Mark Rogers spent a long time in suburban Washington, D.C. with his music on the back burner until a divorce in 2006 sent him in the direction of reconnecting with a long-gone love. They got together three years later, a romance that led to his migration from the suburban rat race to southeastern Virginia and set him in a path to recording his first album, “Rearranged.”
He recently released the disc, which features some of the area’s best veteran players, and agreed to talk about his journey.
You put your guitar away for a while to raise a family. What brought you back to playing and songwriting?
Actually, it never left, it was just relegated to hobby status in the 90s and 00s as I focused on my kids and career. When the music bug gets ahold of you, it’s hard to shake it. In 2006, I got divorced. And then reconnected with the “one who got away” in 2009 (whom I had met 22 years prior). That opened up everything for me and my music eventually started coming back. I wrote my first song in something like 20 years in 2012 and kept going from there. Last summer the gates opened up completely and I wrote most of the “Rearranged” EP in the span of about three months.
You spent some time playing in LA. There’s that sort of Eagles/Jackson Browne/Zevon feel to this disc.
In the early 80s, after college, I drove from D.C to L.A. by myself in a car that didn’t have a radio. I was chasing the illusion of Laurel Canyon — The Byrds, Flying Burrito Brothers, CSN&Y, The Eagles, Jackson, J.D. Souther, Zevon and all my other high school heroes. I got a band going and we played Club 88, Madam Wong’s and a few other LA musical haunts, made a bunch of demos, shopped them to record companies. We might have been a bit out of time. We were trying to play Gram Parsons country in a Duran Duran Los Angeles. There was, however, a scene there that included The Long Ryders, Rain Parade, The 3 O’clock, Rank and File. Bands that were bucking the synth pop trends. I just ran out of money, and felt guilty for not following up on the education my parents had paid for. So, I eventually moved back to DC. The California singer/songwriter vibe you may get from my EP is a natural outgrowth of my musical heritage and that time in particular.
Was there a song, either one on the EP or one that didn’t make it, that made you realize you were back into the mystic of the music?
The first of many songs that sprung up last summer was “I Can’t Say Why.” I remember telling an old friend that I’ve written “my masterpiece”. Then several more, that were actually better than that one, presented themselves. There is one song, however, called “Blue Enough” that didn’t make the cut on the EP, because it didn’t work as well in a band setting, that I think is my best writing so far. I now do that song with just an acoustic guitar, and it works better with that simplicity. The primary reason for recording the EP in the first place, was to capture the creative surge that happened to me last summer. I think we effectively did that.
What brought you to the area from D.C.?
When I reconnected with “the one who got away” 22 years earlier, it didn’t take long before we both knew that we’d better take advantage of this “last chance” sooner rather than later. I was looking to get out of DC and she and her family run a business in Williamsburg. It wasn’t a hard decision for either of us. I love this area and truly believe it’s added years to my life.
You often play in the area and, I think, play open mics. Were those nights useful as you moved towards recording this album?
I met Vaughn Deel and Sueanne Doyer at a Peter Case show (with North Shore Point House Concerts) at Norfolk School of Rock about a year ago. They described the open mics that they run at Cozzy’s (in Newport News) and Victoria Station (The Big Pink in Hampton) and invited me out to do one. I was a bit timid having not played in public for a couple of decades, but it didn’t take long until I was attending two open mics a week for several months there. That coupled with a Dylan 75th Birthday tribute show that my wife and I saw in Williamsburg around the same time. This band called Exit 231 played a set at that show that just knocked us out. I thought “I can do that.” And then thought “I WANT to do that”. Those two events were all I needed. Now I’m unstoppable.
You have a great roster of area stars assisting on the album — Larry Berwald, Dave Hufstedler, others. How did that happen?
When I figured I had a half dozen or so songs that I wanted to record, I asked Dustin Furlow who he used to record his fine record. He introduced me to Rob Ulsh at Master Sound in Virginia Beach. After doing some scratch tracks, Rob suggested that Larry Berwald be brought in to help tweak some arrangements and play guitar. Both Larry and Rob really took an interest and were fantastic to work with.
Larry rather diplomatically made some necessary arrangement suggestions to a few of my songs and then brought in Dave Hufstedler (bass) and Powell Randolph (drums) to record them. We also got Jamie Lewis on the Hammond B3 and piano. I was over the moon with how well the sessions turned out.
Those guys were amazing. I hope to work with them again.