Hollie RogersShe’s a hidden gem and a star in the making. Hollie Rogers is ready for the world stage with her rich, powerful vocals and emotional song writing and it’s only a matter of time before she gets her proper recognition outside of her native U.K.

Your latest album Criminal Heart is due to be released in the next few weeks. It’s produced by a gentleman by the name of James Macmillan who is also an accomplished jazz musician.


Yeah, he’s a co-producer. Basically, James has produced some of the tracks that are on it and the others have been produced by a guy by the name of Stefan Redtenbacher and then I’ve co-produced all the songs with both of them, so it’s a bit of a team effort.

Your music, if I had to classify it, would be folk/pop sounding but there are jazz influences in there as well. James being a jazz musician, do you feel like he’s contributed to that type of sound to your music with his production?

I think, although James is a jazz musician, himself, I think his production work has spanned so many different genres that he brings a lot of different influences and I’m, as you say, more influenced by folk, pop, Americana, that kind of thing. I think James has bought his own stuff to the table and with the songs that he’s been working on with me, they’ve taken on a bit of a new direction.

It’s a bit more of a fusion of genres than stuff I’ve done before I worked with him. And then Stefan is very much from a funk background and he brings those kind of funky bass lines to the table so between the three of us it’s there’s a lot going on.

I like that there’s a lot of diversity in your sound. You have a double bass player that you tour with quite a bit, don’t you?

Yeah, Tom Holder. He’s so young, he doesn’t look as youthful as he actually is but I’ve been working with Tom since he was about 16 and he’s got so much hair and so much beard that nobody knows he’s only a baby. I needed a cello player gosh, it must be five or six years ago now, and at the time, I was working at a school teaching.

Someone that I worked with said, “Oh, you need a cellist I know a double bass player who also plays a bit of cello” and she told me all about him. I said, “Sounds great!” And then she said, “And also, he’s just turned 16.” Okay, amazing. Can he actually play and she said, “Oh, he can play all right.”

He played cello at my last album launch, which was a while ago now, and since then, he’s been on board as my double bassist kind of on a full time basis. He sort of bows that double bass as well so it’s kind of a middle ground between a cello and a bass, but it means we can get that sound with just the two of us, so it works quite well.

It’s great to have that kind of versatility.

You grew up in Cornwall, correct?

Yeah, that’s right.

Music wasn’t really on your horizon growing up, was it? You didn’t come from a musical family?

No, my dad likes to sing but it’s really more of a karaoke time in the car sort of vibe and when he’s drunk at the pub thing rather than anything serious, and my mum, I pay her not to sing. (laughs) She’s not musical at all but we listened to a lot of music growing up. We listened to quite a varied sort of stuff but I don’t know where it came from, really, because it’s definitely not in the family blood wise.

Obviously, you have a natural talent. You started playing guitar when you were 16 and there’s a funny story about that too as well.

Hey, how do you know about that? You’ve done your research. I did always love to sing. I liked singing from when I was really young and then it would have been when I was about 15 or 16 that I started playing guitar. Not because I had some kind of deep-rooted desire to play but it was literally just about trying to impress boys.

I thought all girls with guitars, they look cool, boys like them, I’ll try and learn guitar. It quickly turned into a passion after that but yeah, I started to try to teach myself because I couldn’t have any lessons at the time, and I spent several weeks trying to work out why I was struggling so much to follow this little book that I bought to try and teach myself. It was several weeks in that somebody came into the school room that I was trying to teach myself in and told me that it was a bass guitar that I was holding, not an actual guitar. So that’s why it wasn’t translating very well. But we got there in the end.

Then you went to school as a drama major. It’s interesting that you had a passion for drama, or for teaching, and the music was just kind of like a side hobby.

Yeah, absolutely. I think because I came to the guitar quite late, I’d already chosen my initial options for secondary school exams and I hadn’t chosen music, and I didn’t know how to read music or any of that. So that then meant that I couldn’t take that forward at college level which then meant I couldn’t do it as a degree because I didn’t have that kind of theory, background or knowledge.

