Interview | FFS 5 with Bryce J. Rogers

Bryce J. Rogers represents a new generation of Tucson troubadours. Rather than settle into a singular, comfortable musical space, the singer-songwriter is constantly adapting to bring new listening experiences to the raw core of his folk music. His latest single, “There’s A Lot”, provides a good example of this. While, lyrically, it dives into the searing storytelling that Rogers is known for, he plays with new influences that drive its production. Vocally, he hits near-staccato, accentuating these choices with a punchy back-beat that trips the arrangement in an unlikely balance between folk and hip-hop.

As it’s been inferred, Rogers isn’t one to veer from wearing his heart on his sleeve—permitting brutal sincerity in his music over topics that might hurt the most for some to share. It was around this time five years ago that he had nearly taken his life. “There’s A Lot” looks back on his time spent in a behavioral center on Easter Day, and reflecting on ways to cope with negative feelings.

Rogers was accepted by the Tucson Kitchen Musicians Association (TKMA) to take part in the city’s 35th Annual Tucson Folk Festival this year, although it was unfortunately cancelled in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. This feature was originally going to run alongside the festival (April 3rd-5th). Although he wasn’t able to perform at the fest in the flesh, it is worthy of mentioning that Rogers joined other artists who were set to appear at it at multiple livestream concerts throughout the festival period. Doing so offered some recompense and happiness in the bittersweet moments of lockdown, reciprocated by the artists and their online communities alike.

Please tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from and how did you get started in music? Any defining moments along the path to present day?

I’m a performing-songwriter based in Tucson, AZ. Originally from Northern Minnesota, I began playing music at the age of twelve, it was clear that my passion outweighed my talents, as I was politely asked NOT to sing at a church event, however, this only fueled the fire and I was determined to pursue what I now describe as my best form of communication, music. By fourteen I knew that writing and performing music was what I wanted my everyday to consist of, I had found my purpose. I got my start with music by taking lessons and playing in church “worship bands” for most of teen years. In 2018, I moved to Tucson and got involved in the local music-community by hosting Open Mics and performing anywhere that I could share uplifting and heartfelt music. In 2019, I had the honor to perform in over sixty charity/local benefit shows, as well as release my second album, Coffee and Baileys, and drive from Tucson, AZ to Anchorage, Alaska for the adventure of my lifetime.

As an artist, how do you define success?

Recently I’ve been putting success into terms of how I would like to be remembered when I pass on and I’ve realized that success for me is measured in how much I can give back. As a musician, folks often have notions of what it means to be “successful”, whether that’s a record deal, going on tour, obtaining riches and glory. However, I believe success is measured by our inner compass, by following our greatest joys. For me, success starts with being able to write and share music everyday and I feel very successful for the opportunity to do so now, I cannot tell what the future will hold, but as long as I’m able to write, sing, and uplift folks with these songs, then I’ll chalk that up as successful. 

What do you find to be your greatest struggle when it comes to the music business?

Consistency & Perseverance. Like I said at the start, my passion has always beat out my talents as a musician, I’ve had to work incredibly hard and I don’t expect that to stop anytime soon. I personally believe that we live in a great time to be an independent artist, there are just so many opportunities, so many hats that we now have the capability to wear, again it’s hard work, but it means that anyone can reach their goals in this business. The struggle for me has been to remain consistent and persevere through my failures, it’s easy to feel defeated, especially when good ol grandma responds to your latest song/project by saying “A young person like yourself should have a worthwhile career.” Yet, that right there is what I believe to be the baddest boogie man of our industry. No, not grandma, but the fear of failure or rejection. A career in music has a lot of networking involved, naturally, it’s a career with it’s fair share of rejection, but success cannot be obtained without failure and consistent perseverance. 

What do you think is the most realistic goal you can achieve as an artist? What do you hope to achieve?

Music has played a big role in my personal development and mental health, being a powerful coping skill to process heavy emotions and share vulnerable truths, music has been very healing in my life, both listening and writing. A beautiful aspect about music is that it allows us to tell a story, to share a deep pain or joy in a way that’s so relatable, that’s so healing not only for the writer, but the listener as well. My hope is that the music I write can positively impact someone’s life in the same way my musical heroes have impacted mine, that someone can hear my story and relate, reflect, and grow as an individual.

Outside of music, what do you like to do that you feel contributes to the creativity that you tap into for your music?

Like many songwriters, I consider myself an observationalist. I tend to gain a lot of insight from watching/listening to the world around me and taking notes. My writing also tends to be heavily inspired by my spirituality and personal development, because music has been such a personal and powerful form of therapy in my life it tends to tie into everything I do, personally, I’m not sure if there’s any aspect of my life that’s “outside” music. Whether, I’m travelling, in nature, spending time with my loved ones, it all ties back to music and I’m very content with that balance. I can definitely say that the moments I’ve excelled most in my musical craft are closely related to personal growth and developments I’ve made in my character, relationships, and spirituality. I believe it was Quincy Jones who said, “You cannot be a better musician than you are a person”.

Words by: Jonathan Frahm