album, placed among the top 500 songs in the world in a 2010 Billboard Songwriting Contest.
In the summer of 2011, after her marriage to writer/editor James Pray, the newly-minted Kelsey Pray devoted herself to focusing full-time on her music (under the stage name of Kelsey Rottiers) and expanding her network of support with Jason Kotarski covering booking and Aaron McWilliams as her music broker. In August of 2012, with the help of Aaron, Kelsey's song, "How to Love Me" was placed in a Showtime TV show called, The Real L Word. Jason Kotarski and Kelsey worked together until Fall of 2012, Jason booking Kelsey at over 80 venues in the Midwest region. In Fall of 2012, Kelsey joined up with Dominick Garrett of Little Duck Music, a Grand Rapids booking agency, to take that next step in full time music pursuit!
In 2011 Kelsey started selling bracelets for The Red Thread Movement, which is a company that rescues young women and girls from the sex trafficking industry in India and Nepal. Kelsey loved the way that selling Red Thread’s $3 bracelets let her have a concrete impact on sex trafficking (since $2 of each bracelet goes to fund the safe house and $1 to the girl who made it), but she wanted to do more. This led her to write her first song on the subject of sex trafficking, “Bear Hope,” and eventually to build a six-track EP around it. The Bear Hope EP was released on October 14th 2012, with half the proceeds from the EP sales to be donated to the Grand Rapids-based Women at Risk, International to help them rescue women and girls from sexual slavery around the world. Read more on the Bear Hope page.
Joining her on stage these days are Sarah Main (keyboard, and background vocals) and Garrett Stier (drums, background vocals, sometimes banjo, and on occasion a baby-blue glockenspiel). Sarah started playing live shows with Kelsey in March 2012 leading up to the recording of her new EP, Bear Hope. Garrett joined a few months later for their July 2012 tour, and also played with them on the Bear Hope Tour as did Kelsey's husband James Pray on the bass.
There’s not much rest for an indie singer/songwriter with a new EP out and recovering from a two week tour but Kelsey has no intention of stopping any time soon. Stop by her Facebook, Twitter, or Blog pages to keep up with her latest exploits!