Jake Wesley Rogers just toured with Panic! At the Disco, traveling the U.S. and playing a sold-out show at Madison Square Garden this fall. His new EP, “LOVE,” is out now. He headlines his first nationwide tour in the spring.
He’s ready to go back to therapy.
“I decided to go back to therapy, because I wrote a song last week. And I was listening to it and I was like, ‘Oh, that person needs to go to therapy,’” he said, and laughed. “I was like, ‘You’re being very honest. And that’s great. And this song isn’t probably gonna help as much as you want it to.’”
Rogers, who grew up in Springfield, writes with sensitivity and vulnerability, and he speaks with the same openness. He rejects the notion that achievements are the answer to his deepest longings.
“Success is made up. And it’s always a projection and doesn’t mean anything to your heart,” he said.
Rogers recently chatted with a friend who described two mountains in life. One represents “success,’ which, in Rogers’ case, means record deals, airplay, and tour dates.
The other mountain represents, as Rogers says, “What you are here to do.”
“The (second) mountain is a lot more ambiguous. I am here to create. I am here to perform. I think I’m here to teach. That second mountain is where I want to be more. And I think that’s kind of why I want therapy now. The first mountain is very comfortable,” he said.
It’s really in the daily struggle of creating where Rogers feels most glad, finding less motivation in wealth and fame even as he earns more money and garners more attention.
“When something big happens for me, it’s nowhere near as satisfying as creating something, or when a performance connects with the audience,” he said.
Jake Wesley Rogers Hometown Show
Date: Saturday, December 17, at the Gillioz Theatre
Tickets: $25, available through Gillioz website
Rogers credits Springfield Little Theatre for his stage presence today
Rogers was raised in Missouri, moving from Kansas City to Ozark when he was 11. His mom worked as a deejay in KC, then managed radio stations in Springfield. Jake and his family moved to Springfield when he was 16.
He credits his involvement with the Springfield Little Theatre, or SLT, for his massive stage presence today.
“The theatre affected me probably more than anything. I think what we have at SLT is pretty unheard of, in what it offers to kids who are creative and want to perform,” Rogers said.
His first role was “Skater Boy” in the 2008 production of “High School Musical.” He was involved in SLT shows continuously until he was a sophomore in high school, when he focused on writing music.
“My main director Lorianne Dunn, she’s still there. She taught me a lot about performing. And to this day, I think my biggest superpower is just to be able to go on stage and give it everything every time,” he said.
Dunn is the education director at SLT. Rogers mentioned one tactic he learned at SLT — holding your position after a song — as a way to send out energy to the crowd and deepen the performance. It’s reminiscent of sun rays shining through clouds, beaming on the ground below.
“You’re not just singing. I think when you go to see a performance — what you’re left with is a feeling. It’s like magic to me that you can send a feeling to people. I think it’s very powerful,” he said.
Rogers has always had what he calls “stage eagerness.” He also grew up singing in church and appreciates that music can be a spiritual experience, even though he has developed different beliefs in the years since.
“It makes me very sad when people use their power to create something that hurts so many people,” he said. “I left organized religion, but performing songs that were meant to be for a higher purpose had an effect on me.”
It’s the communal feeling he’s after, without the legalism of religion.
“It’s not about me. I’m not saying it’s about God, but something bigger is happening. I hope it’s connecting people to a deeper place in their heart. I think art is very spiritual for that reason as it takes people below the surface,” he said.
After high school, Rogers moved to Nashville for five years, where he attended Belmont University and focused on writing songs.
He now lives in Los Angeles, where he has a little orange tree in his backyard.
“I don’t really know why or when they do bloom, but they do. And I will take one,” Rogers said.
Missing rain, snow and Missouri
He visits Missouri when he can, calling it “home.” He does miss the four seasons and laments the lack of rain and snow in L.A.
“One morning I woke up and you know when you can just kind of feel like it’s gonna rain? I asked my phone, like, ‘Hey, Siri. Is it gonna rain today?’ And it said, ‘There’s a 0% chance it’s going to rain.’”
Rogers was crestfallen.
“I got so sad. I whispered to myself: ‘I miss Missouri,’” he said.
Rogers hopes for snow when he returns to play a hometown show on Saturday, December 17, at the Gillioz Theatre.
Rogers played his first show at Randy Bacon’s photo studio in 2012 in Springfield. He played a couple of the annual “Imagine” concerts, including last December. He’s also hoping to discover gluten-free cashew chicken on this visit home, he said.
The long road
He’s committed to his shows being “real,” which he had to redefine after his first taste of success when he performed on “America’s Got Talent” at 15.
Rogers advanced farther than expected and loved the rush. But when he returned home to Ozark, something had shifted — and he didn’t know what or why.
“I sort of felt this emptiness. And I didn’t really know what it was. But now I think it was (realizing) being an artist is a much longer road. There aren’t many quick paths to success there, and if there are, they’re probably not going to last very long,” he said.
That’s when Rogers decided to commit to his goal of performing as a career, no matter how long it took.
“At that point, I committed to myself, like: ‘If you’re going to do this, just know that it’s not going to be easy. It might take a long time. And it has to start with saying something, and that’s what motivated me to start writing about my life,” he said.
Vulnerability earns him famous fans
Rogers often writes about his life as a gay man, including in the song “Cause of a Scene” on his 2021 EP “Pluto.” In it, he weighs introducing his boyfriend to his elderly grandfather.
“Haven’t told my grandpa ’bout you
‘Cause my parents told me not to
It might be a little too much at the end of his life
But the two of you share the same name
Oh, Charles, I wish you could meet”
His vulnerability and charisma have earned him famous fans. Elton John interviewed Rogers on John’s podcast “Rocket Hour.” Brene Brown interviewed Rogers on her podcast “Unlocking Us” after discovering his music on TikTok.
Rogers has been called “Gen-Z’s Elton John” by Vogue, but he realizes how quickly he can acclimate to attention, especially on social media.
“Two years ago, it was like, “Oh, if I get 1,000 likes, it’s worth everything.’ Now, I’m like, ‘If I get 10,000 likes, it’s worth everything.’ It’s the same exact feeling. Our brains have this way of just regulating everything. That’s why success isn’t real,” he said.
The hedonic treadmill principle indicates that we return to our baseline of happiness soon after happy or sad events. In the end, Rogers finds that it’s in the doing of his work that he feels most at peace.
“So many things in my life don’t matter, like, making a TikTok, these trivial things. But when I can sit and be very honest with myself, and music, that’s the point. That’s my point,” he said.
He can’t wait to share his work — or, rather, his vocation — with friends and family back home in the Ozarks.
“I definitely had to come to terms with, ‘What’s real?’ And for me, the show in Springfield is very real because I get to sing the songs I love. I get to perform in the place I grew up in, for a lot of people that I love,” he said. “I’m just very, very much looking forward to it.”