Red Birds and Blues Songs
Jesse Roper’s wild rollercoaster ride to musical success
By Bigoa Machar, Arts Editor
“It was fucking terrifying. I was a really shy guy who didn’t feel very comfortable in social situations.”
That is how Jesse Roper described playing in front of a live crowd for the first time. Despite it only being in front of his high school, Roper says his stage fright is what got the best of him early on in his music career and even to an extent today.
“A lot of times, I still don’t depending on the company that I’m in. Getting on stage, you have everyone looking at you and it’s extremely terrifying. It took me a long time to get over it and not care if people think I suck. Chances are someone is going to think I’m terrible, but that’s music for you.”
Unlike most musicians, Roper didn’t pursue music right away. After graduating high school, the Victoria native worked as a painter for eight years before deciding to start singing in his late-twenties. Roper started off small, taking on any and all gigs he was offered.
“We had momentum in Victoria for a while and doing some solo stuff for a while, then I got the opportunity to go out to Toronto. At that point I was looking for something to fill the hole in my life like ‘What the hell am I doing with it.’ I just got out of a long relationship, which was one of the reasons I tried to pursue music more. She wasn’t really behind it and was always like ‘When are you going to stop doing this and start a career?’”
After sharpening his craft in Victoria, the blues singer was offered a chance to go make music in Toronto, where Roper found an agent to help him out. While this may sound like a dream come true for most, Roper says that this experience was everything but.
“When I went out to Toronto, I got some help from this girl who turned out to be absolutely insane. She got me all kinds of different gigs and publicity, but she fucking hacked all my social media accounts. She was sending all kinds of notes to my ex-girlfriend I ended up calling the cops at one point and I sounded like such an absolutely lily-livered sap-sucker and told them about it. They couldn’t do anything because she didn’t threaten me with any violence. I feel like if I were a rich person and I told them that someone was stalking and hacking me they would be like ‘Don’t worry Mr. Roper’ but I was poor as fuck.”
Back at square one in a new city, Roper could have easily given up. Instead, he put his head down and went back to work, finding success on his own.
“Even without having her as a manager, I just took every gig I was offered. The Hard Rock Café payed me something like $250 to play for like four hours. I got other small gigs like that. That’s what really got my confidence up. I started writing some more of my own tunes after that and I was doing a good job of it. I wish I had started out earlier, but that’s just how life is.”
This confidence lead to three studio albums, with the latest being Red Bird, which was released earlier in 2015. Currently touring British Columbia, Alberta and Edmonton, Roper says that his success is rooted on the fact that he hasn’t given up yet, so might as not anytime soon.
“I always felt like if I try hard enough at this, I will succeed. I just have this belief in myself that if I put enough effort, I’ll get something out of it. I’m not talking about riches and fame here, it’s more so something that I can call a career and maybe buy a house with it. It’s just so rewarding and I just can’t imagine myself doing anything different.”
Despite the success he’s found so far, Roper says the music industry is extremely fast-paced and it’s always nice to take a step back from it all.
“Sometimes I like to take a break from music for a few weeks or a month because it puts perspective on what I’m doing and it makes me hate what I’m doing like ‘Fuck this fucking job, I want to go make music.’ At the same time, it’s relaxing to take a break from music knowing that I have a fallback elsewhere. My parents are also very supportive of what I do. They want me to go 100% into music because of how tough the industry is. Their support is really helpful in an industry where careers are hard to come by.”
All of Jesse Roper’s music is available free to stream at jesseroper.ca.