May 27, 2024

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Interview with Skylar Rogers: Life is a road … let’s rock it til the wheels fall off! Video, new CD cover

Interview with Blues vocalist and songwriter Skylar Rogers. An interview by email in writing. 

JazzBluesNews.com: – First, let’s start out with where you grew up, and what got you interested in music. How exactly did your adventure take off? When did you realize that this was a passion you could make a living out of?

Skylar Rogers: – I grew up mostly in either the projects in Chicago (Cabrini Green, Robert Taylor, Washington Park), or on the south side in the Englewood area. My mom is responsible for my interest in music; it was ALWAYS on in the house. She, my sister and I would sing and harmonize. It was and still is one of our favorite things to do.

OUR US/EU Jazz and Blues Festivals 2023

I joined the Chicago Children’s Choir in my early teens, but that led to being told I couldn’t sing because I had too much of a “classical voice” when the big thing was having an R&B or gospel voice. I joined the high school matching band (in the percussion section, of course) and truly feel in love with music, thanks to the band teacher, the late Camuel Cross.

As far as this crazy ride, my husband actually talked me into it. I had ZERO interest in singing professionally! I was content being a Grammy winning shower singer. He convinced me to audition for a Christian based talent development program, where I met the singing coach, who would eventually become my manager extraordinaire. To be honest, I still can’t believe I’m getting PAID to do all of this!! It really does floor me that people are paying to hear and watch me sing.

JBN: – How has your sound evolved over time? What have you been doing to find and develop your own sound?

SR: – I started out as a soul blues singer, but I knew in my heart I wanted to rock! With “Insecurities,” I was just beginning to find my voice, so there was a lot of jumping around on that one. With “Firebreather,” I knew where I wanted to go with it, and began honing in. Now, with “Among The Insanity,” you’re hearing what’s always been inside of me; it’s my true self coming out in these tunes. And it’s only going to get edgier from here, so buckle up!!

JBN: – What routine practices or exercises have you developed to maintain and improve your current musical proficiency, in terms of both rhythm and harmony?

SR: – For starters, I’ve had to completely change my diet, avoiding sugars, dairy, bread, pasta…. All the things that make life wonderful! I’ve also been working with a personal trainer to develop cardio and pulmonary strength, which I feel has made belting out notes easier. It’s really improved my overall tone. I’m a lyricist, so I’m constantly studying songwriting techniques, but there’s nothing greater than having a songwriting partner who is happy to share his experience in writing lyrics. Terry is responsible for me keeping my lines short and sweet. More than a few pastry fueled nights were spent with him pouring his own experience into Mt head, which I’m grateful for.

JBN: – Have you changed through the years? Any charges or overall evolution? And if so why?

SR: – I’ve become edgier, and I love it! It’s that unconventional wild and rebellious streak in me that keeps growing. With all of the health issues I have, I’m just decided to heck with it and rock out. Life is too short, you know? Do what will make you look back on your life and have no regrets!

JBN: – How do you prepare for your recordings and performances to help you maintain both spiritual and musical stamina?

SR: – My allergies are from the 11th level of hell, so the motorized neti pot several times per day helps. Mentally, it’s difficult to describe. I have the duck on a pond thing going. On the surface, it’s looks like it’s just another day. But I’m really just trying to center myself, to get the nerves under control. Breathing techniques is a HUGE part of recording, and I’m constantly working to improve.

JBN: – What do you love most about your new album 2023: Skylar Rogers – Among the Insanity, how it was formed and what you are working on today.

SR: – I love how fresh it sounds! Each instrument had a chance to shine. I remember sitting in the studio fangirling over this phenomenal group of musicians. I’m always writing, but it comes out in bits and pieces. When I get a tune in my head, I IMMEDIATELY have to stop what I’m doing and hum it. Luckily everyone else is used to be doing it by now.

Buy from here – New CD 2023

Among the Insanity | Skylar Rogers

JBN: – How did you select the musicians who play on the album?

SR: – I didn’t! That’s the beautiful part. Sallie put me in touch with Teresa James’ husband Terry Wilson. From there, he put together an all star lineup of Snuffy Walden, Billy Watts, Bennett Salvay, and Brannen Temple, and himself. These guys are heavy hitters, and even now, I still can’t believe these guys are on this CD!

JBN: – Can you share any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions over the years?

SR: – There was a gig where the guitar and bass players rode together, and just past the final exit of my town, they blew a tire. I was on my way through, with my sister-in-law behind me. We loaded everyone’s gear into the 2 cars, and took off, leaving the guitar player behind. I remember doing around 110mph…in an H2 no less…to get to the gig, but wound up 30 minutes behind. That was a MESS!

There was also a point in the studio recording ATI, recording Water, comes the line, “come on in, y’all!” in between takes, working on it, the guys would do that “come on in!” I wish we would’ve recorded it!

JBN: – In your opinion, what’s the balance in music between intellect and soul?

