AI6: Interview with Brandon Rogers: The First Victim of Sanjaya
Thursday, I was able to participate in a media interview with eliminated contestant, Brandon Rogers. (All my questions are in red) He sounds like a very nice guy and to be honest I was a little shocked when he was sent home. I wish him a successful career in the music industry.
I was just wondering if I could get your reaction to losing, being on that stage, what was going through your head?
B. Rogers: What was going through my head is, I absolutely knew it was coming.
B. Rogers: I did. I really felt at peace with the decision.
Because Iíve been reading some message boards, and I think a lot of people thought Sanjaya was going to go home. Did you think that at all, or no?
B. Rogers: No. I think you get a feeling when itís about time for you to go. I messed up my words, and I hadnít created enough momentum musically to sustain a mistake like that.
So you werenít surprised you lost to Sanjaya.
B. Rogers: No. I didnít lose to anybody; I just got the least amount of votes.
You were talking about how you didnít get a chance to build up momentum, not forgetting words aside or included, what would you have done differently if you had to do this over again?
B. Rogers: If I had to do it over again, I would probably pick better songs that showed the range, and I think some of the bigger qualities of my voice. I think I would have done a better job of making myself stand out vocally, like I think a lot of people were waiting for me to do. I never quite did that. But, then again, I have no regrets. Just songs that I like and love to sing, but I didnít necessarily picked songs that showed up my voice as best as I could have.
Then I was wondering if you could shed some light, when Sanjaya left the stage last night, he almost seemed devastated, almost mortified, as he was walking off the stage. Is that just because he was sad to see you go? The expression on his face almost registered as, ďI canít believe I need to go through this another week.Ē Why do you think he looked the way he did?
B. Rogers: I actually have no idea. I just know I love the kid and heís a sweet guy. Weíve all grown every close to each other being on the show, so itís hard to see anybody leave. I think every week, thereís no mistake and thereís no confusion, as to why weíre all in tears. We generally care about each other, all of us, so I think itís rough to see anybody go. I canít tell you why he felt one way or the other because Iím not him, and I can only speak for myself.
What actually happened how you forgot the lyrics, what went in your mind, did it just blank or something, or what actually occurred on Tuesday?
B. Rogers: Itís actually kind of funny because I wish I could chalk it up to nerves, or pressure, or going first, as a lot of people speculated. But honestly, it was me having too good of a time. Honestly, I went out there and had a great time. I did my little dance, my little hip shimmy. And the crowd screamed, and that was the loudest the crowd has been that whole time in the competition, and I was like, ďWhoa, this is awesome. What the heck am I worth?Ē I completely lost the line and my mind went blank. I reverted to a different version of the song, and just paused and waited for my opportunity to jump back in. I did so as best as I could.
It wasnít an issue of rehearsal time? Did you feel like you had enough rehearsal time? Were you prepared ultimately?
B. Rogers: I prepared as best as I could as I did every week, and Ö We all have the same amount of time, so I canít complain about my mistake. It was my mistake, and Iím not going to pass it off over into anybody.
What is next for you?
B. Rogers: Hopefully, my slow but sure takeover of the world. Honestly, I feel like the sky is the limit for what is upcoming. This show can be such a good vehicle, Iím so proud to be in the top 12, and Iím hoping that I can use it to help kick start my career in music. This is what Iíve always wanted to do; Iím a career musician. But, of course, Iím always open to other things, such as acting and the like. Hopefully, Iíll get my hands around any opportunity that comes my way and make the best of it.
Would you ever go back to backup singing, or did this give you the confidence to seek a solo career?
B. Rogers: I think this gave me the confidence to seek a solo career. Iíve said this before, when youíre a little kid, you donít dream of being a background singer. Itís a great job and I love every second of doing it. But on the same page, Iíve always wanted to be on that big stage and to get a taste of that is a little too sweet to let that slip away and be relegated to the background once again. So Iím excited to continue going forward on the solo path.
Was your going first factor in how people voted, even if you were ready to perform?
B. Rogers: I think going first is a double-edged sword. It can be the best thing. If I would have went out there and knocked it out of the park and the judges had nothing but great things to say, then it would have been a great thing for me. But you canít go out there and forget your words in the first going, you just canít. Unless you have a huge fan base to be your parachute, then you canít survive stuff like that. I knew that when I made the mistake. Thatís probably one of the reasons why I was so at peace with being cut. I saw it coming.
