Finding comfort on stage, and on tour

Jesse Roper shares lessons learned

A B.C.-born blues-rock musician is stopping by the River City to seek some thrills on the stage of The Blue Grotto — and it’ll be his first time playing the venue.

Jesse Roper was just six years old when he started playing guitar. He remembers watching his father and brother play old fiddle tunes on the family’s front porch until he was curious enough to try it himself. He held down the chords while dad did the strumming.

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Despite the early start, Roper, now 36, didn’t produce an album until 2012, with The Roper Show EP.

Like his father, despite his talent, he hesitated to take the stage.

“I’ve tried to get my dad on stage so many times. He’s chicken. I was chicken, too,” Roper said.

He said he’s still nervous to take the stage, but what he gets out of it makes it all worth it.

“By the end of most shows, I come off feeling the best I possibly can in life,” he told KTW.

A native of Metchosin, a rural community near Victoria, Roper started out at open mics, often playing tunes from blues greats like Stevie Ray Vaughan.

When Roper started writing his own songs, he found he enjoyed the experience even more — he even calls it an addiction.

That addiction has led to three full-length albums and an EP. His latest, Access to Infinity, was released in February.

It’s also put him on the road for shows across Canada. His current tour has 21 stops between here and Niagara Falls, where he’ll wrap things up on Nov. 16.

Roper has learned a thing or two on the road over the years. First off, keep the band happy.

“Couches are OK for me, but the band is not so into that,” he said. “I’m the least high maintenance in this band. I don’t know — I just don’t need much.

“Take care of the band so they don’t get grumpy — oh, and know where the late night food spots are.”

He’ll put those lessons to use when he stops at Kamloops for a show at The Blue Grotto, 319 Victoria St., on Wednesday, Oct. 17. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the music starts at 8 p.m. Tickets are available online at kamtix.ca.

On the western leg of the tour, Roper will be joined by openers Band of Rascals, who call themselves a “nuts and bolts” rock ‘n’ roll band from Victoria.

It’s not the first time they’ve toured with Roper.

“That may be what I’m most excited for — touring with the Rascals again,” he said.

Roper and the Rascals met years ago at a show in Victoria he was headlining.

“I’d never heard of them. They showed up to do sound check and I really liked them right off the bat,” he said.

Roper later made his case to his management that the Rascals would be ideal for a touring partner and got them on board. They toured together and later went their separate ways. Roper didn’t expect to tour with them again.

“Our careers are sort of on different paths now. It’ll be a lot of fun. They’re just great guys to tour with — and my drummer loves them, too, because they help him pack up his kit, and that’s his biggest complaint,” he said.

It’s not just the thrills of the stage that get Roper going.

There’s a lot of excitement in his garden, too, and he lets fans know about it with a surprisingly popular video series he posts on social media called What’s in my Garden, Man.

It turns out that series has its origins in the blues, too.

“The first little episode — the reason I did it was I was heartbroken. I had just got home from tour, my girl had just broken up with me and I was in an atrocious state of mind,” he said.

“I threw it on social media and forgot about it. And then I check it later that night and I was stunned by how many comments I got on this little clip. I said, well, let’s do another one,” he said.

The series focuses on a different garden element each week, but the star is Roper’s excitement for what’s popping out of the ground.

“Music is obviously number one, but I am going to start a YouTube channel for it,” he said.

“People love it. Management doesn’t. But I don’t care.”

© 2018 Kamloops This Week

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