Ross Kinsey has always had songs bouncing between his head and his heart. But they never quite made it to paper.
During a trip to Nashville on his 40th birthday, while dashing between honky tonks, Kinsey came to a conclusion.
“It’s time for me to make my own music,” Kinsey remembers thinking.
Being around top-notch musicians and artists, many of whom work under the radar inspired and convicted him.
“They are in the thick of it. They are fantastic,” he said. “They are in the biggest competition of their life. I’m just a guy who loves to play music. I get to perform for others, but it’s not going to make or break my life.
“A lot of those folks [in Nashville] don’t make a lot of money when they are working. They are working two jobs, burning the candle at both ends, just to do what they love.
“There’s no reason for me not to be making my own music,” Kinsey said.
Time on His Hands
The urgency came during the weeks leading up to the COVID-19 quarantine that hit the world. The opportunity to make his own music came in unexpectedly long hours of idle time.
Fast forward a year, and his journey has produced a dozen songs that are at various stages in the recording process.
Kinsey said he writes songs from what happens in the day-to-day, such as the autobiographical “Lake Life.” It’s a tale of growing up on the lakes around Angola and how he returned to them to get grounded.
“It’s 100 percent our life,” Kinsey said. “That’s a weekend in the cove in Steuben.”
Being a dad of two, the song is written in the family-friendly style that he’s embraced.
“It can’t be a blow out, but it can be a good time with our kids running around,” he said.
His tune “Brave As You” came to him after watching everyday unassuming heroes, like his daughter’s softball teammate battling leukemia.
“It was miserable,” Kinsey said. “A ten year old shouldn’t have to go through what she went through — from what I was reading social media posts.”
As he was writing during the pandemic, Kinsey witnessed front-line medical workers and military men and women working long hours in dire situations.
UnPacking His Schedule
For the bulk of his career, Kinsey maintained a packed schedule working full-time as a videographer at WANE-TV in Fort Wayne. Then in 2008 he became the weekend sports anchor on the CBS affiliate.
If there were big weekend sports events in Northeast Indiana, he likely would be at all of them. He would go from a University of Saint Francis football game at noon, and then to a Komets, Mad Ants, or TinCaps game in the evening. This was all squished between two newscasts and hours of writing and production.
Reunions, cookouts, graduation parties, weddings, and family get-togethers were out of the question.
“I wasn’t totally MIA, but if I wanted to do any of that, I had to take vacation,” Kinsey said. “And it wasn’t a vacation. It was just enjoying life.”
He was getting the story, going to great events, and crossing paths with the biggest names in sports. But even Super Bowls, the Indianapolis 500, and other high-profile assignments were little consolation for what he was missing out on.
“Everyone had to make sacrifices. But after doing it, it had run its course,” Kinsey said.
Eventually, the thrill of the big game faded.
“I got to do a lot of cool things,” he said. “When I stepped back and looked at it, I already covered some of the world’s biggest sporting events. What’s left? I knew I wanted to have something more to show for my life than just work.”
He listened to his heart and moved behind the camera again, where he got his start. Through living his life with more time and freedom, he discovered more about his own aristry.
In 2010, he entered and won a popular karaoke contest at a sports bar in his hometown of Angola. That generated some small acoustical assignments, which allowed gigs to start to piling up.
“There weren’t that many venues that did live music,” Kinsey said. “I put some videos on YouTube and sent them out.”
Then, in 2014, he booked his first big solo gig.
Now he’s performing three to four gigs a month, which works great to fit his kid’s schedules.
He admits that much of his work is treated as background music as people socialize, but the interaction can still be rewarding. He holds the attention of the audience by having a diverse bank of songs.
“You’d be hard pressed to find another musician who goes from Garth Brooks to Justin Bieber, and then mixes it up with Cake,” Kinsey said. “Oh yeah, here’s some Bob Seger, Dave Mathews, and Billy Currington, too.”
His mission is simple.
“You don’t have to write a song that changes the world, you just have to write something that makes people smile, or something that makes them think,” he said. “That’s the beauty of it. The ability to produce so many emotions. If you don’t write it, people can’t hear it. You have to let it out.”