Five Questions With Sweet Roger

Sweet Roger is back with a new single, “Pay Me”, a surly blues and folk song of early 20th century outliers who sang in rough and coarse overtones speaking of hardships, travels, and cursed relationships.

“Pay Me” is the first installment to Sweet Roger’s upcoming follow-up record to his debut album, You’ll Always Have Yourself. The track captures the unsettling mood of the times with a defiant performance of raw vocals and growly acoustics driven by a solid rhythm that exultantly powers us forward.

Check out “Pay Me” below and find out more about Sweet Roger via our Five Questions With segment.

Care to introduce yourself to our readers?
Sweet Roger is the name. Pleased to make your acquaintance. I’m a singer-songwriter from Montreal where I was born and raised. I’ve been fiddling around with the guitar and writing tunes since I was a teenager. The trap was set by my brother who was playing guitar with his friend one day after school and they did a great version of The Beatles song, “In My Life”. They harmonized so well and I can still hear it to this day. I knew right then I had to learn how to play music and write my own songs. So, I got a guitar and some magazines and taught myself to play and the rest is history.
I put out my debut album “You’ll Always Have Yourself” in 2017. I recorded it with a full band which my friend and producer Paul Edwards put together. It was one of the best times of my life. I felt like I had written some of my best material and it was inspirational to incorporate musical arrangements to songs I wrote while sitting at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee and a notepad. The album is a great blend of different genres and influences. The track “Put Out the Fires” is my homage to the 90s alternative music I grew up with, while the title track ‘You’ll Always Have Yourself” and “Conditions” are more folk-inspired. One of the highlights of that period was being nominated by the Toronto Independent Music Awards for the track “Loon Lake”, my favourite from the record. It’s a good album to listen to while you’re going for a walk. And who isn’t going for long walks these days?
Presently, I’m recording and producing my second album. I’ve just released my newest single “Pay Me” as a first installment, a bluesy folk track with growly, gritty guitars and raw vocals. Inspired by early 20th-century folk and blues artists, I’ve recorded and engineered the music myself during the lockdown this year and stayed true to this genre of music by keeping the performances to single takes – honest and real. The full album will be released in early 2021.
Tell us a bit about your music and writing style.
Mainly, I like to tell stories in my songwriting. I try to avoid waxing poetic and instead focus on a tale that feels universal, like in a paperback novel. Growing up with my dad, we listened to a lot of blues music and to bands like the Stones which seems to have had an effect on me. I’ve actually gone even further by drawing inspiration from the first outliers from the 30s and 40s who created what we today call the blues while they were hopping freight trains and playing in venues on the outskirts of towns. I love history.
For individual songs, I draw inspiration from almost anything. For example, I got the idea for the song “Pay Me” from a photograph I bought at a flea market. The photo is of a man with a curious grin who’s leaning against a dead tree and counting money. The image is stunning and has so much metaphor packed into it. The vendor told me the photographer was traveling the south and came across this man who was a tree cutter and he decided to take his portrait. So I wrote the lyrics to “Pay Me” from this person’s point-of-view based on his ambiguous smile and his hands full of cash.
Do you have any upcoming shows? For someone who has yet to see you live, how would you explain your live performance?
With the pandemic still going on, I don’t plan on being in a venue anytime soon, unfortunately. But I’ll be doing a live stream on Instagram on November 15th.
I like to offer something different in live performances rather than copy and paste from recordings. So I try to create alternative versions to some of my songs so I can offer a couple of surprises. Whenever I see a show, I love it when the artist or band throws you a curveball. It makes the experience feel unique and special. November 15th will be a solo performance, too, so it’s a chance to hear the bare-bones version of some of my tunes.
If you were asked to suggest only one of your songs for someone to hear, which would it be?
“Pay Me” is the song I would point to right now. It’s the best indication of where I’m going musically. I”m definitely in a phase right now where I’m trying to capture individual performances. Technology gets better every day and that’s great for so many things but I feel like there’s something to be said for capturing a moment in time. Like painting a portrait or snapping a photograph. Seizing on something that can’t be redone is very special. Also, laying yourself bare like that pushes you to be better, which is what I think we should all be striving to do.
Canadian Beats is all about Canadian music, so who are your current favourite Canadian bands/ artists?
I’m very much into The Barr Brothers. I know they’re originally from Rhode Island but they’ve settled their roots in Montreal for so long now they’re absolutely Canadian to me. Brad Barr is an incredible guitar player and I’m always inspired by what he’s able to accomplish both on stage and on a record.
Sarah Harmer is still my favourite folk singer. Her songwriting is truly inspirational and her melodies can be both haunting and sweet.
I’m a big fan of Abigail Lapell. We met through a gig in Hamilton. Her music is great and she really knows how to draw a crowd in.
Le Ren and I played a show together in Montreal a few years back and I’ve been a fan since.
Craig Cardiff is so soulful. “Dirty Old Town” is one of those songs I love but lament that I didn’t write it myself.
Colter Wall’s prairie tales have been on my mind a lot lately. Especially during these times, I find myself drawn to Canada’s more bucolic roots because of him.
Lastly, Neil Young. His voice is still a mystery to me and his songs are forever burned in my mind.

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