West Shore Culture
Interview By Anne Marie Moro
Photo credits: Billie Woods Photography
Jesse Roper is the West Shore’s own versatile blues artist rooted in soul, rock and country. He’s a hardworking performer with a non-stop touring itinerary across North America. In the past few years, he’s quickly become a staple on modern rock radio and a major headliner at festivals such as Sunfest, Rifflandia and Rock the Shores. He’s shared the stage with many great artists and played direct support to Keith Urban, Lee Brice, Colin James, Spirit of the West, Tower of Power, Booker T Jones, Chilliwack, and others as well as older rock bands like ZZ Top, Steve Earle and Big Wreck. Incapable of holding back, Jesse always delivers with knock-out live performances, making him an unstoppable presence in the music industry today.
His new album, ‘Access to Infinity’ due out in early 2018, shows him evolving in his craft. In this interview, Jesse shares insights about the lyrical and emotional shifts he took in his song writing for this new album. Here’s what he had to say:
Q: Jesse, how has the West Shore shaped who you are today?
A: I grew up in Metchosin, just down on Tavane Road. I started
playing guitar when I was six but before that I was riding my bike around the neighborhood. It was definitely the kind of childhood that was like, “Peel’em before the sun goes down!” We didn’t have a ton of money, but I didn’t realize that as a kid. I didn’t even think about it. We had to use our imaginations and I did that all the time. I’m so happy I got that kind of upbringing. Can’t imagine growing up in a big city. Don’t have much of a city sense. I go driving in the city and there’s lights and horns and oh my God!
Q: I heard you say in an interview once that when you’re travelling back from Victoria and you get to the Metchosin sign, you start breathing a little easier.
A: Yeh, my heart rate goes down, my breathing gets a little easier, and I can feel my eyes close just a little bit.
Q: Did you know you had a voice before you starting performing?
A: No, my voice was horrible back then. I’d just sing a bunch of covers for my friends with no intention of ever playing for a crowd. I got into [singing] later and then the whole stage fright thing. I’m still a little nervous before I get up on stage.
Q: What’s the song you wish you had created?
A: ‘Departure’ by Moody Blues. I love that tune! It’s so cool. I’m gonna cover that song one day.
Q: Did you ever write any poetry when you were younger?
A: Not so much. In my free time, I was more into painting, drawing, riding my bike. At school, if we had a one-page short story to write, mine would go on and on with this huge introduction to the character and then his time’s up and he dies! Which is funny because I don’t have a whole lot to say in general. I’m not really the chattiest person you’ll ever meet.
Q: I’ve listened to ‘Cherry’ and ‘Cupid’ [Access to Infinity, 2018] and I’m sensing a little bit of a shift from your earlier works.
A: Yeah alright, I’m glad you’re picking that up because I definitely have been taking a whole lot more pride in the lyrics. I’m trying to just get a little bit deeper into the lyrics and the story. There is a song that I wrote called ‘The One You Know’. It’s not on the radio. But I think the lyrics in that are some of the best I’ve done!
Q: In the ‘Cherry’ video, you really capture the reality of what life is like for a lot of young adults today, caught in a monotone life.
A: Yeah, it’s a little bit scary! I was living that life for a time. It’s so easy to gloss by [in life] with Netflix and other distractions. But as an artist, I need to be looking for [real] feelings and then I try to put them into words.
Q: What other influences affect your song writing now?
A: I think you’ll hear a little bit of politics for the first time. And a mood shift. With ‘Red Bird’ , I was single and everything I wrote back then was a little bit brooding. But recently I’ve been seeing a girl; things are good. I’m a happy guy. I’ve been touring. Life is just a little bit more optimistic these days. The songs I’m writing are little happier and lighter for sure. I was writing a song last night. I might call it ‘Little Bee’. It’s a conversation between a bee and a flower, paralleling, you know, love, guys and girls, that sort of thing. It’s cool. I love that song. I hope to get it out in my next album.
Q: Got a “B” tune to it!?
A: [laughing] Well, it’s not in the key of B actually. I never thought about that! It’s in G. But I guess I can still change it. Writing heartbreak songs are easier for me because the stuff weighs so heavy on my mind that I just start spewing it out. But I’m not really feeling like that right now.
Q: Not sure if it’s true that you have to be miserable to be creative anyway. Lot more abundance in being happy. Are you getting to a point in your life now where you’re able to pursue music and song writing full time?
A: Yeah for sure. I don’t have a job anymore. It gives me time to do what I need to do. I try not to live an extravagant lifestyle. But yeah, had a dream and I’m living it. I’ll just keep it going!
Q: Any final words to all your fans and friends right here on the West Shore?
A: Oh, thank you for your support. I hope I can prove a lot of you folks right out there who’ve been telling me I’m going to make it. I’m still trying. Got a long way to go, but I’m doing my best. I hope all your kids pick up guitars and pianos and banjos and make excellent music as well. Keep serenadin’!
The Secret’s Out!
Big Wreck is taking ‘In Loving Memory Of ’ on a 20th Anniversary Tour with Jesse Roper! The massive tour will hit a pile of Canadian cities starting February 15 to March 5, 2018, including Victoria’s Capital Ballroom, March 3, 2018. Find all of Jesse’s dates at www.jesseroper.ca/tour.