Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Bess Rogers: The Songbird

As her sweetly bold and outwardly brazen melodies glaze over charmed audiences, enthusiastically clapping and moving to the cheerful beat, it’s hard to imagine that Bess Rogers grew up shy and timid, fearful to take the stage and dazzle people with her powerful talent. “I remember doing open mic nights as a 16-year-old and you could barely hear my voice,” Bess confides. “I didn’t think I could be a singer, but I really wanted to be… It turned out I just needed the confidence.”

Clearly that confidence was found, as this now seasoned performer has established a career envious to many NYC Artists, playing live venues throughout the city and touring with fellow artists and friends. Born into a melodic world by a mother who played harpsichord with a Baroque-Renaissance style group, Bess was raised with constant music around the house; learning the flute in fourth grade and eventually moving on to add guitar, piano, and ukulele to her instrument repertoire. Rogers is currently studying the trumpet, keeping her mind, music, and talent fresh with new sounds and influences.

Earning a Master’s Degree in Studio Composition from SUNY Purchase, the Long Island native first hit the New York scene while still in college, playing out once or twice a month, before finally falling into the Lower East Side circle upon moving permanently to the city four years ago. Rogers has come a long way from her first gig at The Lion’s Den (now known as Sullivan Hall), laughing as she recalls the experience as “a bunch of frat guys talking.” Bess adds, “And no one would come.”

Now Bess packs the crowds at LES institutions such as Rockwood Music Hall and The Living Room, finding the intimacy and attentiveness of these venues extremely nurturing for independent artists. “One of the great things [about NYC] is that there’s such a strong and supportive community for independent artists. I’ve met so many people who are doing the same thing and we all help each other in some sense. I’ve found that support system is really important… I couldn’t imagine doing this out in North Dakota on my own,” she confesses with a light laugh. Meeting fellow artists at shows facilitates that environment, particularly as the talent pool expands and fellow singer-songwriters sit in on each other’s sets. “That’s one of the things I love about Rockwood,” admits Rogers. “There’s something about the atmosphere there… I think every city has that one spot where the people are like-minded, open and friendly.”

In addition to circulating the LES, Bess engaged in several tours in the past few years, playing alongside Allie Moss, Ian Axel, and Ingrid Michaelson, including opening for the Dave Matthews Band with Michaelson. Next on the agenda is the upcoming Quest for Glory Tour, which kicks off this Friday, July 31 at The Living Room in NYC. The “theme” tour consists of three very different yet complimentary singer/songwriters- Rogers, Allison Weiss, and Leila Broussard, and will include daily video blogs and spirited stage acts to add a dash of spunk to the savvy musical flair.

The tour follows the release of Rogers’ latest EP “Travel Back” a brilliantly colorful expression of sound that leaves it’s listeners smiling, moving, and compelled to sing along to the irresistible and beautifully executed lyrics. Recorded at friend and colleague Dan Romer’s studio and released in April, the EP is seasoned with the perfect blend of organic, natural sound and creative experimentation, with a variety in tracks from “Yellow Bird” that sweetly lulls to “I Don’t Worry” that speeds up the heartbeat and gets the toes tapping excitedly. “I don't really make music with other people's reactions in mind,” Bess reveals about her songwriting process. “I make the music that's inside of me and that makes me feel, and if it makes other people feel something well that's great but I have no expectations for how it will emotionally affect other people. It's different for everybody.”

The once-reluctant singer has definitely traveled forward from the days of writing theme songs for her group of friends and forcing herself to perform open mics every night of high school to overcome a fear of performing. With a blossoming livelihood and an abundance of opportunities unfolding each day, Bess plans to keep touring and building her career from all angles, particularly the writing and recording aspect. “There’s something about creating in the studio or sitting in my room and writing that’s the most emotionally fulfilling thing that I do,” she confesses. “And I think if I can sustain this life- have a great music career and still continue to make creative, unique, music… that’s what it’s all about.”

A long career is certainly in store for this lovely, engaging songbird, whose melodies enliven and restore faith in the simple, real beauty of music for music’s sake.

To listen to Bess’ music and check out tour dates please visit http://bessrogers.com, http://myspace.com/bessrogers, or become a fan at www.facebook.com.

To check out the Quest For Glory tour please visit http://questforglorytour.com.

1 comment:

  1. you couldn't have found a nicer (or more talented) person to write about.

    thanks for the article christina.