Discover Artists Who Joined The 11th IMAs: Stephanie Rooker & the Search Engine

Discover Artists Who Joined The 11th IMAs: Stephanie Rooker & the Search Engine


GENRE:  ​Soul ~ Jazz ~ Funk

ALBUM SUBMITTED: The Only Way Out is In submitted in Adult Contemporary Album

SONGS SUBMITTED: “What If” “The Only Way Out Is In” and “Rise” submitted in Adult Contemporary Song. “When We Gon’ Care” submitted in the Sing Out For Social Action Song category.

LABEL: Self-released on RookLove Productions


Ben Tyree – guitarist & producer
Mamiko Watanabe – keys
Lawrence Qualls – drums
Mark Williams – trombone
Jen Rooker – supporting vocals
V Jeff Smith – saxes & flute
Jahmal Nichols – bass

Special featured guests:
– John Medeski – Hammond B3
– DJ Logic – turntables
– Theo Harden – bass
– Roland Barber – trombone
– Kalae AllDay – rhymes
– Will Martina – cello
– Gary Fritz – percussion
– Justice Dilla X – vocals

WERE THERE ANY ‘HAPPY ACCIDENTS’ IN THE STUDIO OR DID YOU RECORD THIS ALBUM AS PLANNED? The recording process for The Only Way Out is In unfolded fairly smoothly & organically. Unlike my first album, which was one big live session that (quite magically) came out very well in the end, this album was a carefully masterminded process by producer Ben Tyree, a practice in patience & “eyes on the prize” for myself, & an integral learning experience for creating just the right energy & cohesion for the whole band.

WHO IS SITTING IN YOUR AUDIENCE? Eclectic music-lovers who appreciate innovation rooted in blues-gospel-jazz-hip-hop lineage.  A lot of my fans are poets, artists, & activists. They appreciate the capture & savoring of a moment – it’s essence wrapped in wordplay/metaphor or sonically explored & expanded.

WHAT’S YOUR BEST/CRAZIEST TOUR STORY? Not too many crazy stories, but I will tell this one:  In 1996, my younger brother Jason suffered & subsequently died from a brain injury.  Since his death, my parents have been heavily involved with brain injury activism, awareness, & service.  One of our first shows in my home state of Virginia was during March, which is Brain Injury Awareness Month.  My mother asked if I would mind taking donations for the cause – by passing a donation bucket around the club & saying a few words about it.  I did so & we raised $400 that first night.  As I continued to tour through Virginia, collaborating with local brain injury organizations all over the state, a strange thing started consistently happening:  at the end of every show, a young man would approach me –around the same age that my brother would be– and tell me how much what I was doing with my music meant to him as a brain injury survivor.  It was actually really creepy, at first.  But eventually, I took it as a sign that this was the right way to remember my brother as well as proof of the power of music.  For more info on my family’s work, visit:

HAVE YOU EVER HUNG OUT WITH ONE OF YOUR MUSICAL HEROES?  WHAT’S THE STORY? In 2010, I had the honor of participating in the John F. Kennedy Center’s Betty Carter Jazz Ahead Artist Residency Program.  There I got to work with some of the legends of jazz, including Billy Taylor, Winard Harper, & Nathan Davis, among others.  Trombone player Curtis Fuller & I became good buddies.  He would tell me story after story of playing with Billie Holiday, John Coltrane, & Miles Davis.  Our friendship continues as we try to catch each other’s shows when we’re in town.  We’ve also worked on some music together – which has been truly amazing.

WHAT’S YOUR MOST MEMORABLE ACHIEVEMENT TO DATE? I’m happy to say I have a few memorable achievements that I’m really proud of.  One of those is a CD I produced in 2004 of traditional Ghanaian music.  I was studying ethnomusicology at Oberlin College & I had the opportunity to go abroad.  In 2003, I spent 3.5 months studying art, music, & culture in Ghana while enrolled in a study abroad program there.  I returned independently in 2004 & created field recordings, collected photos, translations, & contextual cultural information for the music of three different Ghanaian tribes.  This was a profound adventure & a rewarding endeavor.  The immersion, study, & work with the people in Ghana took me far beyond my previous understanding of music.  You can hear samples from this CD at:


WHAT DO YOU HAVE IN THE WORKS FOR THE UPCOMING YEAR? In the next year, I’m continuing to immerse myself in the study of sound healing, which began last year with my participation in the NY Open Center’s Sound & Music Institute (  I’m moving forward with these studies & practices as well as crafting a “spirituals” album which incorporates this work and explores the many overlapping elements of sacred, spiritual, & popular music.  I plan to develop workshops around these concepts & organize a tour.


stephrooker – twitter
stephanie rooker band – facebook
lilmissrooker – youtube