There are those people who have a solo career and spend all of their time and energy trying to grow it into something that's self-sustaining and, in some ways, a machine. There are others who aren't content with simply one project and try to get involved in as many different things as possible. You can place Bess Rogers into that second category.
The Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter released her latest EP, Bess Rogers Presents Bess Rogers, on Sept. 7. While setting out on a CD release tour this month, it will be short-lived as she hits the road with Ingrid Michelson in October — Rogers is the guitar player in Michelson's band. When that tour ends, she hopes to get work done with an electronic indie-rock band she's a part of called The Age of Rockets. She also hopes to finish recording an EP with her bluegrass cover band, The Flux Capacitors.
When not touring with Michelson or performing with her other bands, she's taken her solo work on the road with Jenny Owen Youngs, Allie Moss (the other guitar player in Michelson's band) or, as with the current tour, Allison Weiss and Leila Broussard.
"I definitely have times when I want to stay home and watch Mad Men for 24 hours straight, but this is what I love to do," Rogers says by phone from her Brooklyn home. "I'm able to make a living off of it through all these different projects — that's been a life goal for a while and it's finally happening. All of the variety keeps me excited about things. It keeps me learning and growing as a musician ... It does take up a lot of time though."
After touring with Michelson for three years, she seems as at home in that role as she does when performing her own music. "It kind of fulfills a different side of me and it's completely different than my solo career," Rogers says. "It's a great band and we're like a big happy family. Plus, playing in front of a big crowd is fun and addicting and something I only get to do with her, at this point."
That's not to say Rogers doesn't enjoy her club shows. There's an intimacy that can only be found on smaller stages, and she enjoys connecting with the audience through her own music. Those large crowds have helped her become more comfortable when she's in a smaller venue.
One way to "break the ice" with crowds in the clubs is to pull out a Flux Capacitors song — usually Def Leppard's "Pour Some Sugar on Me." "I love going on YouTube and researching '80s videos and trying to figure out how to rework them," she says. "It almost makes me appreciate them more, while also hearing the ridiculousness of some of the lyrics."
Rogers' new album features songs she has been performing live for a while, but is excited to finally be able to get them in people's hands. As an indie artist, Rogers thinks it's more important to get new music consistently out instead of just waiting until an entire album (and a year or two) have passed. There are some songs that are ballad-like, while others have a greater band dynamic than you might expect from a singer-songwriter.
"I think everything I'm a part of seeps its way in, but that's why I grow as a musician and artist," she says. "I think if you put yourself in a box and don't allow yourself to grow, that's when music becomes stagnant."