Jake Wesley Rogers on “Dark Bird,” Elton John, Instagram, and New Music
In Elite Daily I can explain… series, we’re asking celebrities to revisit their most memorable photos and tell us what really happened behind the scenes. In this piece, we chat with singer Jake Wesley Rogers about his new single “Dark Bird” and his 2021 EP Pluto.
Jake Wesley Rogers is not Elton John. Of course, the two are LGBTQ+ pop stars with naturally red-blonde hair with a penchant for glam glasses and stadium-rock piano ballads. But the 25-year-old singer, who grew up around Springfield, Missouri, is no replica of the British legend from suburban London.
If you’ve read the recent Rogers interviews about his rise to be a Student at Belmont University- musician from Nashville to a thriving singer-songwriter in Los Angeles, comparisons to pop’s Rocket Man are common. There are only a limited number of LGBTQ+ pop stars which end up operating on a large scale. So when it comes to a powerful voice, thrifty style and Top 40 potential, you’re going to think of Elton. Or David Bowie. Rogers receives comparisons with both.
Thankfully, Elton, along with LGBTQ+ pop predecessors Adam Lambert, Ben Platt and Scissor Sister’s Jake Shears, are supporting his growing star. Yet, like any good artist, Rogers sees his music as unique, even if listeners (and journalists) don’t. “I have a lot of grace for people because when we see something new, we just want to connect it to something we understand in order to understand it,” he told Elite Daily. “I realize it’s probably going to take me some time to break free so people are comfortable seeing me as me, but until then I’m not mad.”
Hopefully with his new single, “Dark Bird”, Rogers can become his own phoenix from the ashes of sameness. On February 25, Rogers released the piano ballad about accepting impurity. Witches and sinners have more fun. They also often operate from a place of honesty, and Rogers isn’t interested in hiding anything. Growing up, that meant coming out as gay in a Christian community. More recently, he’s been acknowledging that he doesn’t have to be a party rock star.
At the end of 2018, Rogers got sober, although he quickly clarified that he is not in a recovery program. Rogers just reached a point where he drank to cope with the vagaries of life. “There was a tiny little voice inside me that I chose to listen to that just warned me and said, ‘If you stop this now, it’ll be a lot easier than stopping later,’ he said. “So I chose to listen to it for some reason.”
Rogers is remarkably composed for a star who experiences life-changing events on a regular basis. Last year his EP Pluto landed him playing spots on late-night shows, an appearance on his spirit guide Brené Brown Unlock us podcast and an Instagram co-sign by Kate Hudson.
If 2021 was the year Rogers got used to fame and comparison, he says 2022 is his year of progressive world domination…through love. Rogers wants to embrace and write about the multitudes of life. Or, he said, “I guess Brené Brown would call it [being] a whole-hearted person.
Below, Rogers shares the story behind some of his best Instagram posts. Plus, he talks about finding style inspiration in Christian martyrs, designing exuberant stage outfits, and embracing the non-threatening vibe of his surname twin, Mister Rogers.
This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.
Elite Daily: This first image features you on the Walk of Fame with Mister Rogers. Why Mister Rogers?
Jake Wesley Rogers: Well, I don’t usually walk on the Hollywood Walk of Fame because it’s not cute these days. That night I was going to Adam Lambert’s 40th birthday party, which was a wig party, and I had to go buy a wig. The only wig store still open, for it was quite late, was on Hollywood Boulevard. I really wanted a long blonde Stevie Nicks wig. I got it, and right outside the wig shop was the Mister Rogers star. My last name is Rogers, so my poor friend had to take a picture of me in front of it, like a double meaning. But I also like Mr. Rogers. I feel close to him somehow.
ED: Did you see him grow up?
JWR: I did this when I was quite young. It was still on PBS.
ED: People say he was a nicer man than a lot of male personalities at the time. Is there anything that resonates with you about this? Much of your stage presence removes the traditional male presentation.
JWR: I think it’s the overwhelming kindness and her unapologetic embrace of the hard things, the scary things, and the things that confuse people. What he was doing on that show was really, really radical for the time. I can only imagine what he would do now and what kind of guests he would have now. Because he was talking about things that other people weren’t talking about and weren’t talking about. I have the impression that it is also one of my missions.
ED: The photo of you at the piano on Late Night with Seth Meyers is so happy. Tell me about that.
JWR: The song [“Weddings and Funerals”] has a line on worries, so the designer [Rebecca Bailey] and I wanted to make this great explosion of worries a floral moment. When this photo was taken, I felt pretty good [about] the performance. The soundcheck went really well and I was excited. But I was actually really nervous because it was my first time wearing stilettos.
ED: In life or simply on stage?
JWR: In literally life. I was going to not only wear them on TV, but perform in them. And not just play in them, stand on top of a piano. And I did, and I didn’t break anything. The other secret to this photo is that I’m glad the boots were high, as I wasn’t wearing knee pads and fell to my knees a lot during this performance. My knees were completely covered in blood.
ED: On the homophilia podcast, you mentioned liking Lady Gaga when you were a kid. I grew up as a stan of Katy Perry.
JWR: I was more into Katy before Gaga, but then “Bad Romance” came out and it was all over for me.
ED: You said on the podcast that Lady Gaga’s rambunctious, exuberant performances on national television inspired you to grow up in the Midwest. Do you consider your impact on viewers when attending a show like Late at night?
JWR: In fact, all the greatest TV performances I’ve done, [including] the ones I recorded recently that haven’t been released, I always try to imagine me or someone like me being 10 or 11 watching it. Because that’s the whole point. If I connect to this one person – and they don’t have to be 10 or 11. She could be 50 and not feel free to be herself.
I try to do these performances for these people, because I know how these performances made me feel when I was a kid. And no shade to any of the pop stars I loved growing up, but most of them were straight, cisgender women. I think it’s time to be able to empower ourselves with our own stories.
ED: also on homophilia, you talked about choosing to feature a gay hug in your “Middle of Love” video. Do you feel compelled to show some level of your LGBTQ+ identity?
JWR: Everything I show is probably what I feel. This music video, I’m sure for some people, [it] probably sounds radical, but that’s what gay people do. They kiss with other homosexuals. That’s actually what being gay is.
ED: Yes, it’s completely normal.
JWR: I showed it to my mother, [and] she’s like, “Has anyone done this before?” I was like, “Yeah. They have.” Yes, we kiss here. I think it’s just showing it, and showing it shamelessly too is important to me because it’s really a unique moment in the last three to five years. [that] it’s even a possibility that A) you can make a video like this [and] B) people would want to watch it.
ED: You went through a few different hairstyles and colors. Why red for this era?
JWR: I started dyeing my hair red right before I released all my new music last year. It was kind of like a light golden red and auburn. I wanted to keep the red, but I wanted to match this next song and this next era that I’m entering. Because this song, “Dark Bird”, is much more edgy, dark, wizarding rock-and-roll and also leans into a pseudo-goth persona in aesthetics. My first great musical moment that made me fall in love with music was “Welcome to the Black Parade”. I wanted to get into this My Chemical Romance look, [though my] the songs don’t really sound like that.
There’s just something about red fireman. I wanted to make a black circle around it because some sects of monks just have their hair with the bald part on top. The song is about martyrdom, and I was really obsessed with all these Christian martyrs who were beheaded…so the little circle around it was kind of a little nod to the monk cup.
Jake Wesley Rogers’ new single “Dark Bird” and his 2021 EP Pluto are now streaming on all platforms.