Did any contestants support you in your dealing with forgetting the words?
B. Rogers: Everybody. Everybody was very supportive. Every single contestant came at me and told me how good I did, despite the mistake, and they appreciated the fact that I picked up. It could have been a disaster, but I tried to maintain as much as I could.
How was it working with Diana Ross? Did you find her advice helpful to you?
B. Rogers: It was fantastic. She is an absolute sweetheart, but incredibly intimidating, not by anything she said or does, but just by her presence. Just being in the presence of her made me so nervous. She basically told me about those nerves. She said her father told her when she was little, that nerves are the same as excitement. So Iím not nervous, itís just excitement. She told me to find my center and really concentrate on finding my peace in performance, and making sure that the nerves donít get a hold of me at the wrong time.
Do you think on your time on the show, that you were able to break out of the mold of the background singer?
B. Rogers: Actually, I think I was, more so than the judges would have implied. Everybody has their opinions and everything, but I really feel like, given the opportunity to not even tell anyone that I was a background singer, I wouldnít have gotten half the comments that I got.
I wanted to ask you, so far this season, the comment has been made by the judges several times about how this is really a singing contest, not a popularity contest. I wanted to know if you could comment on that and if you think that played to any degree into your being eliminated this week.
B. Rogers: You know what, I donít know if this is a singing contest or a popularity contest, or which one is more valid, but the factor of the matter is, itís a contest. By whatever means people decide to vote, whether itís on your voice, your looks, or whether they like you as a person, it has no bearing on the validity of the winner. It is what it is. We all knew this going into it. You just try to do your best on the show and hope that it works out for you, and hope that you can pick up some fans along the way that keep you going. I got all the way to our top 12, man, Iím pretty elated just to be there.
I hear you. You mentioned with the last caller about your history as a background singer. Iím wondering if you think that, given that you and Melinda have the background singer history, do you think that maybe that might have actually worked against you, and that the judges may have held you two to higher standards than the rest?
B. Rogers: It very well may have, but on the same page, look at Melinda. Sheís a background singer, too, and she stepped up to the occasion. Honestly, like I said earlier, I didnít choose songs that really allowed me to do that, like I think the judges and a lot of people thought that I was capable of doing, and that I think I was capable of doing. I didnít do that, so that was a failure on my part.
I donít know if it worked against me or not. I think my picking the wrong songs worked far more against me than anything to do with my background singing.
Listen, I know you guys do get really close, and Iím just curious. I noticed back when Leslie got eliminated, how upset Gina was. Can you tell me who your roommate was?
B. Rogers: My roommate for the most part of the show, it had been Phil. We changed locations and it had become Chris Sligh.
So you got to be really close with somebody youíre sharing a room with.
B. Rogers: Yes. You get really close. Phil and I have become close, and honestly, I had only been living with Sligh for a week, but Iíve been on the show with him for many weeks. So weíre all friends, and weíre all close, but it was just hard to see anybody go. I liken it to trying to pick your favorite sibling. Honestly, inside the Idol bubble, as they call it, youíre sort of closed off from the outside world. You donít get to see your family and you donít get to see your friends, so these people become your family and your friends.
I know that in the past five seasons, that only the top 10 have gone on tour. Do you think that ought to change and all of you go on the tour?
B. Rogers: Who knows? I sure hope so. People view the top 12 as a big deal apparently. And the fact that weíve all made it there, I think it would be great if we could all go on tour. But you know as the rules are, itís the top 10, and if that doesnít change, Iím completely okay with that. But if it does, Iíll be very happy.
Iím going to be attending my first Idol taping next week. I want to just get a feel for you on how intense that night is for the singers. Did that intensity affect you at all at any point?
B. Rogers: Which night, results night or performance night?
B. Rogers: Performance night is fun and no fun at the same time. We all love to perform. Thatís why weíre there, and we all love to sing. To the same page, none of us like to be judged, especially immediately following a performance. Now matter how good or bad you may think you have done, you donít enjoy standing there and being judged, so itís a mixed bag of excitement and anxiety.
