Jake Wesley Rogers Finds Magic in the Mundane [Q&A]
Photo: Red Bull
Nashville-born, LA-based R&B singer Jake Wesley Rogers ended 2021 with a bang… and Sheryl Crow. The 24-year old passionately performed at Red Bull SoundClash, a country-wide competition-like show where two artists face off and perform against each other. The unique event landed in Nashville and invited the rising pop star and R&B artist Bren Joy to battle it out on their hometown stage.
Thousands of fans gathered to view two of their favorite artists and cheer them on. The contestants took the stage and put on an exhilarating performance that showed off their immense talent. The event included the duo performing their own songs, each other’s songs, and bringing out special guests to accompany them on stage, including Sheryl Crow, Lennon Stella, Joy Oladokun, and Landon Sears.
Rogers independently released his debut EP Evergreen in 2017 and has been boots to the ground ever since, releasing his sophomore EP Spiritual in 2019 and signing to Warner Records shortly after. The singer-songwriter has developed a passionate following on TikTok, with just under 300,000 followers since his first video in 2020. His videos and music have gained attention from music legend Elton John, who later interviewed Rogers on his Apple 1 Radio show Rocket Hour. In October 2021, he released his EP, Pluto, a theatrical and deeply personal six-track project that highlights his vulnerable vocals, authenticity, and songwriting skills.
Ones to Watch had the chance to talk with Rogers about his artistic journey, finding magic in the mundane, and what’s to come.
Ones to Watch: It has been quite some time since we last sat down with you. You touched upon visibility in the industry and about the kind of artist you wanted and hoped to be. Do you feel like you are continuously striving to be the artist you want to be, or do you think you’ve reached that point?
Jake Wesley Rogers: I really do, as we sit here and I’m in my shiny red eye makeup and custom little sparkly suit and platforms. But it’s not just about that. I think the art of making the songs and making them the things I'm saying, they’re things I’ve dreamed of being able to say, and that's super important to me. I think Jake from two, three years ago, would be very happy with where Jake is now.
What have been some things you’ve learned about yourself in that time? Has your creative process changed, or is it still a tried and true method that resonates with you?
I’ve honed in kind of on my crew, my team that I like creating with. I realized that I work the best kind of with; I call it my little sandbox where I’ll go on a writing trip for two weeks and write, and then I go live my life. Living is just essential. I found that the everyday sit down and try to do it just doesn’t work well for me. I’m always kind of writing on my own and conceptualizing things, but after a period of that, I really like to sit down with the people I really trust to create and create. I feel like I get the most fruit out of that.
Where are some of your favorite places to go write?
London for sure. I started writing my EP Pluto in London in 2019. I don’t know what it is. It’s just an inspiring city to me, and I grew up loving a lot of English music. LA, too, is inspiring. It’s funny; I technically kind of live there now. Before that, I lived in Nashville, but I was writing all my songs that I was releasing somewhere else. I kind of trust that there’s something powerful for me and that I get really inspired when I’m just not even out of my comfort zone, just in a new place. I always try to listen to that and recreate that.
Outside of drawing inspiration from being in new places, where else do you draw inspiration?
I think I’m most inspired by literature and reading. I feel like I get most of my like, “aha” moments and whatever song titles or anything just from reading and connecting that to my life. I think as an artist, you have to live. You have to say something about what it is to be living. You can just get really caught up in the thought of, “Oh, I have to make something great,” and then you end up trying to make something all the time. That’s not really for me. I think living is also its own sort of art form and having that balance helps me a lot, and I’m putting pressure on myself to always be pouring out.
What was your most recent “aha” moment?
Well, this is a super esoteric answer, but it’s okay. There’s this book; it sort of found me. I am also very inspired by spirituality and the occult, Tarot, and all of that. I draw a lot on Christian symbolism because that kind of was my upbringing, and this book, I walked into this used bookstore, and it was staring right at me. It’s Meditations on the Tarot: A Journey into Christian Hermeticism. I was like, well, that book’s seen some shit, and it sounds like this book has some shit, and it does. It kind of blends my biggest interests: philosophy, religion, spirituality, taro, and cultism, and it’s heavy as hell. I read like two pages, then go on a walk, and then don’t pick it up for a couple of weeks. I started in January, and I’ve only read nine out of twenty chapters. I’m also very inspired by what is really going on here. I’m really inspired by the mundane. I think the mundane gives us clues about what is likely going on here. For me, spirituality has done a really good job of making me grateful for little things and finding the magic in the little things.
What is the most magical mundane thing to you at this moment?
Honestly, I ran out of contacts, and when I perform, I’ll not wear my glasses, but it is really disorienting not to see clearly. So to be able to wear my glasses right now and not have people taking pictures. I’m really grateful for that.
So how are you feeling going into your first Red Bull SoundClash? How are you prepping for this unique event?
It is unique, and it’s been a lot of prep work. I really have to commend my band, because I feel like they’ve kind of taken the bulk of it and prepared the most, and I feel good. I always get pretty stoic before shows. I feel like it’s kind of my body contracting before I’m supposed to expand. So I usually just kind of like to chill the fuck out the hour before and just maybe eat something and connect.
Earlier, you talked about honing in your team? What kind of person joins your crew family?
Trust for sure. And tact, I like people who just do their job really well and don’t need permission to do it and don’t wait for permission to do it. And then at the end of it, people that are kind. I think that’s something that I am really happy with so far. This team has a really powerful level of camaraderie, trust, and kindness, and everyone just really supports each other and loves one another. I think the myth of having to be at odds and crazy and angry all the time to make good art is unnecessary. I mean, there’s time to be angry, and there’s going to be tension, but if there’s tension, I want it to be with people that I want to figure it out with, not people that I resent. So yeah, basically just people that are really good at their job and are inspired by what we’re building. It’s not about them, and it’s not about me, and I really mean that. It’s this is a bigger thing that we’re building and we’re all a part of it. We all need each other to build it.
This past year you’ve been busy with the release of Pluto and The Dove Sessions, but you also received the seal of approval from Sir Elton John. How did you feel at that moment?
I mean, it was a full-on moment. I mean, it happened, and then I was like, “I guess I need to go to the grocery store.” You still have to eat after Elton John tells you he likes your music. You still have to pay your bills. But, honestly, it was really affirming for so many reasons. Just to know that someone like that, who is literally an icon, got something out of my music and supports, it sort of kind of made me think that perhaps I’m doing something a little bit right. Like a little nudge from the universe saying, “Yeah, you got this.” But I think something I found is, the past few months have been overwhelming, in a way, with all of this outside validation. I was like, oh, there’s some really powerful people that I wouldn’t have ever thought would hear me, and I have to remember that the reason they found me is because I was making the art I needed to make. And so, going forward, I can’t just rest on my laurels. I just have to keep making the shit that I want to make.
At the end of the day, your internal validation is what matters most.
Bingo. That’s been a big old lesson for me the past few weeks.
What do you hope to manifest personally and professionally in the next year?
I want at least, like, one interaction with Oprah. Yeah. It can be in private. It can be in public. I don’t care. I also just want to create more art that continues to tell my story and connect with more and more people.