After they began dating in 2001, Kim Roe had a suggestion for Quillan Roe.
“Hey, we should start a band,” she said to her now husband, who was already part of a rock-a-billy outfit at the time.
With a passion for singing and music, Kim wanted to share those pursuits with Quillan, but he wasn’t too keen with her idea to start, she said. The duo was married a couple years later in 2003, and that same year, Quillan got a call to perform in a Johnny Cash and June Carter Tribute – but his band wasn’t available.
“And he put his hand over the phone and said, ‘Hey Kim. Would you like to start a ban?’” Kim recalled. She told him ‘Yes, she would.’ “And he said, ‘Well we have our first show.’”
About 15 years later, it’s safe to say the band was a good idea.
“It’s a lot of fun; it really is,” Kim said. “When I said I wanted to start a band with my husband I didn’t know it would be like this … I looked at it as kind of a hobby, I guess, and I didn’t know it would turn into this huge thing. And I love it.”
Since that initial performance honoring Cash and Carter, the Roe Family Singers have been adding bandmates, turning their band into a full-time gig and performing regularly for a steady crowd at the 331 Club in Minneapolis. Featuring a sound that Kim called old-time bluegrass and country with a little bit of punk mixed in for good measure, the Roe Family Singers will be performing from 7 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 23, at the Concert Club in Owatonna.
“They’re just going to have a hootin’, hollerin’ good time. We try to put out the best show that we can every time,” Kim said. “The music we play is fun.”
Twelve years ago, the Roe Family Singers began adding bandmates to their line-up, Kim said.
The band has grown to include Adam Wirtzfeld on the saw, Dan Gaarder on guitar and vocals, Rich Rue on steel guitar, Ric Lee on fiddle, Rob Davis on the jug, Kurt Froehlich on the mandolin and kazoo, and Eric Paulson on stand-up bass. Quillan plays the banjo and guitar and does vocals, while Kim also does vocals and plays the autoharp and washboard.
Quillan and Kim’s daughters, ages 7 and 9, have also been musically involved with their parents’ band since even before they were born. Kim said regulars and fans of the band will remember her being pregnant on stage and sneaking away to use the restroom.
The couple’s daughters have also joined them on stage since they were born – whether in their Baby Bjorns or dancing on their own – and as a mom and a musician, Kim said it’s exciting to see her daughters enjoy the stage with her.
As for whether another generation of Roes will join the band, Kim said that is up to the kids.
“We would love to. We’re not going to push it, though,” Kim said. “We would love for them to join us. They both have beautiful voices, and they have a really good ear and good rhythm.”
In 2011, the band was awarded the McKnight Fellowship for Performing Musicians, which inspired Quillan and Kim to take their band to the next step.
“We ended up just using that, taking that as a sign and taking that next step to do this full time, and it’s just been an amazing time,” Kim said.
And the accolades – and recognition – keep stacking up.
Kim said she is now recognized in the grocery store and people will ask if she’s “Mama Roe.” She’s also been awarded for her singing talent, and the band was named Entertainers of the Year by Bluegrass Music Association of Iowa in 2016, has been named World’s Best Jug Band in both 2010 and 2012 at the annual Battle of the Jug Bands, and won the Minnesota Duet Contest at the Minnesota State Fair in 2016.
The CDs the band puts out are a combination of original and traditional music. Their first CD featured all original tracks, and the gospel one was mostly traditional. But Kim said the band enjoys fusing in songs they grew up with, with the writing talents of Quillan on their CD line-ups.
Last year, the band was signed on by Pinecastle Records and will have a new CD coming out May 4. The CD will be half traditional and half of their original material, which is common of the Roe Family offerings.
The band will also be launching a Kickstarter to help cover costs of the CD as a way to promote fan involvement – something Mama Roe said the band is appreciative to have.
“We want our fans to be part of the process because we wouldn’t be making records without them,” Kim said. “We wouldn’t be a band without our fans.”
By Samantha Stetzer