INTERVIEW: Sweet Roger

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

Thanks for having me here. I’m doing well, all things considering. Thanks for asking. Obviously, it’s a weird time but on the flip side I’m getting a lot done. Musically, I’ve been really inspired and writing a lot. But I’m also trying to focus and knuckle down so I can finish my upcoming album. Trying to focus and being inspired to write can get in the way of each other. But it’s a good problem to have. 

Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Pay Me”?

Sure thing. “Pay Me” is rooted in old folk and blues music from the 30’s and 40’s. I love the music from that era. The recordings are raw and crackling with energy and the lyrics are about real life stories, the work, the struggles, bad relationships, and even death. So I’ve tried to capture the spirit of those times with “Pay Me”. You have two acoustic guitars playing together and stylistically they’re reminiscent of the time. One is keeping rhythm with a little Travis picking and the other is a slide lead. I think one of the first slide guitar players “discovered” used a knife. I didn’t use a knife, though! I went with a brass slide that I stole from my brother a lifetime ago. I guess the truth is out now!    

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

The lyrics in “Pay Me” are based on a photographic print I purchased at a flea market in California. The image depicts a man leaning against a dead tree and he’s counting money in his hands. He also has this mysterious grin on his face. Supposedly, he was a tree cutter in one of the southern states of America. So, I developed a narrative based on him. The image is striking and unsettling and I wrote the lyrics to emulate that feeling. Working for money requires something sinister out of all us, but it also forces us to strive. I like the ambiguity in that. 

Any plans to release any sort of video for the track?

Yes. I’ll be releasing another single in the new year and my plan is to shoot a live video where I’ll perform three songs, including “Pay Me”, all of which will be featured on my upcoming album. My friend Terouz did some great artwork for “Pay Me” which you can see on my Youtube channel. I was thinking I’d like to make a graphic video based on the illustration. It’s really cool. Terouz is a talented guy. 

How was the recording and writing process?

On my debut album “You’ll Always Have Yourself”, my friend Paul Edwards produced and recorded everything in his studio in the West Island of Montreal. We rehearsed with a band for months just to get things tight and we got additional musicians for further orchestration. It was an incredible experience and the result is a fully developed record. Each song has many layers. This time around we’re in the middle of this lockdown, and I’ve been really getting into these old recordings so I wanted to do something in that style, really pared down and raw. So, I’ve been recording and mixing everything on my own. It’s a completely different experience but I feel like it resonates with the isolation we’re all going through right now. 

What role does Canada play in your music?

That’s a good question. I just finished reading “A History of Canada In Ten Maps” by Adam Shoalts and he writes that it’s the land and our relationship to it that defines Canada. Canada has a rich and complicated history, a lot of heroism and tragedy, people chasing glory and adventure, exploitation and defiance. I try to put some of that into my writing. “Pay Me”, for example, is all about the natural cycle of things competing with our human endeavour to build and prosper. Canada also has a lush history of great folk music, from Neil Young and Joni Mitchell to more contemporary artists like Sarah Harmer and Colter Wall, all of who write in their own way about the land and people here and all across the North American continent. I hope I’m contributing to that tradition. 

Does the new single mean we can expect a new material – how’s that coming along?

Yes, most definitely. I’m almost done my new record and “Pay Me” is the first instalment. I’ll be releasing another single very soon and the album will come out in early spring. Any tentative release date or title in mind?March of 2021 is the tentative date. Maybe the first day of spring, the 21st. I’d like that, actually. I’ll be calling the record “Pay Me” just like the single. 

What else is happening next in Sweet Roger’s world?

Well, I’ll be doing a live stream November 22nd on Instagram. I really miss performing live, but we’ll just have to wait. But as soon as I can, I want to hit the road and get in front of live audiences again. In the meantime, I’ll keep writing down the tunes as they come and finish this album. 

Stream “Pay Me” now:

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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