Review Fix chats with singer/songwriter Mark Rogers, who discusses the creative process and goals for his new EP, “Qualifiers.”
About Mark Rogers:
Mark Rogers is a BMI-published singer/songwriter with unique pop sensibilities. His musical heritage, dating back to high school, is what is now considered pure Americana. After college, Mark followed the chime of McGuinn’s 12-string in search of Zevon’s Los Angeles. In the 80s, he headed a Cosmic American band in LA and played some of the loneliest clubs in Hollywood. An experience that contributed to his decision to spend the 90s and 00s raising a family in Washington, DC. In 2010, a number of factors conspired resulting in the modern proliferation of his songwriting, not the least of which was reconnecting with “the one who got away” a long time ago. Life’s funny that way.
Review Fix: How was this EP born?
Mark Rogers: This is my second EP. The first on came out last year. I had relegated music to a hobby status for many years while raising a family in the Washington, DC area. In 2010, I reunited with “the one who got away” a long time ago and moved to Williamsburg, VA in 2011 to be with her. My music came back to me. In buckets. In 2016, I realized I had about a half dozen new songs that I wanted to get down “on tape”. A friend told me about Rob Ulsh at Master Sound in Virginia Beach, VA. Rob recorded rough acoustic takes of my songs and suggested that we bring in Larry Berwald (guitars) and Dave Hufstedler (bass), two highly accomplished local players, to help with some arrangements and instrumentation. That lead to assembling a “dream team” of Hampton Road musicians including Jammie Lewis (keyboards) and Powell Randolph (drums) and resulted in my first EP “Rearranged”. My songwriting kept going and within just a few months, I had six or seven more songs that I thought were even better. In late 2017, I went back to Master Sound with the same players but with Andrew Payne (drums) and Ryan Gaujot (mandolin). The original idea was to finish a full LP including the original six songs. But as we got into it, it was clear to me that the news songs had more depth and just sounded different. I’m proud of the first EP, I just like this one better.
Review Fix: What’s the standout track? How was it written?
Rogers: I’ve gone back and forth on which song is the single. Luckily, I’m getting radio play on all six of them. But if there was one track that I would choose as the single, it would be “Qualifiers”. I wrote it last year. I’ve always loved Elvis Costello’s song “High Fidelity” and I must have been thinking of those great opening lyrics when I started writing what would become “Qualifiers”. He sings “Some things you never get used to…” I sing “Certain things you weren’t expecting…”. Same idea. The story flows from there. Its basically about asking the hard questions, in a subtle way, to determine if the person you’re communicating with, is who they say they are, or not. And if you’re on the other end, the one being “sized up”, you’re confronted with the option of either reassuring that person, or showing them who/what you really are”. It’s a bit of a complex topic for a 3-minute pop song. Joe Pernice does this kind of thing very well with his songs. They sound like harmless pop on the surface, but are usually addressing some more substantial issues underneath.
Review Fix: What did you learn about yourself through it?
Rogers: Two years ago, I was another guy with an acoustic guitar and some songs, playing a few open mics. I’m still that guy, but with the right circumstances and supporting cast, I can make a pretty good record.
Review Fix: How would you describe this EP to someone who has never heard you?
Rogers: I can never answer that question. I describe my music as Bossa rhythms and anachronistic pop songs.
Review Fix: How do you want people to be affected by it?
Rogers: As Paul Westerberg so eloquently said all those years ago: “I’m in love. What’s that song? I’m in love. With that song”.
Review Fix: What’s next?
Rogers: We’re staring to get nicer gigs. I play out with a five-piece acoustic band called Crimson Fox. On July 15th we’ll play Union Stage in my hometown of Washington, DC. Other than a smattering of gigs throughout Virginia, nothing solid is planned yet. But, I’d love to tour.
Review Fix: What else would you like to add?
Rogers: I’m not a youngster, I’m not a hipster, and I have a day job. When I was in my early 20s, my music was uncontrollable and I move from DC to LA by myself in an old car without a radio. Once I got there, I was fortunate enough to start a band with Paul Lacques, currently in “I See Hawks in LA”. We played a few gigs around town and were probably a lot closer to a record deal then I thought we were. After too short of a time, I moved back to DC, hungry, broke and bummed out. I spent 25 years working a “straighter line” and raising a family. This current musical resurgence, and the attention I’m getting from it, is surreal. Just goes to show you. It’s never too late.