How do you guys usually spend right before you take the stage? Are you all in a back room somewhere pacing or whatever?
B. Rogers: Thereís some pacing. Thereís some meditating. Thereís some jokes being told to lighten the mode. Really weíre just extremely supportive of each other. As much as nobody wants to go home, nobody wants anybody else to go home either. So weíre very supportive of each other and we want everybody to knock it out of the park every week. Because whoever wins, everybody wants to know that they win because they did a great job and not because somebody else did a bad job. Do you know what I mean?
What did you really learn the most from your experience being on Idol? Of course, youíre a background singer, so you have a lot of knowledge already. But what did you learn the most from your time on the show?
B. Rogers: What I learned the most is that no matter what people say in the press, or the judges, or whatever, I can take it, and Iím good enough to be out there. I just need to, every time I step on the stage, sing like itís my last moment. Every time I step on stage, whether Iím singing my music or someone elseís music, I need to bring it like it needs to be brought and take no excuses. Just to give it your all every time all the time. Thatís what I didnít do this show. I gave it my all with limits.
With being a background singer yourself, were you able to give advice to the other contestants about how to be confident and how to really bring their presence to the stage?
B. Rogers: I think my background in background singing really helped me to give a little perspective to some of the people at how great and grand this opportunity was, and how not to beat yourself up about this. Just go with the flow and have a good time on stage. Thatís the only thing that I could really help everybody with. Yes, itís easy to give advice; to apply it yourself is the tricky part.
I know youíve touched on this already. But the judges comments, the good and the bad, they usually go back to you being a background singer. Can you just bring down the pros and cons of coming into this competition with the label of background singer as something thatís part of you?
B. Rogers: The pros were that I come in with a story that can be interesting for people to tell, which could be interesting for people to want to root for me for. But on the con side, I have all of these expectations of what Iím going to sound like before I open my mouth. Just being judged before youíre judged is the downside. The perception that people may have that I have an unfair advantage or not, because itís just not true. Nobody has an unfair advantage over anyone. Weíre all just playing the game and trying to get to where we want to get the best way we know how.
One of Paulaís comments was that she didnít have to tell you what you did wrong, and you did many things right. Then it goes back to Sanjaya with his hair, the comments about the girlís outfits. So do you prefer, the contestants in general being up there? Do you prefer the judges to be brutally honest and focus on the performance or deflect the criticisms?
B. Rogers: I love the idea of there being three individual opinions up there. Iíve said it before, I do with sometimes that they would stay on point, as far as critique the performance, and critique the voice. Clothes and sometimes body type and body appearance, things that cannot be easily changed on a person should not be commented upon.
So you sang for Usher and Christina Aguilera and Anastasia and all of that. I was wondering. Have you heard from any of them or many of their people at any time during the competition?
B. Rogers: The only person I have heard from was Anastasia. Honestly, Iíve been singing with her the longest, and weíre the closest probably of all the people I worked for.
In one of your tape segments you said you sort of fell into it. How did that even come about?
B. Rogers: Fell into background singing?
B. Rogers: Strangely enough, I was working at Blockbuster Video and just met some people through a friend, and got recommended to audition for Anastasia. I went and auditioned for Anastasiaís musical director and they hired me. I got that gig and I had it for a couple of months. I went with Christina and ended up staying with Christina for a couple of years. When I left Christina, I went back with Anastasia, and then with Usher. In between, I did gigs here and there with Justin Timberlake and different artists.
It just sort of snowballed into this career. Thatís one of the reasons why I never had the opportunity really to pursue my solo career because Iíve been singing background so consistently, that you get used to a steady paycheck, and you really do have to take that time off and make those sacrifices to commit to being an artist.
How much time did you actually have with Diana Ross? Was it just what we saw on TV, like a few minutes that you sang for her?
B. Rogers: No. Of course, itís edited down because it was only a two-hour show. We went in. We met with her and we spoke with her, and we sang our song, and she commented. If it needed to be done again, then we did it again. If not, then she would make her comments and we would hug her and leave. It was really great. She was a really good mentor and Iím glad I stuck around long enough to have her as a mentor.
You made the comment before about when you forgot the words and you went into a different version of the song. Does having to do an abridged version of the songs sort of play a factor in this whole thing?
