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The Ontario singer-songwriter Kate Rogers isn’t exactly new – she’s had success oversees and has worked plenty in collaboration with others – but her album Repeat Repeat has fresh start written all over it. Indeed, the title itself might be a mantra attached to a new way of thinking. In a clear, strong voice Rogers deals with detrimental, perhaps draining, relationships. “I’m searching for a healthy diversion to set my mind at ease,” she sings on the bright pop stomp of Contender. -B.W.
Until now, Kate Rogers has largely made her name as a collaborator.
The Toronto singer-songwriter has performed with noted indie bands The Coast and Sunparlour Players, sung on tracks by celebrated U.K. trip-hop and electronica acts Aim and Rae & Christian and is also currently a member of “shoegazer dream-pop” band Indoor Voices.
Her love of collaboration, however, takes a bit of a backseat on her new album, Repeat Repeat, her first since the 2010 EP Gadabout. Recorded in Toronto at the Lincoln County Social Club and Verge Music Lab studios with producer Chris Stringer (Ohbijou, Timber Timbre), Repeat Repeat is Rogers’ fifth solo record but the first to feature songs credited entirely to her.
As she explained on the phone recently, it was a change prompted in part by her regular songwriting partner getting married and moving to Argentina.
“At the time, I was like, ‘Well, you know, this is something that I’ve always wanted to challenge myself to do anyway,’ just to see if I can do it and to see if I can get through it without having a total meltdown and ending up running to someone saying ‘Please fix everything!’ It was actually really natural, it wasn’t nearly as taxing as I thought it would be for myself, just knowing my writing process, so it was actually surprisingly cathartic to do,” she said.
That catharsis was also partly due to a life-changing reassessment of personal relationships Rogers was going through at the time, a process that found its way into her lyrics.
“It was one of the strangest periods in my life,” she said. “I was going through a massive, massive life change because I had broken up with a partner of many, many years and, for some reason, in the following couple of years I had some people in my life … I don’t know, I think vulnerability attracts vulnerability or it attracts certain types of people and so I ended up with sort of a trail of people in my life that were — it took me a long time to realize — that were just literally sucking me dry.”
Though Rogers said extricating herself from a series of destructive friendships and business relationships was “one of the hardest things I’ve had to do,” she estimated “a good 50 to 60 per cent” of the songs on Repeat Repeat came directly from those experiences.
“For me in reality, when I feel the most about something is right in the middle of it. I think I’ve also realized that I’m very capable of letting things go and so once I do let something go, I’m very unlikely to revisit it, especially if it’s unpleasant because I just don’t think there’s much of a point. And so a lot of the stuff was actually written during (that time), because at that point I was feeling it the most and I needed to get it out of me. But I think, you know, it’s funny, now even looking back at those relationships and how unhealthy they were, I probably wouldn’t write those songs now, the immediacy of it wouldn’t be there,” she said.
Though this album finds Rogers going out on her own as a songwriter more than ever before, she’s still a collaborator at heart. As well as her ongoing tenure in Indoor Voices, Rogers also contributed to a song on the upcoming Rae & Christian album and she hopes to do some festival touring with the duo in Europe this summer. She’ll also be taking her own band (featuring drummer Josh Van Tassel, bassist Devon Henderson, bass clarinetist Julia Hambleton and keyboard player Robbie Grunwald) to the U.K. this spring for a tour to promote Repeat Repeat and, though collaborating with others makes her schedule ever busier, it also has the ironic effect of allowing Rogers the chance to unwind.
“I enjoy working with other artists so much because it allows me to not worry about the business side of things, to not worry about how I’m going to execute something or who I’m going to have to help me achieve it,” she said. “At this point, when I’m releasing stuff independently, I basically have to take care of every factor and I think when I’m collaborating with other artists, I’m just there for what I can do and that’s it, and it’s a really nice feeling. It’s total freedom for me and it’s kind of a luxury.”
Kate Rogers Band // Jimmy Jazz, Guelph // Thursday, Feb. 21, 8 p.m. // katerogers.net
When Kate Rogers sings “There’s no saying where the wind gonna take you/so I prepare myself for the worst,” on her new song “Contender”, she could very well be talking about the path her music career has taken her. From a small town Ontario where she studied classical voice at the Royal Conservatory of Music, to being lauded by the oft fickle UK music press for her work as a singer, songwriter in her own right, as well as being a featured contributor to others’ projects, the winds have taken Rogers just about everywhere an aspiring musician would want to go. And when the worst thing that could happen did (her label Grand Central Records closed up shop), Rogers found herself back home in Canada, ready for yet another adventure.
Along with forming the Kate Rogers Band, she’s worked with the likes of Sunparlour Players, The Hatchetmen, The Coast, and Indoor Voices, and is now getting set to independently release Repeat Repeat in February, an album she says is more about setting boundaries rather than crossing borders. “I’ve never been good at removing myself when I care about someone,” she says, adding, “I just hit a point where I realized I had to fundamentally change something about myself in order to be less affected by other people’s pain and problems. Every song on Repeat Repeat I’ve written while trying to break that cycle.”
On the strength of the song “Contender”, it looks like Rogers has let the winds of change take her to some place rather special this time out. If all goes according to plans, Repeat Repeat will take Kate Rogers Band across Canada this year as well.
Jim Di Gioia – Jan 14 2013