Ben Rogers returns to storytelling in new album

Wildfire showcases artist’s exploration of rebirth through song-writing

Ben Rogers.
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Photo by Vanessa Heins

Ben Rogers lost his direction as a musician after the release of his 2015 album, but his newest album shows his return to the style of song-writing he loves most: intimate and truthful storytelling.

On Nov. 26, Rogers will stop into Kingston to open for City and Colour at the Leon’s Centre. The headlining band’s very own Dallas Green produced Rogers’ newest album, Wildfire, which was released in March of this year.

He didn’t actually seek out Green to do this, which makes the process all the more unbelievable for Rogers. He remembers being drunk at a friend’s house when he got a text from his band member, Matt Kelly, who plays steel pedal and was on tour with City and Colour. Kelly asked Rogers if he wanted Green to produce their next album.

“I remember texting him the next day, and I was like, ‘Was that real?’” Rogers said in an interview with The Journal.

It seemed too good to be true.

“I didn’t really know what to expect going into the studio,” Rogers said. “It was the best experience of my life recording that record because it was crazy to see two people who cared as much about the songs, and the success of the recording of the songs, as I did—if not more.”

Before all this came to be, the musician had lost his passion for music. Since the release of his 2015 album, Blood Red Yonder, he felt spent and burdened by the pressures and demands of the new album’s deadline.

“I had an exhausting experience with that record behind the scenes and also felt like I needed a creative rebirth,” Rogers said.

He decided to take a break from music, taking six months off from touring, but couldn’t stop himself from writing for pleasure.

Rogers said this break was a necessary step toward figuring out his place in the music industry.

“I told myself I can take that break, and from doing that, I was allowing myself a chance to deconstruct everything I’ve been doing and breathe new life into it,” Rogers said.

This spurred his exploration into rebirth in the stories he tells through his song-writing in Wildfire.

When he started writing for this album, Rogers didn’t have the pressure of deadlines to hinder his creativity. He wasn’t aiming to make an album, he was just trying to get back his love for song-writing.

“Talking about rebirth and the disconnect from the past and the feeling of renewal—from a wildfire comes new life. That’s what the title means to me,” Rogers said.

The songs on the album tell stories centring around this theme. Through his writing, the artist tries to relate to all types of people with vastly different lived experiences.

“I feel like somehow through writing, I can relate to that person, or convey that feeling without having felt it.”

Rogers naturally leans on stories he hears from his friends, family, and through his experiences on the road. A Changed Man tells a story of domestic abuse. He’s met many women who have gone through abusive relationships, and through his writing, he tries to convey their stories to his listeners.

“I felt the need to write about that and how it must have been for women, specifically in the 60s when I imagined the story taking place, not having a voice and how they would have dealt with it.”

His song-writing often focuses on subjects and people that have little to do with himself, but his songs are a way for him to practice compassion. He doesn’t actively avoid writing personal or confessional songs, but he says he can’t help being drawn towards other people’s stories.

Growing up in Vancouver, he was always aware of the homeless crisis in the city. In his song “Steady Going Nowhere,” he revisits this.

“It’s sort of a love song for the people who live on the streets in Vancouver,” Rogers said. “There’s a lot of struggle and addiction, and I’ve grown up witnessing it and felt that I needed to write about it.

There’s truth in all of his songs, but he says he won’t tell his listeners what to think of his album.

“Somebody might feel that it’s very melancholy, somebody might feel that it’s very jubilant, a summer record. I wouldn’t want to put a set idea in somebody’s head.”

Rogers’ song-writing is grounded in his desire to convey real and emotional stories. It’s his way of connecting with the world around him, which breathes life into his work.

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