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Jake Wesley Rogers

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Artist/Band: Jake Wesley Rogers

Website: www.jakewesleyrogers.com

Hometown: Springfield, MO

Latest Album/Release: Evergreen EP

Influences: Fleetwood Mac, Carole King, Adele, The Rolling Stones, Simon & Garfunkel

TrunkSpace: How do you describe your music?
Rogers: I’d describe my music as a part of the spectrum of pop music, but on the low-key, darker and sadder side. I’m a big fan of writing songs with large dynamics and movement, and also ones that speak true to my story.

TrunkSpace: You moved to Nashville at age 18 to study songwriting at Belmont University. What have you learned as a songwriter outside of the classroom that you could have never uncovered in a formal setting?
Rogers: I feel really fortunate to have studied songwriting at Belmont. The program is set up in a way that encourages growth in individuals as well as working together as a songwriting community. It was really wild going from writing songs by myself for so long to moving to Nashville where co-writing and commercial songwriting is so prevalent. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned on my own is that not every song I’m going to write is going to be one that fulfills me as an artist and I have to be okay with that. I’ve also learned how vastly different songwriters can view writing songs – I tend to take each song so personally and get wrapped up in the introspection. But it’s easier for others to look at it much more objectively and linearly. I’m trying to find that balance.

TrunkSpace: You inked a songwriting deal with Sony/ATV while you were a freshman. What did that mean to you at that time in terms of justifying not only your abilities as a songwriter, but solidifying you within the Nashville scene, which, we would imagine is filled with seasoned guys and gals who may perceive newbies coming into the scene as competition?
Rogers: It was all so unexpected, for sure. I was just starting to get settled into school and Nashville. It was a goal of mine to have a publishing deal by the time I graduated, so getting one before then really felt like a dream. I think the best part of it all was that I found some people who believed in the music I was making. I really haven’t found much evidence here of people looking at others as competition. I honestly feel like people just like helping out other people here and let inspiration reign over jealousy.

TrunkSpace: As a songwriter, how do you decide what song is right for you as an artist, and what song might benefit from the skill set of another artist? Is it difficult to give a song up that you’ve put so much of yourself into?
Rogers: This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot as I try to find the right songs for my next project. I usually just know when a song is for me. It’s something where when I write it, I just want to listen to it a million times and sing it all day. If my reaction isn’t like that, then I know I probably won’t release the song. As far as giving up a song, that thought has never really bothered me. Carole King is one of my all time favorites and I love how she always had her own version of her songs she wrote for others. It’s like the best of both worlds.

TrunkSpace: What does your songwriting process look like? Can you walks us through how a song goes from core concept to completion?
Rogers: Songwriting is always so sporadic and spontaneous for me. Almost all the songs I’ve released started from a feeling of intense inspiration. From there, I either keep writing the song immediately, or if I’m busy with something else, I’ll record a voice memo of it and revisit it later either by myself or in a co-write. I usually finish most songs in one to two sessions. I tend to always write my song on piano first, and if it ends up being one I want to keep, then I’ll go in and produce it. Production doesn’t usually happen at the same time the song is happening.

TrunkSpace: Lyrically are you someone who likes to write from experience or do you take a more storyteller’s approach?
Rogers: I don’t really like writing songs that aren’t from some sort of personal experience. Once I realize I can’t relate to a song at all, it’s really hard for me to even finish it. With that said, I do love to embellish the truth.

TrunkSpace: What were your creative goals as an artist when you first set out to put together your EP “Evergreen” and did those goals change as you dove head first into the process?
Rogers: My initial goal of the “Evergreen” project was to put together the four songs I was most proud of after living in Nashville for a year. These songs all kinda represent the change I felt after moving to a new place. I knew I wanted to record this in a traditional “Nashville” way. On all of these tracks, we brought in studio musicians who played on all of the songs in one day. After that, I worked with a couple of different producers to arrange the rest of the tracks. I’m thankful because I think I ended up with an EP that fulfilled all of my expectations, and I do feel so proud of it.

