Jake Wesley Rogers took the stage at Red Bull SoundClash Nashville on December 9, 2021.
Red Bull SoundClash is a long-running lineup of nationwide concerts that features two artists on two stages as they compete head-to-head in a music battle. Red Bull SoundClash Nashville brought Bren Joy versus Jake Wesley Rogers to the stage in an epic four-round clash of sounds. Originally inspired by the culture of competing sound systems originating in Kingston, Jamaica, during the 1950s, Red Bull SoundClash was born to break the mold of traditional dance hall and reggae-focused music battles.
Before the rhythmic combat, Jake Wesley Rogers sat down with The Knockturnal backstage and talked Red Bull SoundClash, self-love, and the future.
The Knockturnal: How has it been to be a part of the Red Bull SoundClash?
Jake: It’s been amazing. It’s been a challenge, for sure. So different [from] normal shows. So much more prep work. And I have to shout out my band too because they’ve kind of done the brunt of the work, figuring out the arrangements and working with Bren Joy’s band. But it’s been super fun. It’s such a unique opportunity to share my music, and I don’t love the idea of competition, but whatever.
The Knockturnal: I never knew that you could do a music battle that wasn’t a rap battle because that’s usually what I’ve seen.
Jake: Exactly! I was hoping for some drag race shade moment where we can kind of just throw some shade.
The Knockturnal: Bren was saying that he thinks it’s going to be more of a celebration or collaboration than necessarily a competition.
Jake: Yeah, I feel that too. Totally feel that.
The Knockturnal: What do you think is going to be the biggest challenge of taking part in this music battle tonight?
Jake: I think Bren and I both put a lot of thought into our live performances [and] the flow [of] them. Obviously there are very strict rules as far as how the show goes and what we’re doing, and I think the biggest challenge is kind of just going with the flow. Someone else’s flow. Not having control. That’s hard for me; to not have control over my art.
The Knockturnal: You’re a little bit ‘type A’?
Jake: Oh, for sure. I feel like perfectionism in art is *mwah*. As long as it doesn’t keep you from creating the art.
The Knockturnal: Is there perfection in art?
Jake: Nope, that word is fucked up. I think it’s more just each time trying your very best to go as deep as you can.
The Knockturnal: I can feel your inspiration, your passion, and the emotion behind your music. I don’t like listening to music where I can’t feel the artist’s emotion. What are some of the inspirations that inspire you to create such impactful music?
Jake: So many over the years. I mean, I loved Gaga in middle school and loved Fleetwood Mac and Stevie Nicks in high school. Love Florence and the Machine, you know, college. Fell in love with Joni Mitchell. Kind of these truth tellers. Really powerful songwriters. I think at the end of the day, performing is my favorite thing, but being able to perform my story is most important.
The Knockturnal: Are there impactful moments and times from your life that have inspired your music as well?
Jake: Yeah, for sure. I kind of look at my whole life as a chance to, you know, maybe make art from it. Not that everything has to be commoditized. I’m always surprised too. You think that the most mundane thing would not be an interesting song. All of a sudden you’re writing a song about your unrequited love when you were sixteen, and you’re like, “Oh my God, this is making me cry right now,” like, what? That’s in me. That’s still in me. It doesn’t leave.
The Knockturnal: Bren was telling me he’s working on a lot of love songs because he’s experiencing love. What about you, any experiences in that realm?
Jake: Oh, yeah, all the time. I went through the biggest breakup I’ve ever gone through a year ago. Honestly, [I’ve been] beautifully single since then and finding myself, so I feel like my whole MO is self-love right now. Learning to be in a relationship with myself and being good to myself. Dating myself.
The Knockturnal: I know that you’ve kind of gotten the stamp of approval from Sir Elton John. How has that affected your career and where you moved from after that?
Jake: I mean, I think it blew some people’s minds from back home. It blew my mind. It’s such an honor, and it’s so affirming to get the stamp of approval by someone who’s literally an icon.
The Knockturnal: That just means you’re on your way to being an icon. He’s passing the torch.
