Where Are They Now? - Q&A's With Notable Jenks Grads
Roger Jaeger - Singer/Songwriter
Singing, songwriting, and sitar – you may need to Google that last one – are the passions of Roger Jaeger, a 2004 Jenks grad and the subject of this week’s “Where Are They Now? Wednesday feature. What began as a dream at the age of 13, is now a profession for Jaeger. With three albums to his name and new music set to be released early next year, the Nashville resident is busy taking his talents on tour, and winning new fans with his acoustic-pop sound and simple, engaging lyrics. Sample his music at www.rogerjaegermusic.com.
What are your fondest memories of attending Jenks Public Schools?
Jaeger: I had some amazing friends there. A couple of them I’ve kept in contact with over the years! I also really enjoyed the opportunities presented in choir - I learned so much in my four years there that have carried over into my current life.
Was there one particular teacher or principal who inspired you or made a lasting impact in your life?
Jaeger: Larry Downey is the one I remember best. He was the choir director while I was in high school. I still remember him talking to me about songwriting. “Here’s how you know if you’ve written a good song, Roger. If 100 years from now people are still singing it, then you’ll know it’s good.” At first glance it seems like a silly thing to say, but if you weigh the impact of music on culture over the years there’s a lot of truth in that statement.
What does it mean to you to be a Jenks’ grad, to consider yourself a Trojan?
Jaeger: Jenks will always hold a special place in my heart. I’m proud to have been part of it. I even returned as a substitute teacher for a couple years! All that said, Jenks life was pretty good, but I think life for sure gets better after high school.
When did you first discover your musical gifts, and did you always want to pursue a career in the music industry?
Jaeger: I was thirteen and in the 7th grade when I started playing guitar and writing songs. I did want to pursue music, and have always done so to some extent over the past 18 years. It was only in the last 5 or so years that I started taking it much more seriously, and it’s been paying off!
What led you to make a trip to India when you were 19 years old, and how did that journey make such a profound impact on your music?
Jaeger: I wanted to learn sitar, for one. I wanted to actually sit with a teacher there and learn it like it’s meant to be learned - learn the language of it, the techniques, and the intricacies. But I also was interested in missionary life, and lived with some for a while there. At the time I believed I would stay in India for the rest of my life, but things did not quite play out that way! I moved home to Tulsa because I got sick with ulcerative colitis and nearly died in Delhi. But over the years eventually I found ways to blend sitar and Indian influences with my songwriting, and it’s been an incredible adventure watching that come to life.
On your website, you list influence from bands like Coldplay, One Republic, and The Fray. How would you describe your personal style, and which artist or band would you say has had the biggest influence on you?
Jaeger: Acoustic guitar was my first love, and so I tend to lean heavily on that, especially when it comes to writing. I love Coldplay because of their range and depth - they understand dynamics, the intricacies of soft sounds and weightiness of simple lyrics that reflect the heart. I also love that their sound grew over the years. With each new album they’ve tried something new, something that reflected a little bit of the times but still kept their unique songwriting style.
Nashville is home to so many talented singers and songwriters. How have you been able to make a name for yourself in such a hyper-competitive industry?
Jaeger: Nashville is an interesting town. It differs from New York and Los Angeles in that people tend to be a little more genuine. People enjoy helping each other out. So that’s been amazing - I’ve been fortunate to have coffee or lunch or different meetings with several music industry heavy hitters, people much further ahead than I. They don’t mind giving advice, because they once were where I am. In turn I’ve gotten to do the same for newer folks moving into Nashville.
I also think that being surrounded by incredible musicians has helped make me a better player and performer. The people you surround yourself with are important, because they will help shape who you are and where you’re going. But what also I find is that as I be myself, keep pressing forward, keep taking risks, even with what seem like failures or setbacks, that hard work pays off. I’ve also had to learn that music is a business - that’s been a hard lesson, but it has definitely paid off.
Listen to Roger Jaeger's music and find tour dates at www.rogerjaegermusic.com
What is your most popular song, and what is the story behind the song?
Jaeger: “Start Over” is probably the most popular. I went through a breakup a few years back, and the song was partly my way of processing the end of that relationship. Sometimes we wish we could go back in time, and knowing what we know now, use it to change the past. But we don’t get to do that. What we do get is the chance to start over.
Do you know when you’re writing a song that it will be well-received, or do you always have doubts until you perform the song in front of an audience?
Jaeger: I’ve seen different things happen. I’ve seen songs that I thought were catchy and clever totally flop, and I’ve seen others that I didn’t seriously consider playable songs become fan-favorites. Sometimes you just won’t know until you put something out there and play it for people.
Do you have any plans for a concert in the Tulsa area?
Jaeger: I don’t have anything currently on my calendar, though I hope to set something up sometime late in the spring or during the summer!
What is next for you both personally and professionally?
Jaeger: Personally I’ve spent the last few years in Nashville investing in relationships in a church community and music community. I will continue to do so! I bought my first house last year - there are constantly new projects to work on! Professionally, I’ll soon have my first record label showcase! It’s not a guaranteed record deal but it’s a good opportunity. This year the plan is to write a lot of songs, film a couple more music videos, record a new record, and then release it in January. There’s a lot happening, a lot to look forward to!