By: Heidi Hopf
This month I had the joy of speaking with Benjamin Dakota Rogers, a young folk musician from Mt. Pleasant. Not only is Rogers a fantastic multi-instrumentalist but a writer seemingly skilled beyond his years. His poetic songs tell stories of war, love and loss.
While reading through the lyrics posted on his website it became apparent to me that age is irrelevant when it comes to the circumstances that make up the human condition. I couldn’t help but wonder if there was a process that Rogers follows to channel such emotions.
“I just improve 90 per cent of my songs. I just kind of sit there in my dark music room at three in the morning and make it up. Sometimes it is the entire song in one run, other times I have to piece bits of stuff together. For the most part it’s just an improve thing,” explained Rogers. “I usually don’t have ideas what I want to write about. I just spit out a bunch of lines and build around it. It’s just whatever ends up coming out.”
When Rogers isn’t performing or writing music he is knee-deep in his passion for vintage instruments. He spends his off-time collecting and repairing vintage guitars and violins. This passion has also played a huge part in his writing process. Rogers explained that he often feels that the instrument guides his writing, as though the songs fall out of them.
“I think that’s part of my love for older instruments, especially when writing folk music. A lot of it is stories and history and you’re making it up. I’m 21 years old, I haven’t gone to war or done anything super exciting other than play a bunch of shows. I feel like the instrument has a huge influence on the music. When I get a new guitar I’ll write a bunch of songs and the story is different (from other guitars). They’ve been played by other musicians and they’ve been worked in. They have songs in them.”
I appreciated Rogers’ willingness to accept the part that nostalgia can play when it comes to the arts. These days I find so many new artists seemingly afraid to admit the love of the old, for fear they may seem too hip or pretentious. We touched on this idea when I asked him his thoughts on music romanticizing the idea of the cigarette. My curiosity arose hearing his last album Whiskey & Pine, wrought with reference to cigarettes and whiskey although he rarely drinks and never smokes.
“…I feel like it’s one of those things that kind of goes along with it (nostalgia). For instance, in every old picture of Bob Dylan he has a cigarette hanging out of his mouth. I think that most musicians are nostalgic for the musicians that came before them and the guitars and the old gear that they’ve never used, and along with that comes a lot of those kind of images.”
At this point I was fortunate enough to have a quick listen to the 1930’s Regal archtop he had in tow, as well as a crash course lesson in the bone structure of various shaped guitars. The seemingly spiritual connection he had been speaking of throughout the interview became apparent while he held the guitar…when he cradled it as though it were a lost limb he had recently been reunited with. As Rogers played he told me of an interesting conversation he once had.
“I was talking to this old musician once and he said he didn’t like new guitars because they don’t know they are guitars yet. They still think they’re trees.”
It isn’t all just whimsical writing and guitar repair for Benjamin Dakota Rogers. He has begun a tour that will take him across Canada and into the United States straight into the mid-summer. He is also putting the finishing touches on his new album due to be finished early next month. Rogers has been recording at Hamilton’s Catherine North Studios with producer Dan Hosh.
Having written his first album when he was in grade 11 and experiencing a two-year gap since his last, he has noticed the change that time can have on his music.
“I feel like my headspace is a lot different than it used to be. I’m just trying to make an album I’m really happy with and not worrying about anything else,” Rogers said. “I think these new ones are just a lot more me.”
It’s not often we get to see a musician grow through these influential ages. This is sure to prove to be an equally pleasurable journey for both the listener and for Benjamin Dakota Rogers.
For more information and tour dates go to www.benjamindakotarogers.com