An interview with R&B & Pop singer Roger Ortega
With earphones on and cassette in my yellow Sony walkman, I press play. The music starts and I hear the following lyrics (I won’t let you down, I will not give you up, Gotta have some faith in the sound, It’s the one good thing that I’ve got…) I smile and reflect on my favourite singer growing up. Today on What On What’s Good, I’m here with R&B/Pop recording artist Roger Ortega. He is a huge fan of George Micheal. Hence why I thought it would be fun to start the interview this way. In our #cinqque5tion interview, we discuss his musical background, influences, 90s music, his debut album ‘RnBPopWrytr’, the RO/Experie3nce Cruise, and his latest singles ‘Last Christmas’, ‘Goodbye to Summer’ and ‘Better than Coffee’.
1. When did you know you wanted to get into music?
I come from a very musical family. My grandfather was in a band, my dad and uncles followed suit and even uncles on my mom’s side played instruments. So as far back as I can remember I wanted to be a singer.
2. How would you describe your voice?
Soft with a light tamber. I’m actually most comfortable singing in my falsetto.
3. I heard some of your favorite musicians include George Michael and New Kids on the Block. Are there any others?
Several. I was heavily influenced by the 90’s R&B groups and songwriters. I’d say groups like Color Me Badd, Boyz II Men help mold me into an R&B/Pop singer. Groups like ‘NSync & Backstreet Boys as well. I was also influenced by the songwriters of that era as well, Babyface, Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, Teddy Riley.
Those guys all wrote hits that will stand the test of time. Growing up in Kansas, I can honestly say I was also influenced by a lot of 90’s country artists. Garth Brooks, Faith Hill, Keith Whitley, George Strait and so many more.
4. Do you have any favorite songs from these artists?
With George Michael I have several but if I had to pick one it’d be two of them. “Careless Whisper” would be 1 because he wrote that amazing sax solo when he was just 17. The other would be a duet he did with Aretha Franklin called “I Knew You Were Waitin”. If I had to pick from Color Me Badd it would be the lesser-known “Remember When”. The way Bryan the lead singer sings it is so powerful, raw, and full of emotion. Boyz II Men would be Water Runs Dry. I could go on and on about every single group or singer I previously mentioned so for the sake of the reader I’ll stop right here.
5. Can we discuss your pop group when you were 14?
Aside from my life now, being in my groups was the closest to heaven I’d ever been. These guys were and still are my best friends. I started a group called The Mex-Mix with my cousin and a friend. Now we weren’t very good but we were just some cute kids doing something positive. Ultimately my dream wasn’t their dream and they departed as I brought in new members. We changed members a few times until we had the right chemistry as friends and performers. The Mex-Mix ultimately became the R&B/Pop group Slo Motion. Slo Motion became the launching pad for so many of the opportunities that put me where I am now. What’s funny is I always felt I was the weakest singer in that group. One of the guys, Eurvin Williams, has always said ‘man I always knew if anyone was gonna continue doing music and make it it would be you.’ He and my friend Adrian Mosqueda from The Mex-Mix said they always recognized a drive in me that others simply didn’t have.
6. Did you get any advice from other artists
As far as artists & people we met we opened up for several 90’s R&B artists and as luck would have it, we’d do several shows with my favorite group Color Me Badd. We became pretty good friends with those guys and got lots of great advice from them as well. KT in particular took a great liking to us and would come to our place and stay with us. He’d help us with our choreography, showmanship, singing, and songwriting. There’s actually a REALLY bad recording of a REALLY 90’s song that we wrote with him and recorded at 2 am in the morning called ‘Freakstyle Lovin’. I did the music and had a hook and KT and Slo Motion helped me write the rest. That song may never see the light of day but damn now I wanna go find it and listen to it.
7. A game I like to call ‘Walk us through your debut’. Can you describe the process of creating your debut album ‘RnBPopWrytr’?
Low budget. Haha! My producer for most of that album, Edson Sean, was really just getting back into music as well. I worked with him on The Lottery album as well and several singles, with plans to do a lot more. I love working with him because we’ve worked together so much that he knows how to get the best out of me. The process of making my debut album ‘RnBPoPWrytr’ was my first attempt and experience as a solo recording artist.
With my background being in an R&B/Pop group harmonies were very (and still are) very important to me. It was interesting to have my light tone trying to cover all the parts from lead to bass. But I discovered I have a wider range than I knew. I eventually learned to round out those tones to make it sound more full.