Jake: Thank you. He’s so good about supporting younger music and taking the time just to be a champion, and I’m really grateful for it. And the past few months have been more of that than I thought. More kind of outside validation from people I look up to. Something I’m trying to remember now is the reason they found me and the reason they liked it is because I was making art for the sake of telling the truth, being myself. And if those people are going to continue giving me thumbs up, I need to not do it for them and do it for the reason I did it before. I never thought that Elton John would call me.
The Knockturnal: I don’t think anybody’s ever prepared for that.
Jake: No, you’re not. You’re really not. When they say he’s going to call from 9 to 9:30 am, you either want to explode or find a bus to jump in front of. It was one of the craziest emotions I’ve ever had.
The Knockturnal: What would you say is one of the biggest obstacles that you’ve overcome to be where you are today?
The Knockturnal: I feel that.
Jake: Yeah, just learning to love myself. And it is continuous. It does not end.
The Knockturnal: It’s so strange ‘cause I’m sitting here, and I can just see how fabulous you are. And I’m just like, ‘Wow.’ You have nothing to be insecure about.
Jake: You’re so sweet, thank you. We all feel it, right? Even if you’re not gay or a minority or whatever. Even if you’re a fuckin’ straight cis-gendered white dude.
The Knockturnal: Well, that’s why people lash out. They don’t feel like they belong, right?
Jake: Exactly. Everybody feels like an outsider, and when people can immediately tell that you’re an outsider, you’re kind of, you know… I feel like in my queer experience, I’m feeling something everybody’s feeling but I’m feeling it in a very specific way, to the nth degree. So, you know, we can share our story. We can be this way. ‘Cause everybody’s in their cages. I think as artists, you just gotta drop the keys. One of my favorite expressions.
The Knockturnal: What is one of the biggest goals you’ve achieved for yourself?
Jake: I think just creating the team I’ve created.
The Knockturnal: You have a fabulous team, by the way.
Jake: Thank you. Creating the band I’ve created. That’s really the most important to me. It’s amazing to be selling out venues that I dreamed of playing. It’s so cool to play late-night shows and all these things. All those are huge milestones. It’s fun when Madonna sends you a DM. But I think at the end of the day, I’m really proud of this environment, and I feel like everybody just kinda loves the ship we’re building.
The Knockturnal: When you were building your core team, the people who are around you constantly, what were you looking for in those people?
Jake: I think just people who realize it’s not about them. And I say that as someone who’s like, “It’s not about me either.” I guess it’s my art, it’s my name on it, but this mission I have is bigger than me. And I like to believe it’s spreading consciousness, it’s spreading love, freeing people, dropping keys. And I need everybody on this team to help me do that because I can’t do that on my own. If my manager never found me four years ago, I might just be fucking writing these little songs in my little room and my mom would love them. And maybe that would be it, and that’s fine. But I do feel like my message and my capacity is supposed to be out there, for whatever reason, and I’m owning that. I think I used to be afraid to say that, but I’m trying to own that, and be like, I think this needs to be out there and it will help people, I hope.
The Knockturnal: What is one of the things that you want people to take away from your music? What experiences or feelings do you want them to have? What are you trying to create for their emotional story?
Jake: One of my favorite quotes I heard recently was [from] Alanis Morissette. She said, “Keep your heart guarded, and your music dangerous.” What I like about that is because I think the best music and the best art, it’s dangerous because you feel vulnerable. Because you’re taken to this place that you don’t want to be in but you also don’t want to not be in. You don’t want to ever be somewhere else because [that’s where] you feel the most you, and I guess that’s what I want [to make people] feel; that they can be themselves.
The Knockturnal: What’s next for you?
Jake: I’m working on the next releases, which I’m super excited about, and I’m going on tour with Ben Platt in the spring. A 27-date, mostly arena tour, opening for him. That’ll be really fun, so people in North America can come to that. And just movin’ and shakin’. Make some TikToks in between.
The Knockturnal: You’re one of the first people to start bringing ‘characters’ to TikTok. When you first started that, did you envision that it would become as big as it did?
Jake: Oh, no, some things you cannot plan.