ARTIST SPOTLIGHTS: Alex Smith, The Rogue Electrics, Emily Zimmer

Singer-songwriter Emily Zimmer hosted her “Seasons of Trouble” album release party at Quarters Friday night, sharing the stage with fellow singer-songwriter Alex Smith and The Rogue Electrics. The show also had a raffle benefiting the Riverwest Food Pantry, featuring prizes ranging from a merch package to a bottle of Jack Daniels.

Alex Smith is a guitarist based in Waukesha; he has a Music degree from Columbia College in Chicago. His inception into the local music scene was going to blues jams as a teenager in the 2000’s. He released two records last year, the latter of which was a funk-jazz album titled “Grey Space” – he gives the story.

“I went out to Namm in Anaheim one January; it’s a big music expo where all the companies showcase the new products for the year and the stores get to demo everything. I had been studying guitar with some different schools of musicians, like progressive styles. That led me to this guy Tony McAlpine, who comes from the Steve Vai and Frank Zappa school, and I went and saw him here in Milwaukee one night. The bass player was this real cool guy I talked to after the gig and I asked him if I could take some lessons with him and just pick his brain. His name is Pete Griffin, and he’s from a different school of thought than the blues world…he lives out in Burbank, CA. The drummer I met through the gateway into all this; this girl Nili Brosh played a show and she blew my mind too…which led me to her brother Ethan…and then I met the drummer Dan Whitley…and I told them I’d love to record with them and they were down to do it. So I booked three full days in the studio and said we’d make whatever we could come up with. The first morning I was vomiting blood and Dan took me to the hospital; I spent the first two of those three days there and I had three stomach ulcers that I didn’t know about. We only ended up having half a day – like four hours – and Dan and Pete just became total rockstars and showed me an idea that they nailed in just a few takes. So I had the bass and drum tracks, and I think it took me two or three years, and then during COVID I really focused on experimenting and rearranging and learning Pro Tools.”

He’s incorporated visuals into his live set as well.

“That’s been encouraged by a great friend and big brother of mine in Decatur, IL. He’s got a pizza place called Donnie’s Pizza, and he’s a big Deadhead, and I just saw my first Grateful Dead show at Wrigley Field a couple weeks ago. He was always telling me that I could put together something cool, so I decided to try it for more sensory stimulation in my shows.”

Smith shares what he’s working on now.

“I’m working on new music and new ideas, especially songs with more vocals. I’ve always had a strong foundation in the blues community, and then COVID hit and now I’m thinking about how I can combine everything and still sell it.”

The Rogue Electrics are a blues-classic rock band consisting of vocalist/guitarist/keyboardist Kyle Rogahn, lead guitarist Kyle Stair, bassist Nick Vanderlinde, and drummer Mike LaPlant. They’ve been playing out shows since 2017 and are named after a play on Rogahn’s last name combined with his family’s electrical business. Their sophomore album “Strangers in the Moment” came out earlier this year in May; Rogahn shares what went into it.

“I had a large backlog of songs and I brought them to the guys. Our first record was very alternative rock influenced; this one we went more towards the 70’s sound with classic rock riffs and keyboards. That kind of sound is what made us all want to become musicians, so if we could do stuff like that it’d feel really good. The title just kind of came to me because it’s really hard to break into the music scene to be honest. I didn’t realize the hills we’d have to climb when we first started; I knew it’d be tough and hard work but we’ve been doing this four years and sometimes I feel like we’re still relatively unknown. The idea of “Strangers in the Moment” was like, if we get the moment, we will show that we belong and that we’re going to contribute to the culture. That’s what it’s really about.”

He shares what the band is currently focusing on.

“We’re just trying to get our live set in tip-top shape. Our next goal is just getting out of town more. We’ve had a few out-of-town shows but we’ve mostly been a Milwaukee area band, but we’re so proud of this album that we want to get this music to other people, so we’re trying to become more of a regional band. We’re actually learning more classic rock covers to really hammer our influences home with people. Some of these songs on our album are actually tough to perform because we did a lot of layering, so we’re still nailing down playing them really well.”

The Rogue Electrics are playing in Lake Mills on October 24th at The Pyramid.

Emily Zimmer is currently playing with bassist Ben Titus and drummer Mike LaPlant. She’s been performing since the early 2000’s and previously had a band The Zimmer Effect before dissolving this past year.

“The music industry is so different from what it was when I started. There were more reasons to stick together with the same group of people and that would be your baby, like your project together. And that’s not to say that it’s negative that that doesn’t happen as much anymore; it just doesn’t happen as much. Maybe it’s my age too; I’m pushing forty and a lot of the musicians I work with are as well. People have priorities and can’t be as dedicated to one specific thing as their main thing anymore. Gigs are different; I’ve kind of done whatever I’ve wanted with solo gigs but I can get gigs now that pay a decent amount enough where I can pay a band. When it’s a full band setting and I can compensate my people, it’s not because I’m in it for the money but this *is* my career, so to an extent that is important. Then I’m very easily able to find musicians, and it’s worthwhile for them to do their job and do it right.”

Her debut solo album “Seasons of Trouble” just came out yesterday.

“I wanted the sound to be a little more consistently united from song to song, whether it’s the same guitar tones throughout or the same lyrical sentiments. I just thought that those songs matched better than any album I’ve ever made as the frontperson of a project. I also wanted to try a couple of the softer tunes. It was the thick of the beginning of COVID, and I just wanted to sit in my studio by myself and feel the feelings I didn’t have time to feel otherwise. The title originally came from one of my songs “Blessings and Curses” and that song is about my 20’s primarily. It’s weird when you’ve been trying to be a musician since you were seventeen like I have, you go through a lot of different phases stylistically as a person. The music industry and the way recording works went through a lot of different phases too. I felt like my 20’s and the bands that I was in and the crazy shit that we did and the questionable tours we went on were a “season,” or “several seasons.” I’ve been in this transition into the new one for a long time, and maybe the whole world is in a new “season,” and the “trouble” part feeds into that too.”

She shares what she’s focusing on now that the record is out.

“I’m starting to book winter and spring gigs, and work the streaming circuit for a while. I plan to make a record with one of the artists I’ve worked with in the past; I won’t say who yet, but she’s a very good singer-songwriter. We’ve already sent each other ideas so I guess I’m onto the next record.”

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