TrunkSpace: Where are you hardest on yourself as an artist?
Rogers: I think I’m hardest on myself during the writing process. It’s been really difficult for me lately to be patient with the process of songwriting and creating music. So much of what I do depends on spontaneous intervention so it can be really frustrating to wait to find the songs I want to write. But I think I need to work on being more relaxed in the process and more curious with my creativity.

TrunkSpace: Totally unrelated to your music, but as a pop culture site we’d beat ourselves up if we didn’t ask this question. You’re from Ozark, Missouri. One of the hottest Netflix shows of last year was “Ozark.” Have you seen the series and if so, did they get the feel and vibe of the region down?
Rogers: (Laughter) Okay, so Ozark, Missouri isn’t actually in the Lake of the Ozarks, where the show is based, but I do have a lot of family near the Ozarks. I watched the first episode just because I feel like I had to. It wasn’t too far off actually, but I’m also really bad about watching shows so I don’t know if I’ll ever know how accurate it is. Lots to love about Missouri and lots to… not love.

TrunkSpace: What else can fans of Jake Wesley Rogers look forward to in 2018?
Rogers: New videos, new videos, new shows. I am so damn excited for this year.

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Wingman Wednesday

Byron Mann

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Photo By: Diana Ragland

Byron Mann is on one heck of a project run, but he’s the first to admit that it wasn’t planned. In fact, he couldn’t have planned it this way if he tried.

Not only can the Hong Kong native be seen starring in the new Netflix series “Altered Carbon,” but you’ll soon be able to catch him opposite Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in the upcoming action film “Skyscraper.” Both projects’ trailers were part of the highly-anticipated Super Bowl roster of commercials, proving once again that you just can’t plan for this kind of thing.

We recently sat down with Mann to discuss the reason “Altered Carbon” feels more like a film than a television series, why it won’t be easy for other networks to duplicate, and the place he often finds himself engaged in character work.

TrunkSpace: “Altered Carbon” seems like such an ambitious show, especially by television/streaming standards. Just the visuals… the sets… they’ve really built an atmosphere and then dropped the characters in to inhabit it.
Mann: I didn’t realize how ambitious they were until I started training for the show, both individually and they had me work with a trainer every morning. It was pretty hard, rigorous training. Then, in the afternoon, we would train for the fight sequence in the pilot episode. We did that for like two months. Training for one fight sequence for two months – it’s pretty steep, yeah.

TrunkSpace: That’s amazing. It definitely had the feel of watching a feature film.
Mann: There’s no question that they were making a feature film. The director, Miguel Sapochnik, who won an Emmy for “Game of Thrones” last year… there was no question that his ambition was to make it that. I mean, listen, the camera that they used was the ALEXA 65. That’s the same camera used for “The Revenant,” the movie with Leonardo DiCaprio. That camera is only used for widescreen display of the image, like in a movie theater. It’s never ever been used for a TV show. He chose to use this camera for this television show, this streaming show, I should call it. The ambition was clearly there from the get-go to make it feature film quality. When you see the first episode, you’ll see very clearly that it is a feature film presentation.

TrunkSpace: Maybe that’s why the sets and world stood out so much to us, because of the widescreen display.
Mann: Yeah. Of course, when we’re filming, you don’t really feel it. I can tell, not only from filming, but actually from the preparation, the training and rehearsals going into it, that obviously the sets were… they built a new world basically. They built a studio for the series. They converted a printing mill into a studio in Vancouver. It’s called the Skydance Studios, and Skydance owns it. I don’t know how to describe it. They weren’t making another “CSI.” They were making a groundbreaking show, from the ground up.

TrunkSpace: Which sort of calls out other networks. Executives at all of these other networks are going to be saying, “We need our own ‘Altered Carbon’.”
Mann: Oh man, that’s easier said than done. You can’t just duplicate that overnight. You can’t. It’s so hard making anything these days. It’s hard making a television show. It’s hard making a feature film. Not only do you have to make a show like that, then you have to make it a super duper outside-the-box, groundbreaking show. Forget about it. You can’t even plan it. A lot of things that came into being. There’s Laeta Kalogridis. She wrote “Terminator Genisys,” “Shutter Island.” She’s the leading science fiction writer in Hollywood. “Alita: Battle Angel,” the movie that is coming out from Robert Rodriguez… I mean, she’s it. She’s the Steven Spielberg of writers. Then Miguel Sapochnik, who was the executive producer and also directed the first big episode, which took 30 days to shoot. So you have a lot of these things coming together to make this kind of a show.