SR: – You can have all of the technical theory, pedagogy, etc down, but without soul, it’s just numbers and symbols on paper. Songs tell stories, and there’s a difference between simply singing lyrics, phrasing, breath control, not forgetting the lyrics, and telling a story: the palpable passion behind the lyrics.

JBN: – There’s a two-way relationship between audience and artist; are you okay with delivering people the emotion they long for?

SR: – This is why people pay to see a concert! If they didn’t want that full immersion emotional experience, they can simply pop the CD in. The energy and emotion works both ways. We as performers can sense that emotion coming from the audience, and it becomes a conversation of sorts.

JBN: – How can we get young people interested in jazz when most of standard tunes are half a century old?

SR: – To appreciate the present and future, you have to learn the past. Especially as vinyl is making a comeback, younger people are discovering different genres that were part of the “record era.” I hate to use the word hipster, but they’re leading the way in rediscovering the classic tunes that many don’t know have had such an impact on today’s music. Not every young person is as glued to pop, rap, etc. as they’re stereotyped to be. All things old are becoming new again, and that includes music.

JBN: – John Coltrane once said that music was his spirit. How do you perceive the spirit and the meaning of life?

SR: – For me, it’s finding your purpose, and throwing all you have into it. Otherwise, what’s the point? In finding this, you also find your TRUE spirit, not what others expect of you. When you can live and love your TRUE self…that my friend, is the beginning of your life.

JBN: – If you could change one single thing in the musical world and that would become reality, what would that be?

SR: – Pressure. There’s always pressure. Stay relevant, make another hit, be what you’re told. There’s always that pressure that many of us never talk about, but definitely feel. Take away those pressures, and I believe a whole new chapter in the music world would be unlocked.

JBN: – Whom do you find yourself listening to these days?

SR: – There will ALWAYS be my beloved Tina Turner and Billy Joel. But I’ve found myself listening to more instrumental string musicians such as Bond, Lindsey Stirling, and Black Violin. I’ve also gotten into the sea shanties such as “The Wellerman,” and “Valhalla Calling,” the latter being almost considered a battle cry, and it’s beautiful to have those emotions drawn out of you.

OUR US/EU Jazz and Blues Festivals 2023

JBN: – Let’s take a trip with a time machine: where and why would you really want to go?

SR: – I had to think about this one. I’ve said before that it would be lunch with Queen Tina, but I think I’ll update that: it would be present day, in Vienna, for dinner and cocktails with both Queen Tina and Billy Joel. I’d love to just sit and listen to them laugh about their experiences, as well as listen to their words of wisdom regarding music, performing, and life in general. Tina was 83 when she transitioned, and Billy is 74. Think about the stories and advice they would have! Why Vienna? It’s only 8 hours from Tina’s home, and as for Billy? If you’ve heard the song, you’d already know why.

JBN: – What is the message you choose to bring through your music?

SR: – Life is a road … let’s rock it til the wheels fall off! Allow yourself to feel what you feel, but never become comfortable with that feeling. Why? Because you’ll miss out on everything else life has. And above all else, someone has been where you are; you’re never alone on your journey.

JBN: – Do You like our questions? So far, it’s been me asking you questions, now may I have a question from yourself…

SR: – These questions have been great! I love critical thinking (even though I’m not always the best at it). They’ve made me sit back and contemplate things like, “will our young people lose the art of music?” Why do we do what we do?, etc.

Being a lyricist, one question I can ask: how do you, as a listener, feel that lyrics have evolved over the decades. Not only in Blues, but lyrics in general?

JBN: – EB: – Today’s youth, from my point of view, is good, there are just uncultivated, artless phenomena, they are more technical, although there are a lot of them in our Jazz and Blues festivals.

As for the songs, they are very different and according to taste, they cannot be the same, sorry.

JBN: – Have you ever given a free concert during your entire concert career? At the bottom line, what are your expectations from our interview?

SR: – Such a broad question! Have I ever done a free concert? I haven’t had the opportunity, but for the right cause, I would certainly be open to one. As for our chat (I’m not a fan of ‘interview’ as it sounds like I’m seeking employment), you have given me several wonderful topics to discuss, and it feels as if I’m chatting with a friend over a glass of tea. However, in the future, this should probably be the first question 🙂

Interview by Emmanuel Bolton

Note: https://jazzbluesnews.com/2023/03/19/useu-jazz-blues-association-festivals/ You can express your consent and join our association, which will give you the opportunity to perform at our Jazz and Blues festivals, naturally receiving an appropriate royalty. We cover all expenses. The objectives of the interview are: How to introduce yourself, your activities, thoughts and intellect, and make new discoveries for our US/EU Jazz & Blues Association, which organizes festivals, concerts and meetings in Boston and various European countries, why not for you too!! You can read more about the association here. https://jazzbluesnews.com/2022/11/19/useujba/

Skylar Rogers

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