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Rossiter strikes a chord with area music scene

HARTINGTON — Casey Rossiter has become a notable figure on the regional music scene.

The 42-year-old Hartington native can often be found performing music live on weekends at various venues mostly across northeast Nebraska, southeast South Dakota and northwest Iowa.

He primarily plays rock, country and pop music on his acoustic guitar because those genres are what most of his audiences want to hear at the places he performs, which are mainly bars, restaurants and private events.

“I try to approach music like a job,” Rossiter said. “I work for the venue owner, and the best way to make them happy is to entertain the crowd to the best of your ability, which sometimes means playing a song you don’t like or one that is very difficult.”

He tries to play any song that’s requested.

In addition to playing and singing solo under his own name, he is a member of several bands with other professional musicians from around the region.

Rossiter performs quite often with Eric Beringer of Yankton, S.D. Together, they formed the band The Roots Rockers and mainly cover rock and country music.

Beringer plays lead guitar and provides backing vocals for the pair while Rossiter performs on rhythm guitar and handles lead vocals.

They are in the process of recording an extended play record – better known as an EP – of original music together in the genre of psychedelic rock.

“We are both huge fans of bands like The Dandy Warhols, Wooden Shjips and The Brian Jonestown Massacre,” Rossiter said. “Those influences have definitely helped shape what we are recording.”

Rossiter and Beringer hope to have the EP available on various music streaming sites in the future.

“We are hoping to finish the EP sometime this year and play some shows after we release it,” Rossiter said. “This project is yet unnamed.”

Rossiter also teams with Carly Christensen of Hartington to form a duo known as The Well Diggers.

They both play rhythm guitars and take turns on lead vocals, while Christensen also plays harmonica.

“We play rock and country, too, but we also cover a lot of stuff that is popular in the Hartington area like the Gear Daddies, the BoDeans and The Replacements,” Rossiter said.

In addition, Rossiter occasionally performs with Mike Hilson of Yankton. They call themselves Casey & Mike and mainly cover rock and country music.

Hilson plays lead guitar and provides backing vocals for the twosome while Rossiter performs on rhythm guitar and handles lead vocals.

The newest group Rossiter has become a part of is a four-piece rock cover band with Beringer, Chris Cortez of Yankton and Wausa native Jordan Burns of Hartington called Mercenary Sound.

In the cover band, Beringer and Cortez will trade off playing lead guitar and bass and handling lead and backing vocals, Rossiter will be strumming a rhythm guitar and providing lead vocals, and Burns will be beating the drums and adding backing vocals.

“It will be something fun that we will do a handful of times a year,” Rossiter said.

Mercenary Sound will be playing at Tootiepalooza, a music festival Rossiter is putting together at Big Hair Brewhaus on Saturday, Sept. 25, to raise money for the Hartington Veterans Memorial.

He has been interested in playing music since he was a student in elementary school.

“I started playing drums when I was in grade school and got decent at it, and played all through high school, but never in a band, just the high school band,” Rossiter said. “I was obsessed with sports as a kid, and was a music fan, but there were so many good musicians around Hartington at the time, it was a little intimidating.”

Rossiter graduated in 1997 from Hartington Public High School, attended Wayne State College on a football scholarship and earned a bachelor’s degree in finance in 2001.

After he graduated from college, he started his career as a golf professional through the Professional Golfers’ Association of America.

Rossiter ran golf courses in California for about five years before switching professions and becoming a financial advisor, which is what he has done ever since.

His career as a financial advisor led him to the Pacific Northwest, which was instrumental in growing his interest in performing music for live audiences in Portland.

“I false-started on guitar several times from an early age until I finally stuck with it in my mid-20s,” Rossiter said.

After going through a divorce in 2009, he was looking for something to focus on outside of work and he had really gotten back into music.

“Portland has such a thriving music scene, both for local artists and national acts,” Rossiter said. “There were months where I went to a show every single day, and it was every type of music you could imagine.”

He spent a lot of time at Duff’s Garage, a well-known music venue in Portland, watching bands that played American roots, country, Western swing, jump blues, rockabilly and other similar music genres.

“It also seemed like everyone I met played guitar, so I started taking guitar lessons,” Rossiter said. “I had always wanted to learn how to play surf guitar and the blues, so I Googled surf and blues guitar lessons plus Portland, and that brought me to Steve Bradley.”

Shortly after starting guitar lessons with Bradley, Rossiter began playing live with him and fellow Portland musician Jim Mesi at Clyde’s Prime Rib, a restaurant and bar, along with some private events in the area.

They mainly played surf instrumentals – from rock music artists such as Dick Dale, The Ventures, The Shadows, Link Wray and The Chantays, for example – with some garage rock, blues, country and folk music mixed in, too.

“I had never considered becoming a musician,” Rossiter said. “It just kind of happened.”

When Bradley was a teenager, he had a rock band called the U.S. Cadenza that opened for the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, The Doors and a host of other rock groups.

“I learned a great deal from him, and it’s safe to say I would not be working today as a musician if it weren’t for him,” he said.

Rossiter returned to northeast Nebraska in 2013, living in Wausa and working in Bloomfield.

However, he stopped performing music completely after he moved back because he did not know any other professional musicians in the region.

That changed in 2016, when Rossiter began rehearsing with Corie Clausen, the music teacher and band director at Wausa Public Schools at the time.

They started performing together as the Corie and Casey Band and played country, rock and pop music across the area.

“It was not great in the beginning, but we slowly got better and developed a nice following,” Rossiter said. “We continued to play for a couple of years until Corie had another child, at which point I started playing solo.”

Over the years, playing with Clausen, Rossiter befriended some professional musicians in the region, which led to the formation of the bands he is in now and many more shows.

He plays for live audiences year-round and averages two shows a week for around 100 performances annually.

“Occasionally, The Roots Rockers will play something larger like a street dance or a fair,” Rossiter said. “For a few years now, I have had a standing residency show at the Magnet Bar two Sundays a month.”

During the workweek, he lives in Grand Island and is the full-time investment officer for Five Points Financial Services there.

Rossiter travels on the weekends to Hartington, where he rents a house, and performs music live around the region.

In addition to his regular job and music-playing hobby, he works as a disc jockey for weddings and other events, and has a karaoke business.

With his connections to the Pacific Northwest, Rossiter is hoping to travel back to where his love for performing live music began and play a show in Portland this fall with Bradley when he goes out there to meet with business clients.

“Performing live has been very therapeutic for me,” Rossiter said. “I am very grateful to have a hobby this rewarding. It definitely makes life more fun. I’m also grateful for all the great friends I have made, and all the people it has allowed me to meet.”

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