8. Any fun behind-the-scenes stories?
The funniest story to me is kind of a weird one. I had a high school sweetheart that I wasn’t very “sweet” too. Beautiful girl. But being in a “boy band” at such a young age I wasn’t ready for a long term relationship. Shows + music + the road, you do the math. She didn’t talk to me for years. As I was in the recording booth recording one of my favorite songs on the album I got an email alert. When I saw it was from her my heart stopped. Mind you I’m married and had been married at least 3 years at that point. But this was such an unexpected event that she would reach out.
I had to stop the session and sit down for a few minutes before I opened it. What could she possibly have to say after all these years of not speaking to me? I finally opened it and much to her credit she wanted to tell me she’d done a lot of growing up and didn’t want to harbor any ill will towards me. She understood we were kids. She also wanted to say she was proud that I’d continued on my musical journey. It was like I could finally put closure on that part of my life. We’re still friends. We chat occasionally online.
There are so many memories I have of making the ‘RnBPoPWrytr’ album but that might be the one that hit me the most. Geez, I’m sharing quite a bit here haha!
9. Performing on a cruise must be a unique experience. Any fun stories or moments from the RO/Experie3nce Cruise?
Well, the funniest moment may not be so funny to a lot of people. I’ll give you the short version. But the night we left NYC we had a party in the lounge. My DJ, DJ JRoc, had just finished performing. It was around midnight. I knew I had a show the next night so I didn’t want to put too much pressure on my voice so I headed to my cabin. Shortly after I got to my room I noticed the ship leaning.
A few things started to slide on my desk. I pulled out my phone to video a little for my fans. As soon as I did that EVERYTHING slid off and crashed on the floor. The ship tilted and stayed in a tilt for 2-3 minutes. According to my team, people were sliding across the dance floor like something out of the movie Titanic. It was a pretty scary event. Luckily none of my beautiful fans or my team were hurt in the event. This happened around midnight. I got up to go workout at 5 am.
To Norwegians credit, you’d have never known tables, chairs, glasses had crashed all over the ship. They cleaned it up extremely well and so quickly. I guess a sustained wind of 125mph or so had just broadsided the ship out of the blue.
The rest was drinks, facetime, concerts and lots of laughs with my RoRo’s! I’m so sad we had to cancel the second cruise but I’ll def be working on another well-deserved vacation for my hardworking fans.
10. Can you describe your latest singles?
With Last Christmas, it hit me when I was in my car. I was putting together a show that I was doing in Kansas around Christmas of 2018. Last Christmas is my favorite Christmas song of all time. Again with George Michael haha! But I never felt any of the remakes did it justice. It’s a campy song but the message is really melancholy. As I was in the car I somehow came across a slowed-down version. I decided to add Last Christmas to my show.
After learning to sing it the way I wanted to, I knew I wanted to record it but it was too late to release in Christmas of 2018. So as soon as the holidays were over I scheduled studio time with a producer to producer and record it. So I sat on it for months until I released it in 2019. It may be one of my favorite recordings of my voice.
Official Music Video – Last Christmas – Roger Ortega
‘Goodbye to Summer’
Goodbye To Summer was actually written entirely in my head on a flight to Mexico with my wife. The song was born out of me wondering how many summers my wife and I had together. Though the song on the surface is about summer love it’s actually written from an artist’s point of view to their fans about the summer tours. Fans are always so sad when summer tours end but in the song, the artist is saying ‘hey how many nights did you miss me? Always find my way back.’ Essentially saying how many times have we said Goodbye To Summer yet we always get back together the next year. I LOVE performing Goodbye to Summer. I threw a nod to Hip Hop Hooray by my friends in Naughty By Nature by utilizing some Hey’s & Ho’s in the chorus. We bring out the beach balls and just go all-in on this one live.
Music Video – Goodbye to Summer – Roger Ortega
‘Better than Coffee’
Better Than Coffee was actually spawned by my workouts. I don’t drink coffee. But I workout every day and one day my wife was like how are you so awake after your early workouts. I said it’s better than coffee. Immediately it hit me that it was a great title for a song. But I didn’t want to write it about working out. So I wrote it from another thing that’s better than coffee for me. 😉 Won’t spell it out here, but you can listen to the song on Spotify and hear for yourself. I really like Better than Coffee because it was more R&B than anything I’ve released recently. I wrote & recorded Better than Coffee with the Rezza brothers up in Canada. Great track!