Tim Rogers is living life for a song

STAGE HAND: Johnny Carr and Tim Rogers performing in What Rhymes With Girls and Cars. Picture: Jeff Busby
STAGE HAND: Johnny Carr and Tim Rogers performing in What Rhymes With Girls and Cars. Picture: Jeff Busby

TIM Rogers describes the feeling of waking up in the morning and being unable to write a song like having a limb amputated.

For anyone whose ever made a vague attempt to bash out their own ditty on a guitar or piano, it would seem like a dramatic exaggeration.

Yet it’s a truly horrible feeling for Rogers. This is a man you sense lives and breathes every essence of the craft.

Luckily for the You Am I frontman he’s a bloody good songwriter. Great even. He’s undoubtedly one of the most gifted tunesmiths at articulating the Australian existence.

The 48-year-old has pumped out 10 studio albums with indie-rock legends You Am I and another eight records solo or with his other acts The Temperance Union, The Twin Set and The Bamboos.

Those records have produced modern Australian rock classics like Berlin Chair, Purple Sneakers, Heavy Heart and You’ve Been So Good To Me So Far.

Rogers’ prolific output hasn’t dulled the magic of songwriting for the man himself.

“Sometimes during the day or night something hits and you find that process clicking into gear and it’s amazing,” Rogers says. “It’s such a wonderful perplexing feeling.

“I don’t know why it happens and it makes sense why I walk around with my head in the clouds the rest of the day. The electricity in my brain is trying to attenuate itself to create the songs and the art.

“That couple of hours of writing is the happiest I could be out of the sack with the missus.”

Songwriting hasn’t just given Rogers a livelihood – albeit one without the commercial rewards many believe he deserved – it’s provided self belief too.

Rogers has spoken openly about his battles with anxiety and he admits songwriting has positive health benefits.

“Like some people go to the gym, I’d rather etch a song out for a story, work on some chords, or writing patterns,” he says.

“It’s an accessible joy. I’m morose a lot of the time and I think ‘hey I write songs for a living, this life’s wonderful’. I’ll keep off buying a gym membership for another nine and a half months.”

Surprisingly Rogers isn’t a real student of music. While he’s an eager consumer of songs, it’s purely for enjoyment.

“I try not to listen to music for what are they doing there and trying to work out the mystery of it,” he says. “I’d rather be filled up with the mystery and beauty of it and hope that one day I can reach those levels.”

Rogers is currently writing material for another solo record and an 11th You Am I album, which he hopes the band we begin recording shortly after they meet up for Fairgrounds music festival at Berry next month.

While You Am I might have been keeping quiet, Rogers has been active diversifying his artistic portfolio.

BELIEF: Tim Rogers is transfixed by the art of songwriting. Picture: James Brickwood

BELIEF: Tim Rogers is transfixed by the art of songwriting. Picture: James Brickwood

In August Rogers released Detours, a critically-acclaimed memoir about his colourful rock’n’roll journey.

Then last weekend the theatre production of What Rhymes with Cars and Girls, based on Rogers’ 1999 debut solo album of the same name, completed its successful run in Brisbane.

The production tells the love story of Johnno, who lives with his terminally-ill dad, and a rock singer named Tash. Songs like Rogers’ I Left My Heart All Over the Place and Arsekickin' Lady from the Northwest provided the soundtrack.

Rogers starred in the production, but has no plans to turn any of his other past albums into a theatre musical.

“If I get asked to do anything else I wanna write for that purpose,” Rogers said.

“I enjoyed making, at sometime, every album I’ve been a part of, but I don’t get a lot of joy looking back as I’d like to think you’re better days and happiness are ahead of you, rather than behind you.

“It’s one of the benefits of being a touring musician in that you’ve got a show every night and when you’re poor you can make up for it the next evening.

“No I don’t want to reach back there at all. I didn’t think there was a narrative with Cars and Girls at all, that was the skill of the playwright, which had nothing to do with me.”

With the theatrical world out of his system temporarily, Rogers is returning to his first love – playing songs live. On his Detours tour he’s throwing a “fishing rod and a slab of beer in the car” and going out to “play and see if anyone is listening this time.”

“I still enjoy playing and singing and getting into the mystery of songs and what happens when chords and melody hit and words and word play,” he says. “It’s a selfish little thing.”

Tim Rogers performs at The Edwards on November 23.