British-born, New York-bred songwriter Edward Rogers has announced the release of his fourth solo album, Porcelain, on November 8, 2011 with the premiere of the title track and a new video. Early last week, Blurt Online premiered the title track on their site ( http://blurt-online.com/news/view/5401/). The new video is for another track off Porcelain, “The Biba Crowd”, and set to footage from Jean Luc-Godard’s 1964 film Band of Outsiders (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LoSSUSH_T4o). “The Biba Crowd” will also be featured on the free November CD from the UK’s Word Magazine.
Rogers, who has been extremely prolific, began his career playing drums in several garage bands. When a subway accident in October 1985 left him without his right arm and right leg below the knee, he turned to songwriting and found that he enjoyed singing and writing more rewarding than playing drums. In addition to his four solo albums, Rogers has also released two with Bedsit Poets, a folk/Brit-inspired trio whose name was given to them by The Zombies’ Colin Blunstone. He has played extensively in New York, Los Angeles, London, Canada, and along the East Coast both solo and with Bedsit Poets.
I recently caught with Rogers, who discussed his new album, working with Roger McGuinn, and influences such as David Bowie and Ray Davies.
Music has been such a dominant force in your life – you turned to songwriting after your accident. Do you still find it as powerful and encouraging now as you did then?
Both listening to and writing music are two of the most fulfilling ways to spend my time. I think since the accident, I’ve become much more aware of how precious life is, and this encourages me to spend more time on writing. There’s an amazing feeling when you write a song, finish it and feel that it’s good. I still love to hear new music of all types, currently The Horrors, Noel Gallagher, Laura Marling, the new Glen Campbell, as well as going back and rediscovering classics from the past and vibing to the sounds of old T.Rex, Martin Newall, Sandy Shaw.
Though you had been doing songwriting for a long time – why did you suddenly decide to delve into a solo career in 2004? Was this something that you been thinking to do for a long time?
I always saw myself as a member of a group, but when I met up with singer-songwriter, George Usher, he encouraged me and generously devoted his time to helping me discover my own songwriting potential. So writing and recording my first two solo albums were a learning process for me, with George as a great musical partner and mentor. I had the luxury of having a lot of my musical heroes join me on those records, such as Roger McGuinn, Colin Blunstone & Rod Argent and Marty Willson-Piper, just to name a few.
You also have released two albums with the Bedsit Poets – what’s your role in that group and how does it differ from your solo work?
I started Bedsit Poets as a way of working on a collaborative project with Amanda Thorpe. Our British backgrounds and sense of humor were very similar. We later added Mac Randall. I was the driving force in the group and one of the principle songwriters. We had a lovely time together, releasing two albums with a third set of demos, but there came a shelf life and we just took different directions. Bedsit Poets (who got their name from Colin Blunstone) still remains one of my favorite musical projects. That group enabled me to learn harmony singing and opened me up to another type of songwriting, mainly British acoustic, folk-pop.
“Porcelain” recalls the albums you grew up with as a kid. My first thought was that many sounded like a lost-Kinks songs. Where they a major inspiration?
Funny you picked up on that. My last album, “Sparkle Lane”, was definitely intended to be a nod to (The Kink’s) Village Green Preservation Society/Arthur from being a kid growing up in Birmingham, England to arriving in the U.S. of A., whereas Porcelain is a more guitar-driven, forceful album, with a few soft diamonds, reminiscent to me of the music I listened to during the period of 1972-1975. This album is actually more influenced by writers like Ian Hunter, John Cale and Kevin Ayers, so you are not far off the track. Ray Davies is obviously a major influence on my work.
You’ve been busy over the past decade, releasing several albums. Porcelain seems to culminate everything you’ve done so far. Would you agree that is a fair assessment?
That’s very perceptive. Each of my solo albums has been a learning process, trying to move myself forward. With this album, I feel I have finally reached a new level and something I’m going to have to work hard to match next time through, but I’ve got about 20 new songs waiting to be demoed. I think a large part of the difference comes with the musicians who were kind enough to play on Porcelain and also give their creative input. You really can’t go wrong when you have people like Don Piper producing, James Mastro, Don Fleming, Pete Kennedy, Sal Maida, Konrad Meissner, Ira Elliot and Joe McGinty and many other friends giving their time and support.
You’re British-born but currently live in New York City. Your music seems to pick the cool vibe of New York with the sonic textures of England. Does that combination come naturally to you?
You really have been listening! Again, very perceptive. That’s exactly the vibe I was looking for during the making of Porcelain. Sonically, the music is New York City and lyrically, it combines experiences I’ve had in the last 18 months. Yes, I’ve lived in NYC most of my life but my roots are still in England. If you listen to “Porcelain” the sax solo was definitely an attempt to channel the energy of Roxy Music’s Andy Mackay’s sax solo from “Virginia Plain.”
“Tears Left in the Bottle” is such a beautiful song. Is that an autobiographical song?
Thankfully, the song is not written about myself, but about several really good friends of mine who have bottomed out and have had to fight the battle to get their lives back in order. It seems the environment surrounding music and the creative process often gives license to indulge whenever and as much as you can or can’t handle. There’s even a mythical element to that indulgence. Look at all the people we’ve lost at the age of 27, most recently Amy Winehouse.
“Silent Singer” is a great way to the end the album. It’s got one of your best vocals and melodies contrasted with a biting guitar line. How did that song come about? It sounds like a David Bowie song.
This song is really special to me as it was inspired by my late Dad, who I lost last October. As he was fighting for his life with lung cancer, he kept telling me about the singer who was taking him to a bar at night. And, he could hear the songs in his head. That’s what inspired the demo, with very soft vocals. Again, I must credit the producer, Don Piper, and musician Don Fleming for transitioning the song into a “Spiritualized”-like ending to the album. Thanks for your musical reference to David Bowie, another major influence.
“Porcelain” comes out in November. How are you going to celebrate its release? Any plans after that?
I just booked a record release show at the new Cutting Room in NYC on November 17th with all the musicians on the album. Before that, I’m going over to London in October to do some promotion (the album comes out there in January). For the New York show, Syd Straw, who did some backing vocals, will be on the bill, as will my producer Don Piper with a don piper situation. After that, depending on how the album is received, we will continue to play live dates. I would love to get this band to play in Europe, as well as the United States! Always have to have the aspirations and dreams to make the reality happen. Thanks for listening to the record. For those of you reading this, give it a spin. Cheers.