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INTERVIEW: Mark Rogers

Hi Mark, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

Hello.  Very well, thank you.

Can you talk to us more about your song “Qualifiers”?

Qualifiers was the first song I wrote with my new 1944 Gibson J45.  I’ve always loved Elvis Costello’s song “High Fidelity” and I must have been thinking of those great opening lyrics when I started this song.  He sings “Some things you never get used to…”.  I sing “Certain things you weren’t expecting…”.  Same idea. The story kind of flowed from there.  There’s this concept in sales called “Qualifying”.  And it’s basically asking a potential buyer the hard questions to determine if they’re a real buyer or not.  I find that we often use those same “truth-finding” tactics in our personal relationships. It’s human nature.  “Is this person really who they say they are, or are they something else entirely?”  And if you’re on the other end, and you begin to recognize that you’re being “sized up”, you’re confronted with the option of either reassuring them or, showing them who or what you really are.  I realize that the topic is a bit complex for a song, but thought that it was sort of funny addressing it within the boundaries of a very pop sounding tune.  I think Joe Pernice does this kind of thing very well with his songs.  They sound like harmless pop on the surface, but are usually a lot darker than that.

Did any event in particular inspired you to write this song?

Just trying to navigate every relationship I’ve ever had in my life.

Any plans to release a video for the track?

No plans, but that would be great.  I’m picturing a couple sitting at their breakfast table, both with their coffee and newspapers, casually throwing “qualifiers” at each other.

Why naming the album after this song in particular?

I always loved the title of the Paul Simon collection called “Love Songs and Other Negotiations”.   I guess I was thinking of that when I decided to name the entire record “Qualifiers”.

How was the recording and writing process?

I recorded this EP with the same engineer and musicians, as my first EP “Rearranged”.  Rob Ulsh, has a wonderful studio in Virginia Beach, VA, less than an hour from where I live in Williamsburg.  When I first met him in 2016, he suggested bringing in Larry Berwald (guitars) and Dave Hufstedler (bass), a couple of very accomplished Hampton Roads musicians, to help me with some arrangements and instrumentation.  I was just a guy with an acoustic guitar and a bunch of songs he’d written.  This musical “dream team” which included Jamie Lewis (keyboards) and Powell Randolph (drum), that Rob had assembled, turned these songs into something beyond anything I’d heard in them.  So, when it was time to record six news songs, I went with the same group of players but with Andrew Payne on drums and Ryan Gaujot on mandolin.

Would you call this a follow up to your previous material?

The idea at first was to add the six songs on “Rearranged” to the new six and make a full LP.  But, as we got into the recording and production, it seemed clearer to me that the new songs had greater depth and just sounded different, than the earlier tracks.  So, a second EP became apparent.  I’m proud of the first EP, I just like this one better.

What role does Virginia play in your writing?

I live on “Half-way Creek” in Williamsburg, VA.  The water, trees, birds, critters, are a constant source of interest for me.  Especially early in the morning.  The tide, the air, the sounds, the smells are always changing.  I came here from downtown Washington, DC, so it all still amazes me.  I tried to articulate it as best I could in “You Can Lead Me On”.  I’ve also gotten to know a lot of very musical people here who have broaden my palate considerably.  I love it here.

What is it about the 80s and 90s that you find so fascinating?

It’s actually the sixties and seventies that serve as my foundation.  It all starts with the Beatles of course, and then progresses on through the Byrds to Gram Parsons and Neil Young.  That lead me to Jackson Browne, JD Souther, Joni Mitchell and Warren Zevon.  And then it all gained speed with Costello, Squeeze, The Smiths, The Replacements et al.  I thought the 90s were recycling a lot of what had already happened in the 70s.  My stuff tends to be described as nostalgic.  But it’s funny, people seem to assign different time periods to it.  The only thing that’s universal is that it’s not of this time.

What aspect of Americana did you get to explore on this record?

I played in a bluegrass band in high school, so what is now described as Americana is pretty familiar territory for me.  But my true love is pop.  So to marry the two is what I’d ultimately like to do.  There’s an excellent internet radio station that I listen to out of Charlottesville called “Radio Free Americana”.  Their tagline is “Where Pop Meets Twang”.  That hits me right between the eyes.

Where did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?

I reconnected with a girl who I’d met in the late 80s in DC about 9 years ago.  She was always the one, but I just wasn’t developed enough at the time to tell her.  So, I lost contact with her for almost 20 years.  When we reconnected, and ultimately got back together, I thought I’d won the lottery.  My music came back to me after being dormant for many years.  My first EP is all about her.  Time moves on and perspective increases.  “Qualifiers” is not as “love struck” as “Rearranged”, and addresses relationship topics that are more complex e.g. truth, misunderstanding, kids leaving home, risk-taking, the state of our world and a theory as to why things are as they are.

Any plans to hit the road?

I have a wonderful gig at Union Stage in my hometown of Washington, DC on July 15th (tickets available).  Then there’s a smattering of gigs in and around Hampton Roads and Richmond in the coming months.  I’m getting some nice radio play, so we’ll see how that shakes out.  Who knows what’s coming down the pike.  I’d love to tour.

What else is happening next in Mark Rogers’ world?

I still have a day job.  I own a small technical and managerial training firm called Velocity Knowledge.  Between that and my burgeoning musical career, I’ve got all I can handle.

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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