Q&A with LA based musician Sarah Rogo, she defies genres and reshapes how the guitar can be used in composition and songwriting

"Music is the most powerful tool for social revolution and building a society. I can only hope my music will leave a lasting impression on others. My goal is to make music from the heart. This sounds cliche but these days there is so much temptation to conform your music to fit into a certain mold to "sell". I will know I have accomplished something if I inspire others to create, play guitar, or build something beautiful."

Sarah Rogo: Soulful Roots, Blues Mantras

Sarah Rogo is an artist, composer, and guitar player residing in Los Angeles, CA. With her haunting and unique slide guitar work, she defies genres and reshapes how the guitar can be used in composition and songwriting. You can find her as one of the hosts of the world famous Normans Rare Guitars channel and sharing the stage with guitar greats such as Joe Bonamassa, Jimmy Vaguan, and Jimmy Vivino. Claiming the title as "Soulful Roots" she blends old blues, soul, and folk styles with a youthful twist- picture Dolly Parton and Robert Johnson walking into a Tarantino film. She captivates audiences with her haunting slide guitar work and unique genre-defying style. A captivating dance between grit, beauty, and skill. Guitarist/Singer Sarah Rogo has built a career being unafraid to take the road less traveled. Her haunting and unique guitar work blurs the lines across an array of genres and her overall approach to the instrument redefines how it can be used in composition and songwriting. Sunfall (2023), her new release, is a concept album structured as an ode to the woods at twilight.           (Photo: Sarah Rogo)

Subtitled Blues Mantras and Instrumentals for the Evening Hours, she sets a range of moods that reflect a reverence for nature's beauty and the cycles of life and death. Connected by obvious (and some not-so-obvious) threads, her songs are cinematic and sparse all at once, a head-on collision of the grand and the ambient executed to stunning effect. Subtle touches that become more apparent with repeat listening show her to be as much a composer as she is a songwriter. At it's core, Sunfall is blues-inspired. Echoes of the acoustic giants of the '30s and '40s linger in the shadows via subtle tips of the hat from her stunning resonator work, but things go off the beaten path with a sonic aura more akin to field recordings than a controlled studio environment. True to it's inspiration from nature, everything on Sunfall is in balance, and Rogo is the gravity that keeps it all perfectly in place.

Interview by Michael Limnios                  Sarah Rogo, 2014 interview @ blues.gr

How has the Blues, Folk and Roots music influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

Blues, folk, and roots music is a core and historical sound. Even when I put my own spin on it, it still reflects history and timelessness. I am inspired by American blues and folk but my passion is to travel to different countries and experience the folk music from the culture. It makes the world seem a lot less big because there is so much crossover of technique and feeling. I just got back from a trip to Ireland and Scotland, and I loved hearing their folk and traditional music. The style of guitar tunings and playing feels similar to styles of American roots and blues.

How do you describe your sound and music philosophy? Where does your creative drive come from?

I consider my music to be mysterious and enchanting. Yes, I play blues but it's so much more than that. I blend in other world styles and try to come from my own honest experiences. I spent a lot of time in the past trying to fit my music into a mold for record labels, TV shows, or certain markets and at the end of the day I find when I create the music I really love and want to make, that music will find a place and home. My drive comes from turning both joy and pain in the world to something beautiful. Sometimes my drive is making something new and sometimes it's working on getting it out to the world. I also allow myself to have times of silence and resting- to read and to do my hobbies like cooking and crafts. All of these things feed me as an artist and woman.

"I miss full length albums in the world of singles. I like a full project from start to finish- one that tells a story. I also wish live music was more valued in United States and artists were treated better. My fear for artists is the lack of living wage, health benefits, and more." (Sarah Rogo / Photo by Ken Seals)

What's the balance in music between technique and soul? What touched you from the sound of slide guitar?

I think technique is born out of the soul. Everyone will have a different technique because their intention and delivery is different. As a guitar teacher and artist mentor I help people identify their intention of what they want to do with their music- what they are and what they are not. From there the technique comes. My 'technique' is really just finding ways to make things more at home in the body and soul. I don't harp too much on technique, especially in the blues. It would be different if I were an opera singer. 

When I first heard the slide guitar, I thought it was an angel singing. I was 17 and saw Derek Trucks in Central Park, New York. I am drawn to it because you can hit the notes 'in between' notes. you can access tones and pitches you can't on normal guitar.

Which meetings have been the most important experiences for you? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?

I am really influenced by my mentors who inspired me and believed in me at a young age. Paul Rishell, Annie Reins, and Woody Mann took me under their wings. They taught me not just about music but about life. One of the best pieces of advice I ever got from them is that you have to be an actor- especially while singing. You are telling a story and playing a character- even if that character is yourself. The other advice that changed my life can't be put into words- it was just a way of living and loving.

Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

I love playing with Joe Bonamassa and Jimmy Vivino. I will hop on stage with them from time to time and they are always so welcoming and encouraging. There was one particular gig where me, Jimmy, and Joe were all playing this packed little bar in the valley of Los Angeles California. The audience was right up against the stage, and we were all celebrating and having a great time.

"My drive comes from turning both joy and pain in the world to something beautiful. Sometimes my drive is making something new and sometimes it's working on getting it out to the world. I also allow myself to have times of silence and resting- to read and to do my hobbies like cooking and crafts. All of these things feed me as an artist and woman." (Photo: Sarah Rogo)

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

I miss full length albums in the world of singles. I like a full project from start to finish- one that tells a story. I also wish live music was more valued in United States and artists were treated better. My fear for artists is the lack of living wage, health benefits, and more. What I do like about the age of music today is the capability for people to be independent artists instead of having to rely on big record labels. It's alot easier to record and release your music on a small budget and I'm excited about that.

What is the impact of music on the socio-cultural implications? How do you want the music to affect people?

Music is the most powerful tool for social revolution and building a society. I can only hope my music will leave a lasting impression on others. My goal is to make music from the heart. This sounds cliche but these days there is so much temptation to conform your music to fit into a certain mold to "sell". I will know I have accomplished something if I inspire others to create, play guitar, or build something beautiful.

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music paths?

To not treat your art too carefully or cling too tightly. You will make mistakes so trust that new music will keep coming and you will always be creating. I have also learned to choose your business partners wisely and not to take every single offer or opportunity that comes your way. You need to be patient and persistent to accomplish sharing your music. I have learned that community is the most important thing and to help others whenever possible because at the end of the day all we have is our community. My hope is to build a community around the world.

Sarah Rogo - Home

(Photo: Sarah Rogo)

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