Musician Doria Roberts offers deceptively simple advice for anyone looking for creative success: “Know who you are, and love what you do.” And she sets an example that simply can't be argued with, proving that a marriage between unflagging dedication and pure passion is indeed a fruitful one. The tireless Roberts wears many hats: independent musician, political activist, War on Apathy spokesperson, singer, songwriter, and the owner of her own record label, Hurricane Doria.
“It's my passion that drives me,” she says. “I wake up every morning, and I get to do exactly what I want to do, and I know how precious of a situation that is, and I really really appreciate it. It takes a lot of work to maintain that, and because I love to do what I do, it doesn't feel like a burden.”
She isn't the only one who loves what she does; Roberts' blend of acoustic rock and soulful vocals with a decidedly political edge has earned her adoration from fans and critics alike. Her latest album, Woman Dangerous, was released this past April, and represents a totally new effort for the acclaimed artist.
“I was getting burned out from touring and promoting,” she explains. “I decided to hire a producer for the first time, and that gave me the freedom to focus on the music and to have fun with the process.”
Woman Dangerous is her sixth album and adds a decidedly more hi-fi sensibility to her trademark, acoustic-based rock, blending different instrumentations and textures with Roberts' lyrical artistry. It's an evolution Roberts is proud of, and with good reason, as it represents an expanded and refined “back to basics” for her.
The artist describes her songwriting process as being organic: “Since I'm so busy, I don't really have hours to just sit and write, and because I'm always traveling, I have so many napkins and matchbooks with ideas on them.” Like many creative people, music is cathartic for her.
“It's very important that I don't have control over it, the control that I have over every other aspect of my life,” she says. “Music is the portion of my life that I just let happen.”
Few people can boast a more interesting or downright mystical story of how they came to find their calling. Roberts began playing music as an undergraduate at the University of Pennsylvania, where she struggled under the pressure of being the first person in her family to go to college. “I was having a really hard time,” she admits, “and I'd chosen East Asian Studies because I wanted to do business in Japan. We were encouraged to study the culture as well. I started studying Taoism, and in Taoism, playing guitar is actually a Zen activity, so I started playing guitar. Someone heard me playing, and they booked me for the spring fling!"
It all took off from there: “I had had a couple of songs, and I did a couple of Indigo Girls covers. And then I got a radio interview. I decided to go with the flow, even though I'd never been a go-with-the-flow person. With the guitar, I was practicing eight hours a day, every day.”
This sort of intensity and dedication is a fundamental part of Roberts, who has organized both Ladyfest South and Queerstock, and founded Rock for Youth, all on top of her own performance and promotion schedule.