Drama really was something that I enjoyed and I had a good drama teacher at college and didn’t really know what I wanted to do so I just went with something that I enjoyed, and it meant that I could specialize in the elements of drama that interested me, which wasn’t so much acting or that side of things, it was more the technical stuff, lighting and sound and video creation, and that’s translated really well into my music career that came later. It’s really handy knowing how to use a sound desk, or how to use a microphone to record yourself at home and all that sort of thing so it was quite easily transferable.

At what point did you realize that this was something that you could do for a career?

That is a really good question because, you know, it’s very difficult financially to sustain yourself on it. I know that there’s a lot of people at my level, and people more successful than I am who still struggle to sustain themselves exclusively on music without having some kind of side hustle. I guess I’d always thought it could be a career but I had never been brave enough to actually try and do that full time because of the financial risk, I guess.

I did five years full-time teaching and not teaching music, just teaching primary school kids all sorts of subjects like history, math, whatever, and music was kind of on the backburner because I was doing 80 hours a week and not really having time for music.

But with every year that went by I felt more of a pull to be out there performing my own music and to be writing more and so it would have been about four years ago that I quit the full-time teaching and moved to London and just tried to give it a go. I thought, I’ll see what happens and if after a year it’s too tough or I’m not enjoying it, or I can’t make it work, then I’ll go back into teaching.

It did work and obviously it is tougher in a financial sense but in every other sense, it’s great and I wouldn’t swap it. Obviously, the pandemic has made it harder but that’s the same for everybody and we will eventually get back on our feet and things will return to normal.

When you moved to London, you wrote the song City of Colour, beautiful song. You play piano in that song. You taught yourself to play piano as well, didn’t you?

Yeah, that came later, and to be honest, I still feel like I’m teaching myself. I feel very sure on a guitar, it feels really natural and I don’t really have to think about it. On the piano, I very rarely will do that live, occasionally if I’m feeling really brave or I’ve had a bit to drink.

It feels like I’m still very much finding my way around the keys and then there are certain keys that I can’t play in. For City of Colour on the video, if you look at my hands, you’ll see I’m playing in C, but on the audio it’s actually in D. That’s because of the magic of the transpose button. But literally, I can’t play that song in the key that it suits my voice best.
A musician or pianist would maybe spot that.

It’s likely someone who’s pitch perfect will be like, hang on a minute!

The process of how you wrote that song is indicative of how you write all your music, isn’t it?

Late at night is when it always happens. For some reason it’s really inconvenient, but usually between 2am and 4am. City of Colour was very last minute written for a competition where the finalists had to write a song about London.

There were 10 finalists for a grand finale concert and I’d had weeks and weeks, months probably to do it and I had been trying to do it, but it just hadn’t been coming. On that last day before the concert, I took a walk along the River Thames and I listened to loads of other songs about London and there are so many of them because it’s such an inspiring city, such an inspiring place. Then those songs that I listened to I tried to work into the lyrics of City of Colour so there’s four or five London songs that I referenced in that first verse and second verse where I’m talking about walking along the side of the river. And yeah, it was about two or 3am that night that I finally finished the song ready to perform the next day. And thank goodness I did, because otherwise I’d have been stuck with nothing to play.

It’s a gorgeous song and for something like that to come to you under pressure at the last moment. You just needed to dive in and get in that atmosphere. You write more from feelings, don’t you?

100% Yeah, I find it really difficult to write to a brief or to a deadline and that’s probably why I found it so difficult, because it was for a competition and because it had to be about London. It was only when I actually started to feel those feelings, I talked about in the song that the song was written. Definitely every song that I’m most proud of has come from something I really deeply feel.

There are a couple really interesting songs on your new album, one of them The Coast Road, about a road in your native Cornwall. There’s actually a verse in there that you had to research to write it in Cornish.

Yeah, I did. So, Cornish, it’s not like Welsh, where a lot of people in Wales speak Welsh and the road signs are in Welsh and the children learn stuff in school in Welsh. In Cornwall there are very, very few people who still speak Cornish. It’s not widely spoken at all or used at all and is sort of dying out.

I’d written the song in English and I just thought it would be nice to have a verse in Cornish since it was written about my home. I found that the Cornwall council has a translation service strangely enough and you can send them something you want translated and they will send you back the Cornish.

