We had the good fortune of connecting with Kara O’Brien and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kara, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
I started RootStrings while I was working on my undergrad in music business at University of Colorado, Denver. The DIY band scene was clearly growing, and it seemed to me that there were a lot of bands that needed help, but didn’t need a full-time manager. Some of them weren’t at that level just yet, and some of them didn’t want full-time help, but needed a hand now and then. So RootStrings set out to fill that gap. We call it ‘project-based’ management, and basically we can come in and help with everything from running social media to creating a career plan, to creating and releasing your first album. We try to be as flexible as we can to meet the needs and budgets of our artists.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I started out as a singer, and that has really underpinned everything. I went to UCD to study voice with Dr. Judy Coe, and that was how I got interested in music business and management. I started singing with the Claim Jumpers ensemble, a traditional Jazz band based at UCD, and they needed a manager. I started trying to use the things I was learning in my music business classes, and pretty soon I was not only helping the Claim Jumpers, but also working with the Queen City Jazz Band, which was RootStrings’ first artist. I have always loved traditional and roots music, and naturally that has been where I have tended to work the most. I moved to Ireland in 2016 to study traditional Irish singing, and I was really lucky that I could keep working with US artists, and also start meeting amazing artists and music students in Ireland. Being a singer first and then a manager has given me an understanding of the music industry from the artists’ perspective, and that has made me very conscious of what artists need, particularly when they are just starting out. I love working with passionate people and helping to bring that passion to a wider audience. All of the team at RootStrings are singers and musicians, and that really helps us to connect with our clients.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I grew up in Evergreen, Colorado, so I tend to make a bee-line for the mountains when I get home. In they city, you can generally find me at the Tattered Cover Bookstore trying to buy more books than I can actually carry. If I was taking somebody around the city, main stops would include the Denver Diner and The Market (although I believe that closed, which is a terrible shame), and swing dancing at the Mercury Café.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
RootStrings wouldn’t have gotten off the ground without the faculty of the Music and Entertainment Industry Studies at the University of Colorado at Denver. In particular Chris Daniels, Benom Plumb, Storm Gloor and Dr. Judy Coe all helped hugely with the start-up process. Emily Irwin at Creative Law Network has been the best source of good sense and support I could hope for, and we have been hugely blessed with amazing artists and co-op students over the last four years. Today, Sarah Bergin, Daniel Corcoran, Shauna Duffy and Sinead Toomey are helping to launch an Irish branch of the company, and there will be no stopping us then!
Photos by Logan O’Brien Logo by Kelsey Brown