Acclaimed songwriter Ben Rogers is embarking on a two-part tour this summer throughout B.C. and Alberta.
Part I: Vigil, is an intimate house concert tour performed solo and Part II: Protest, is a raucous set with his band The Bloodred Yonder.
Red Deer’s show will be during the latter part of the tour – the ‘Protest’. Rogers is slated to perform at Bo’s on July 20th.
“On that particular show, I’ll be opening for Dan Mangan as a duo,” he said during a recent interview. “The band will be there in the audience – so we will be doing somewhat of a more stripped-down show and it will contain the message we are trying to endorse which is – in addition to supporting battered women’s support services – we are also trying to endorse the message of equality for indigenous people and specifically women in hopes that violence against indigenous women will be prevented.
“So that is part of the tone with that show – that show will be a glimmer of what this tour has been,” he said.
Earlier this year, Rogers released a new single as a valentine to those who often need love the most.
The Highway Of Tears came out in February in hopes of raising awareness about the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women throughout Turtle Island.
“This tour has been a trio tour – and right now we are on the vigil aspect of the tour,” he pointed out. “It’s a more somber set at times, so that has been sort of the tone of the tour overall. We do play upbeat songs, too, for people to dance to and enjoy,” he added with a laugh. ”It’s not all somber, but that’s the overall tone and message I think.”
Rogers said the feedback thus far has been tremendous.
“The crowds have been great and really willing to engage and dialogue about the issue and how it affects their communities and their families,” he explained. “It’s been really eye-opening talking to various people from various parts of the province.
”It’s also been really enriching having the whole experience – the performance of this song (The Highway of Tears) feels more and more enriched every time we play it because of that. It feels more important and pivotal to the message that we are trying to get across as well,” he added. “My hope is that the song will inspire listeners and fans to take action.”
He said the song itself has been recorded in two ways – one being in a full band format and the other in a stripped-down acoustic way.
Both offer a different feel to the tune – the band version being a more visceral, bold approach.
“It’s important to get those things across sonically,” he said, adding that particular version hasn’t been released as of yet. “Whether or not we release the ‘band’ version remains to be seen – time will tell.”
Meanwhile, a portion of the single’s sales will provides financial support to Battered Women’s Support Services in Vancouver and specifically to Indigenous Women’s Programs.
“I have been fortunate enough to witness the beauty and strength of native culture through my wife’s Swampy Cree family. They are survivors, and the bravest people I know,” he explained. “The time for autonomy, sovereignty, acknowledgement of ancestral land claims, treaty rights, human rights and equality for Indigenous people must be attained.
“The lives of the women affected by these acts of violence must not be forgotten. We must stand with them. I plan to do just that with my life and my music so long as I have breath in me and a song to sing.”
The single is only the beginning of things to come from the Vancouver songwriter, who was raised in a musical home but only really started to pursue his craft in his teen years when he landed his first guitar.
“My brother Matt was a big influence for me as well in terms of what I had been listening to at that time. And also my grandparents introduced me to a lot of country music when I was young – Gene Autry, Patsy Cline, Charley Pride and some of the greats. So I really soaked that up. That was a big thing that also jump-started me into playing,” he said. “I’m mostly self-taught – for better or worse,” he laughed.
Meanwhile, Ben is also commencing pre-production this fall for the follow-up to his album The Bloodred Yonder and his psychedelic rock side-project Ghostmeat recorded their debut EP in May.
He added that it’s a bit early to describe the actual vision and feel that will define the upcoming recording, but that it will mark something of a departure from earlier projects.
“People can expect something a little different – that’s all I can really say and hint at right now,” he said with a chuckle. “I’m excited about it.”
For Rogers, music offers an ideal means of expressing the messages that are on his heart.
“I think there is no feeling like being on stage and reaching people through the sound and the words. Seeing how it affects people is a really special thing – and I think that’s what keeps the machine going. I’m hungry for it now more than ever – to be on the road. So we’ll be out there doing just that – trying to reach people.”