Rolling Out Gospel with the Rollers
by Shelby C. Berry
Stories of family bluegrass bands are ongoing and many originate within the close-knit church environment, through gospel music. It’s an escape, a way of sharing faith and time together. But it’s also the perfect way to share their faith with the world.
A large Wisconsin family, the Roller Family Band, consisting of eight siblings and the parents, focus on instrumentation, harmonies, writing music, and running sound for the band. Their Southern Gospel bluegrass style blends guitar, piano, banjo, mandolin, dobro, fiddle, and effortless harmonies.
Six of the siblings – Nick, Abby, Lindsey, Madison, James, and Ellie – grew up playing music and singing at open mic nights at local churches.
“We really decided to start playing music together as a band because we had a passion to sing,” said Abby. “I think God put it on our heart to minister to others, to play music, and to sing as a family. I think God is using our singing and playing to bless others.”
Growing up in North Carolina and then Oklahoma before settling in Wisconsin, the Roller Family loves “taking Southern Gospel songs and turning them into bluegrass songs to perform as a band,” said Lindsey.
“Our mom writes a lot of the music we sing,” said Abby. “It’s just so special to sing something that your mom wrote. We really love that.”
The last few years opened opportunities for the Roller Family Band. In 2019, they played at the KSMU Youth in Bluegrass Contest in Silver Dollar City, which, in turn, opened one of their favorite connections – Tomorrow’s Bluegrass Stars.
As a youth bluegrass musicians’ group, Tomorrow’s Bluegrass Stars fosters an environment to encourage young musicians and give them a safe place to meet other young musicians on the same path.
“John Colburn reached out to us after playing in Silver Dollar City and asked if we would join TBS. Since then, we were blessed to get the opportunity to play the TBS online music festival last year during the lockdown, and our brother even got to help run it! We got to meet a lot of other members of TBS during the festival through Zoom, too!” said Abby.
The Roller Family Band is also recording some of their originals. After a failed attempt of recording at a studio with a producer who concentrated mainly on rock music, the Roller Family learned how to record music with the help of Jacob Sowell of The Family Sowell.
“With COVID, we have felt the burden on our hearts to minister to kids. So, we decided to record a kid’s Bible verses album. We had a lot of fun doing it! And we even want to make a DVD to go with the album too,” said Abby.
Titled ABC Bible Memory Verses, the Roller Family Band will release this children’s album spring 2021 – available on iTunes, Spotify, and other music stations.