Interview: ROGIERS

“Soul: It’s what I am. I can’t help it”

Words: Marsha Gosho Oakes
“Working with Alicia Keys showed me a lot of things about work ethic because when you get to that level of success a lot is demanded of you – you have to show up. Not physically, but in terms of everything else – mental state, artistry – you have to really be there.”
Over sweet, rare cocktails and good vibes in a now-defunct bar in cultured Notting Hill Gate, West London, soulful independent singer Rogiers (pronounced ro-ghe-ay) reflects on his two years spent touring as Alicia Key’s keyboardist. Born in the St Croix of the Virgin Islands, raised in Washington DC from the age of 8, then having moved to New York to whole-heartedly pursue a career in music, this Jazz with Music Business and Management graduate of the prestigious Berkley College of Music has a fierce mentality when it comes to his solo progression. He is empowered by his observations of the creative and hardworking artists he has worked with, including Alicia Keys and the Platinum Pied Pipers (he sang ’50 Ways To Leave Your Lover’ on their debut album ‘Triple P’). On the subject of Alicia he continues, “She has a really strong work ethic, as you would have to. So that’s one thing I took from working with her: you have to commit yourself to your work. It can’t be a pastime. It has to be a fulltime, very present thing. I knew that the only way anything would happen for me as an artist would be if I took on that mentality.”
We all know that the path of an independent artist is a challenging one, with financial struggles, a hands-on approach, less luxurious touring experiences and an enhanced need for a competent and united team working with them. With the major label money thrown behind Alicia Keys, Rogiers has had a taste of the good life, so to speak. He had that experience of plush hotel rooms, arranged transport between venues, food and entertainment taken care of – and after two years of that he says “I decided I’d really, really dive into the whole ‘being an artist’ type thing”. He had previously been signed to a production deal, fuelling big dreams; “That was a big thing at the time; I was gonna come out and blow up and all these great expectations, and I recorded pretty much a whole album, which ultimately didn’t happen. So it’s a lot of songs that nobody will ever hear, at least I haven’t heard from that situation”. The let down of promised success after having put so much effort into the project truly affected Rogiers, who he confesses, “the grief of it defined me for a while”. Rogiers felt “beaten up by the industry” after his earlier experiences with major labels and failed deals, which heavily knocked his self-confidence. Thankfully, at some point he turned his distress into motivation to continue to strive for success independently. “I decided to take up the torch myself and just really go for whatever I can on my own as an independent artist. That’s where everything started for me,” he explains. “All the production deals, record deals that I’d had and all the things that had came before that, none of that amounted to a lot – but it was when I decided to be independent and take that whole hustle on, that’s when I started to get fruits of my labour.”
Those fruits also include recording with the Detroit-based duo Platinum Pied Pipers (comprising of Slum Village producer Waajeed, and instrumentalist Saadiq) on their debut album, and joining them on their 2005 tour. Of the collaboration, Rogiers explains: “I was involved in the Triple P album at the last minute. Raheem Devaughn had actually covered ‘50 Ways To Leave Your Lover‘, which is the song that I do, but because of some label stuff that was going on with him he wasn’t able to do it, so I was called to do that song. We are a group and we all bring our individual things to the group whilst being individuals within the group. They told me to put whatever it is that I do that makes people recognise me into the track… and that’s a great thing, to tell artists to ‘do what you do’. I’ve worked with some people, rappers, in The States who love what I do but [with them] I don’t have the same freedom. That’s cool too, I’m not complaining, but at the same time it’s nice to be invited into somebody’s project and for them to invite You. We had so much fun promoting Triple P.”
At the Berkley College of Music in Boston, Rogiers majored in Music Business and Management alongside Jazz training. This was a turning point in the gravity with which he regarded his potential singing career. He elucidates, “I got into singing really late. I always knew I could sing, but it wasn’t until that time I really started taking it seriously and wanting to develop more. I ended up getting that scholarship to Berkley, studied voice, and I was able to do a lot of professional work even while I was at school.” Infact, his performance résumé was rather beefy even during his time at the College. ”By the time I got out I already had two tours under my belt – I’d been to Japan with a jazz gospel group”, he illustrates. Beyond practical experience, college provided Rogiers with an indispensable sense of enterprise that he is very thankful for. He affirms, “If you don’t have a sense of business and management, you are not an independent artist – so much of everything relies on you. You’ve got people out there who have sold millions of records and for a lot of them all they have to focus on is going into the studio and just writing and recording, and everyone else is paid to take care of the other parts of their business. As an independent artist, you are responsible for your successes and failures.”
Lionel Ritchie’s ‘Easy Like A Sunday Morning’ floats across the speakers above us and Rogiérs ponders his present attitude to the idea of being signed to a major label. “I am interested in that, but at the same time I really feel like I have to work a lot harder to get their attention – and if that’s what I have to do, then I wanna work hard to get their attention before I get their attention.” He thoughtfully assesses, “A lot of artists on major labels right now are suffering, not getting any attention, and I’d rather work hard in the independent arena and be successful at that before going to the major label – at least I’d know I’d gained some credibility for myself.”
His album, ‘Life & Music: All Of It’, which he describes as “somewhere between R&B, Soul, and Electric Soul, with Jazz undertones” is due out later this year.
For more information on Rogiers, visit