It’s like the Patriots – it’s a lot of things coming into one. Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, and Gronk. The reality is, in football terms, you can’t even duplicate that. Where are you going to get another dynasty? If one of them leaves? If Brady leaves?

I’m very honored, very humbled to happen to be a part of this. It’s awesome.

TrunkSpace: When you signed on, did you dive into the source material, Richard K. Morgan’s 2002 book, to see what came before?
Mann: No. When I first started, I talked to Laeta Kalogridis, the showrunner. She said, “Don’t read the book.” So I didn’t. I just read the script, and I had many, many hours of sitting down with her alone, and just asking her questions like, “What’s going on? What happened?” It’s a new world with new terminology, a new technique of how things work. It’s like “Blade Runner.” It’s a brand new world. Believe it or not, I think 50 years from now, I think our lives will be very close to what we see in “Altered Carbon.” It’s predicated on this premise, that everyone has a “stack,” like a gift in their vertebrae. All humans have this gift. Even if your outer body dies, you can go resave yourself again. As I understand, they’re heavily invested in this technology right now, as we speak.

TrunkSpace: So when you’re playing in the sandbox of a whole new world with new terminology and techniques on how things work, does it allow you to take a different approach to performance than you would with something set in modern day New York, for example?
Mann: Not really. As an actor, when you’re doing a scene, you just want to find out the questions. “Who are you? What do you want? What’s happening in the scene?” It’s still human emotions. No matter how sci-fi everything gets, the baseline is still dealing with very basic human emotions – love, jealousy, desire, power – all that.

Mann in “Altered Carbon”

TrunkSpace: Between “Altered Carbon” and the projects you have due up, you’re getting to work in a lot of different genres. As an actor, is it a treat to get to play in so many different types of projects?
Mann: Yeah, I guess it’s fun. It doesn’t really faze me too much. After playing so many different characters, I think it’s all… the stuff I said earlier, it applies to every single project. Basically, you find out who you are, what you’re doing here, and what are you trying to do? That hasn’t changed from the ’70s and the ’60s, when you had movies like “The Graduate,” or “Serpico,” or “The French Connection.” And now with “Altered Carbon,” it’s still the same thing. Especially for an actor, it’s just you playing in an emotion.

TrunkSpace: Is that the personal draw for you as an actor, the discovery of finding out who a character is?
Mann: Yeah. Sometimes you find it on the tape, when you’re filming. That’s gold, if you actually discover that.

TrunkSpace: Are you someone who looks at someone sitting in a coffee shop or in line at the grocery store and breaks down who they are? Do you have those storyteller moments where you’re trying to discover “characters” even in real life?
Mann: Well, it can hit you anytime – character thoughts can hit you anytime. Once you’re thinking about it, it’s in your subconscious. For me, I’ll tell you when it hits me, it hits me when I’m taking a shower. Sometimes I’m in the shower a long time, and you think about these things.

TrunkSpace: We can totally see that. No distractions. No cell phones. Just you and your thoughts.
Mann: Yeah, and the water is warm, hopefully. When you’re under warm water, your body relaxes. When you’re relaxed, a lot of good things happen to you. I’ve thought about that. I said, “Why do I have these great thoughts when I think in the shower?” It’s usually because your body is really relaxed.

TrunkSpace: You had two trailers for projects you’re in run during the Super Bowl. One was for “Altered Carbon,” and the other was for “Skyscraper,” starring Dwayne Johnson. Not too shabby for the most watched television event of the year!
Mann: Yeah, no kidding. Like I said, you can’t plan for this stuff. You just can’t. You just have to go along life’s journey, do the best you can, and then life will kind of find your way towards these things.

Altered Carbon” is available now on Netflix.

Skyscraper” arrives in theaters July 13.

Mann can also be seen returning to SyFy’s “The Expanse” later this year and the upcoming Blumhouse thriller “Only You.”

Featured image by: Diana Ragland

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