B. Rogers: Whether it does or whether it does not remains to be seen. But I donít want to use that an excuse for forgetting the words because everyone else on that stage had to do the same thing I did, and they didnít forget the words. Some people did, but as a rule, most people didnít forget the words and I did. I own that.
I realize the time constraints when you do the whole song, but would you have like to do the whole song as people know it, would it have made it easy for you in a way?
B. Rogers: It probably would have made it easier if there was only one version of the song, if you remember. But once again, everyone else was dealing with the same issues that I did. I just got jarred by the audience.
Who were you most looking forward to working with out of the people that are coming on the show?
B. Rogers: On upcoming shows?
B. Rogers: I was really looking forward to working with Tony Bennett.
What is it about him?
B. Rogers: In college, I was actually a jazz major. Heís been so prolific in the jazz community, and heís actually done stuff outside of the jazz world. Heís been around for so long, Iím sure heís got some great stories to tell and some great advice to give. Heís the coolest guy in showbiz.
First of all, the judges each week told you that you were choosing two in between songs, oneís that werenít showing you your range, and still this week you still chose kind of an in between song. Did you sense that you were maybe not following their advice, that you should have tried something a little more showing your voice off more?
B. Rogers: Every decision I made for song choice was based on what I felt. Sometimes you think youíre taking the judgesí advice into consideration, but youíre actually not. You canít predict what theyíre going to say, and what theyíre going to feel about your performance. I didnít feel like it was a safe song. I didnít feel like it was an in between song. I had fun with the song, and I thought it allowed me to show off my range, but apparently, it didnít.
The other thing I was going to say is usually when someone approaches someone, theyíre going to have a different approach. Someone would call here Diana, some would call her Ms. Ross, and some people would hug her and some would shake hands. But every single contestant called her Ms. Ross and everyone hugged her. Was something said to you guys ahead of time like, ďPlease refer to her as Ms. Ross,Ē or ďShe likes to hug,Ē or anything like that?
B. Rogers: No. Not at all. The thing about her is that when you meet Ms. Ross, you want to call her Ms. Ross. Sheís earned that. Sheís been in the business for 40 years. Sheís earned the right to be called Ms. Ross. No one had to tell us anything.
I know that you guys donít have that much interaction with the judges before the shows until youíre standing in front of them. But did they come up to you after the show and say anything to you, Simon, Randy, and Paula?
B. Rogers: They all came up to me after I got voted off the other day, and nothing, but positive stuff. They all told me it was my song choice and it was not my singing, and not my ability. Itís all about song choice. I didnít choose the right songs. And in retrospect being 20/20, hindsight rather, I know that to be true. I know I didnít pick songs that best displayed what I can do.
I had the luck of choosing a good song for the first audition, ďAlways on My Mind.Ē Honestly, maybe that was a bad song choice because it made them hold me to that standard, and I never quite lived up to it. That essentially is why I got sent home. I think it has very little to do with me forgetting the words.
My second question is, we know now that the theme next week is the British pop theme. Was there any particular song you would have loved to have sung in that genre, or do you think thatís going to be a really tough genre for the 11?
B. Rogers: I think itís going to be fantastic for everybody. I think itís going to be fun. I was going to sing, ďLighter Shade of Pale.Ē One of the best songs, a great melody, and that would have given me a chance to really show off.
Just going off the last question, since when you get songs you have to pick from an approved list, what song is your swan song that if you could have sang anything that would have blown us away, what would it have been?
B. Rogers: It would have been ďSong for YouĒ by Danny Hathaway.
Why do you love that song so much?
B. Rogers: When I do my live show, as Iíve done in the past at a few club dates here and there, I sit down and play that song on the piano and it always go over well and it always feels good singing it. Itís just got a great sentiment to it and a beautiful melody. I would have loved to have knocked that out of the park if I could.
Moderator: Do you have any final remarks, Brandon?
B. Rogers: No. I just want to thank everybody for taking the time to interview me. This has been a blast for me, and itís been a great experience to be a part of the American Idol experience. Iím hoping that thereís more to come from me. Iím going to do the best I can to do that.
Thank you to FOX for allowing us to participate in this Media Call.