They also had to send me a recording of how to pronounce it as well, because when they sent me it written down, I wasn’t sure how I’m supposed to say it. They did all of that and then I kind of worked it back into the original melody and now when I do it live, I always sing the Cornish verse. I haven’t decided yet whether the Cornish one or the English is going to go on the album. It might be that I’m thinking perhaps for digital release, I do the English, and then for the physical release the Cornish version, but it’s yet to be decided.

Are you going to release the album on vinyl?

Yes, I am. I’ve already taken some pre-orders for that. I definitely have to do it now. It was when we did the Kickstarter for the album originally and I met the target quicker than I’d expected doing, so we set a stretch goal of if we reach another target, then we’ll get vinyl made. So that is definitely coming out on vinyl. I’m looking forward to seeing my giant face because I’ve never done a vinyl before.

I’m sure the song Love and Distance has a good story. I absolutely love that song. I love the guitar playing on that. I know it’s not you, so tell me the story about that.

The electric guitar is not me, it is a gentleman named Robben Ford, who you may have heard of. I went on a songwriting retreat in 2019 and it’s kind of an invite only thing. It’s a mix of people at my level right up to songwriters, and artists who people have heard of, you know, but you don’t know who’s going to be there till you get there.

Obviously, I had heard of Robben Ford but I didn’t know what Robben looked like and I was introduced to this guy, just Robben is what he’s introduced to me as. We are put into a room together to do some writing with a guy called Jamie Lawson, who I’d also heard of, and that name rang a bell and someone had told me that he was a big deal. I already knew who Jamie was but we’re sitting with Robben and Robben is asking me about my influence so I’m talking away for about 15 minutes about how much I’ve loved Joni Mitchell for ages.

I remember Robben is sitting in the drawing room in this really posh, stately home, and he kind of reclined in his chair with his cup of coffee and he just said very coolly, “I played with Joni from 75 to 79. She’s a great gal.” And I’m like, “Oh shit, oh you’re Robben Ford”, and then we sat and wrote a song together, the three of us and it was really interesting.

I felt for the first half of the day really sort of afraid to share my ideas almost because I was nervous of what they might think of them or that they wouldn’t be good enough and I can remember sitting down with Jamie at lunch halfway through and having a very honest conversation with him about that and him really putting my mind at rest. We had been quite stuck up to that point and then in the afternoon it all just kind of happened and that was the song that we ended up with. I was just so pleased that they both agreed to let me put it on my album and to feature on it as well.

I think it’s going to be a really exciting moment when I get to release that to the world.

It’s pretty amazing. You’ve been able to make quite a few good connections since you move to London, haven’t you?

It’s why I wanted to physically be in London, so that I could just at the drop of a hat, go and meet someone or go to some event or whatever without worrying about how I was going to get there.

I definitely have found that making those connections is sort of like making your own luck to some degree because you’ve got to put yourself in the right places in order for doors to open and things to happen. Nine times out of 10, you don’t meet anyone that you’re going to speak to again, or doors aren’t going to open, but every now and then they do and something like that song will happen. You just can never predict how it’s going to go.

Do you think you’ll come to North America with your music?

Oh, I would love to. I was supposed to be going over to do a writing retreat in Arkansas, and then going on to Americana Fest in Nashville and that didn’t happen obviously because of COVID, didn’t happen the year after either.

But I’m still very hopeful that it will happen one day and when it does, my plan is not just to go to those two places, and then fly home again. If I’m going over, I’m going over so I would like to see more of America and because I’ve never spent any time there really. So yeah, I would love to.

When will the album be coming out?

I’m going to say April. I’m still waiting on two mixes and then as soon as I’ve got those, everything else is ready to go, like the artwork is now ready. Because of all the delays at the studio, and the bookings that they’ve already got, they’re trying to fit me around existing bookings so we’re nearly there.

There are a few songs on Spotify.

There are four singles out already on Spotify. One of the ones that James did came out in February 2020 and it’s going on the album but that was already out, City of Colour.
Then there’s Youth, Love, and there’s Strange, so there are four of them out already.

Her latest single The Coast Road is out now. Hollie hangs out at: www.hollierogers.com.

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