Writing songs as honest as Wyoming dirt

Jared Rogerson’s four albums face west

PINEDALE – Lying there in the dirt at the Pinedale rodeo grounds in summer 2007, all busted up one last time for thinking he would ride one last time, former pro rodeo athlete Jared Rogerson was thinking, of all things, about music.

“I was in the middle of ending my rodeo career and had always wanted to play music. I was just too busy with the rodeo thing. I had one last rodeo wreck in ’07 and pulled myself up off the dirt and thought, It’s time.

“Literally, I was in the arena – this is not a made-up thing – and I thought: I’m going to pursue this music thing. My rodeo career was over. I had just torn my bicep tendon. Where they had to go in and reattach it, I’ve got an L-shaped scar.”

Rogerson had already clocked 17 years in rodeo, including seven years in the PRCA, the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association circuit. He competed in bareback bronc riding.

“I started in high school, and then I got a college rodeo scholarship and then I rode in the pros,” he said. “Bareback is the most physically demanding event in rodeo. The wear-and-tear is pretty tough on you. It beats you up. So this is really a common injury.”

Fortunately, Rogerson – a Riverton, Utah, native who has a master’s degree in wildlife ecology from the University of Wyoming and works as a brucellosis biologist for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department – already had another interest just as absorbing as rodeo and less perilous. He’s been writing songs since his high school and college days. He picked himself out of the dirt, went home, bought some recording gear and recorded an album.

But it wasn’t until 2008, thanks to Pinedale’s Dan Abernathy, that he actually sang in public. Dan Abernathy owned what was then called Rock Rabbit – a place that was to become one of many influences on Rogerson’s music.

“He started a coffee shop which turned into a restaurant which turned into a music scene,” said Rogerson. “I actually got my start playing music publicly in Pinedale.”

Riding on the rodeo circuit was good for Rogerson musically. Some road-weary cowboys spend hours scanning the radio for music they haven’t heard before, and a wide range of influences show up in Rogerson’s music.

“It’s songs about living in the contemporary American West, really. It’s heavily influenced by the Rocky Mountains, by rodeos, by horses. And it’s influenced musically by cowboy artists like Chris LeDoux, who is probably the most famous cowboy singer to come out of Wyoming, but also by stuff like Bon Jovi.

“Andy Nelson, who is a cowboy poet in town, he really opened up things up for me. He said: ‘Cowboy music is defined as music that cowboys listen to.’ Tom Petty must be cowboy music, because I’m a fan.”

Rogerson, who lives in Pinedale, said he likes some subgenres of country music, such a Texas country and Oklahoma-driven Red Dirt Music. But he’s not as enthusiastic about the main current of the genre.

“Country music today is really not representative of really anybody living in the American West. It’s completely focused on one region: the South. That’s where country music is based and that’s what it’s about, and if you don’t sing about the South, you’re not going to be played on the radio. That’s the way it is,” says Rogerson. “A lot of the South is not relatable in the West.”

But there are some influences closer to home for Rogerson. One is area songwriter Jason Tyler Burton.

“He does what I do in his own way,” Rogerson said. “He is also really influenced by the West and the Rocky Mountains and he sings a really mellow Americana style. He’s a good friend and I’m actually a huge fan of his. I love his style. It’s totally different than mine, but man, I connect with his lyrics. He wrote a song that he let me co-write with him and I put it on my last album. It’s called ‘Why Wyoming.’ It’s about traveling around and ending up here.”

Rogerson has recorded four albums.

“Bad Hay,” from 2010, is the first, with a title track that’s rooted in the West. “‘Bad Hay’ is a song that basically uses hay as a metaphor. The thing with hay is, rain is really good for it – until you cut it and it’s sitting in the field before it gets baled and then it gets rained on. Then it’s really bad for it. I just relate that to life.”

His next album was “Peace, Love and Horses,” from 2011. “That’s heavily influenced by the whole cowboy-hippie thing at Rock Rabbit. I was playing cowboy music in a hippie coffee shop. ‘Peace, Love and Horses’ was born there.”

“Dirt,” from 2013, is grass-roots Wyoming, starting with the title track.

“It’s a Wyoming song about a ranch. I drove all the way from one end of Wyoming to the other and I wrote that song on my drive. I counted a lot of dirt on my drive and that song was born. It’s about a sort of lifestyle that’s tough, like it can be in Wyoming, but it’s something that money can’t buy.”

Rogerson is married and he and his wife, Jen, have two children, 4 and 2. That’s reflected in his 2016 album, “Heaven.”

“That’s the album where now I have kids, so there’s some influences there about being a dad.”

His first child is a daughter.

“Having a little girl sort of changes the world,” he said.

Learn more about Jared Rogerson and his music at his website, jaredrogerson.com.



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