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'American Idol' Alum Brandon Rogers Talks Eclectic New Album, Following Jennifer Hudson on Finale: 'I Was Terrified'

Brandon Rogers
B. Williams for Oak Giant Photography

Brandon Rogers

American Idol season six alum Brandon Rogers was one of the more than 50 finalists from the show's 15 seasons invited to perform on the series finale April 7, though he candidly admits, "I don't know why I was asked back."

But, Rogers quickly adds, "It was fortuitous for me, because I happened to be working on a project at the time and it was a good reintroduction to the world. They gave me a big solo right after Jennifer Hudson, and I didn't suck. I was terrified. It was, 'Let's have the highest note that Brandon can hit ever immediately following Jennifer Hudson!'"

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Rogers sang the first line in a soul medley featuring five male Idols: "I know you want to leave me, but I refuse to let you go," from The Temptations' "Ain't Too Proud to Beg." He tells Billboard, "I would have liked another line in the song, but I was happy with what I got. It was a good way to get my social media moving and get those eyes and ears back on me in a way that allowed me to show off my new music."

That new music is the six-song EP B. Random -- a band Rogers put together rather than release a solo collection. "I had been in a few bands in L.A., and I liked that dynamic," he tells Billboard. "As much as you crave attention, there's something about diffusing that attention across a band."

Indeed, the EP's cover photo "shows no close-ups of anybody," Rogers adds. "I want people to listen to the music and make no judgments about where I'm supposed to be as an artist." And where exactly is Rogers' place in the musical pantheon? "They see the black guy and they assume I want to make R&B music," he says. "As much as I love R&B, I am a blend. My musical upbringing is diverse and has become more so over the years. My dad listened to Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin, Sam Cooke, Sam and Dave and Stevie Wonder. James Tayloris my favorite writer now because of my dad. My mom loved Patsy Cline. I grew up listening to Michael Jackson and Prince and Anita Baker then Nirvana in the '90s, Weezer... All those things inform me and I didn't feel the need to put any imaginary boxes around myself."

 

The stylistically random theme works well with the album's title, but Rogers emphasizes, "It's more than a play on my name — it's a mission statement: to be random."

With Sasha Birrittella on guitar; Eric Baines on bass and Chad Wright on drums, Rogers offers a track-by-track of the EP, the six songs of which he started writing a couple years ago. 

"Finish Line"
"It's about exceeding people's expectations, saying that I'm going to cross the finish line. It's right there and I'm making it. The first half of the song starts as a dream, and then around the second verse, it wakes up. It's very literal. I wasn't looking for subtext in that song. I feel sometimes people need a little push, a little encouragement that they're more. The bridge of the song is, 'Every stop sign I'm going through, I'm the gold mine you never knew, I'll take my place high up in the clouds and I'm never coming down.' That sums up the whole song."

"Change"
"This is one of my personal favorites because I've always liked Queen and, by extension, I've always liked Muse. So they definitely informed my writing of that song. It's about loving someone who drives you nuts, but no matter what they'll do, you'll love them anyway. It's about undying love but sort of tongue-in-cheek. It's based on the hope for a relationship, because I've never dated anyone who I've liked that much and vice versa. I would love for somebody to say that about me. Like, you drive me crazy but I love you anyway. I think that's the goal. I go from that song of undying love to 'That Guy,' which is a very sweet breakup song."

"That Guy"
'It's the realization by someone who loves the person that they're probably not the best person for them and that they can do better. Some people [think it's about] a guy dating a girl and he's confused about himself and wants to break up with her. Or the way I wrote it was just a relationship gone awry but you still love and care about the person. It's the classic, 'It's not you, it's me' in a nice Beatle-y, soulful way."

"Shoot the Moon"
"There's so much turmoil in the world and I didn't want to write this big political song or some 'What's going on' moment. I just wanted to write about everything sucks so I'm leaving. That's basically what the song is. Everything here's going crazy, so I'm going to the moon. I'll see you later. You're welcome to come, but I'm going. That one I wanted to have more of a sort of Coldplay, Empire Of The Sun, maybe remnants of Toto, like an '80s synth kind of thing. I wanted to take that turn. That's the whole thing with this band. I wanted to make those small adjustments to the sound for us to play for people who listen. Who knows if I'm successful at it, but that's what the goal was."

"The Kiss"
"That's an honest song about someone never to be named, ever. I immediately had a crush and we kissed and I immediately felt a connection. It didn't work out, but after the second date, I sat down and wrote that song about falling in love at first kiss." Does the object of his affection know a song has been written about them? "No, they do not," Rogers answers. "I wouldn't care if they did. That's what happens when you date a songwriter. Sometimes a song gets written."

"Who Do You Think You Are"

"This is the last song on the album, which I released as a single for myself a few years ago. But I didn't have the time or the money to promote it, so it went nowhere. But that was the nexus of the sound. That song is a little more poppy than some of the other ones. It has a mandolin in the beginning. It's got a folky aspect to it in some ways even though it's still a pop song and then it's also got aspects of soul. It's about falling in love very quickly and being surprised by it and turning around and saying, 'Who do you think you are…stealing my heart.' That's one of the more catchy ones, immediately catchy. I think they're all catchy in their own way, but that one, the chorus is eight words."

B. Random is available on all digital platforms. A physical release is planned but no street date has been announced yet.

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