Category Archives: singer-songwriter

2017 Year-in-Review Addendum

I don’t only work on music during the year.  So here’s some other highlights of my 2017:

New great songwriter discovered in 2017:
Rachel Sermanni

Movies I enjoyed in 2017:
Eyes on the Prize:  America’s Civil Rights Years (documentary)
Maggie’s Plan
The Cotton Club
The Train
Merchant’s of Doubt (documentary)
A Most Wanted Man
The Wind that Shakes the Barley
Jimmy’s Hall
I am Sam
Muscle Shoals
The Lady in the Van
Steve Jobs:  The Man in the Machine (documentary)

Books I enjoyed in 2017:
Chrissie Hynde, Reckless: My Life as a Pretender
Johnny Marr, Set the Boy Free: The Autobiography
John Lydon, Anger is an Energy:  My Life Uncensored
Ryan White, Jimmy Buffett:  A Good Life all the Way
Willie Nelson, Willie:  An Autobiography
Edward Abbey, The Monkey Wrench Gang
James C. Cobb, The Most Southern Place on Earth: The Mississippi Delta and the Roots of Regional Identity
John Dittmer, Local People: The Struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi
Charles Gati, Failed Illusions: Moscow, Washington, Budapest, and the 1956 Hungarian Revolt
Gary Webb, Dark Alliance: Movie Tie-In Edition: The CIA, the Contras, and the Cocaine Explosion
Fred Halstead, Out Now; A Participant’s Account of the American Movement Against the Vietnam War
Howard Weir III, A Paradise of Blood: The Creek War of 1813–14
James Howard Kunstler, The Geography of Nowhere: The Rise and Decline of America’s Man-Made Landscape
Andres Duany et al, Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream 

Also I made some new friends, rediscovered an old friend from college, and further developed my friendship with people I met in 2016 or earlier.  I didn’t realize what a good year it was until I typed this up!


I Didn’t Believe (new song)

by Rob Roper  2nd Draft  July 31, 2014

It was a beautiful day
not a cloud in sight
when a guy with a cellphone
ran a redlight

Everything went black
and then it went white
I saw the gates of heaven
coming into sight

The angels came to get me
and led me through the gate
I was scared to death
of what would be my fate

I walked the streets of gold
up in the cloud
and there He stood
tall and proud


As soon as I saw Him
I fell down on my knees
I said, “Lord, have mercy
I didn’t believe.”

He said, “Don’t worry, son
It’s the believers who are screwed
they way they behave
I’d be an atheist, too.”

“Killing in my name
waging bloody wars
and all their church services
are such a bloody bore”

“You’ll see your fellow atheists
up here as well
while all the true believers
are burning down in hell.”


I asked, “What about your son
that you sent down to earth?
The one called Jesus
he of virgin birth?”

He said, “that’s the worst thing about
the Christians’ game
They ignore his teachings
but worship his name.”

“They think that they’re saved
just ’cause they believe
and that gives them the right to do
anything they please”

“But all their worship
that’s just kissing ass
It ain’t what you say
It’s how you act.”


He said, “I’ll see you later
here comes another crew
I’ve got to damn ten Christians
Three Muslims and a Jew.”

“So grab a harp
and have a glass of wine
you can jam with the angels
until the end of time.”

I stood there in wonder
at this glorious scene
and thanked the good Lord
I didn’t believe

Flower Killers and Poster Killers

I’m sad today.

I don’t enjoy going around and putting up posters and flyers for gigs. I doubt if anyone does. I’d much rather be home creating new music, or practicing, or, for that matter, watching a movie or reading a book. But until you’re big enough to hire your own publicity department or have a street team, you have to hit the streets yourself. Every band and singer-songwriter just starting out has to do it. So I’m not complaining. It’s like cleaning the house, you don’t like it but you have to do it.

This weekend is the Denver Post Underground Music Showcase. 200 bands playing various venues on S. Broadway in Denver. I have a gig the following weekend. So I figured that was the perfect place to advertise my show. Thousands of lovers of original independent music will be there.

A few months ago I paid a graphics artist to design to generic posters with a blank space where I can just fill in the specifics for each gig. So Wednesday night I got out my sharpies and made up several posters for my gig, then headed down to South Broadway and spent a couple hours putting them up in the showcase area.

Then Thursday night I went to down to the festival. However, I found that every single one of my posters had been torn down. Not a single one was up. They didn’t even last 24 hours.

Who tore them down?

The event organizers? Were they paranoid that I was competing with them? If so, they didn’t read the date on the poster. My gig is a week after the Showcase ends. And it seems laughable that they would feel threatened by little ol’ me. Afterall, I’m not big enough for them to invite me to perform at the Showcase (and probably justifiably so)–at least this year. So surely they wouldn’t they waste their time tearing down my posters. Would they?

Was it other bands or singer-songwriters? I hope not. Most of the folks I have met in the music community here have a cooperative and supportive attitude.

Was it the police? Perhaps there’s an ordinance against putting posters on light poles? If so, boy, they sure acted quick. When I’ve called the police to complain about the lack of enforcement of dangerous drivers running red lights, I’m told they don’t have the “resources” to enforce those laws. Perhaps posters on light poles is a higher law-enforcement priority than running red lights and other illegal activity that threatens public safety? I hope not.

Perhaps it was a random citizen who didn’t like my poster? Perhaps they thought my ugly face was defacing the beautiful dark green metal light pole? Art, of course, is subjective.

Or perhaps it was just someone has a lot of rage inside them, for whatever reasons–justified or not–who took out their anger by ripping down my posters?

I paid Kinko’s $1.50 each to print the posters that nobody will see. And I spent two hours of my life putting them up. So all that money and time is down the drain. But that’s not what bothers me the most.

The day before, I noticed that a flower was missing from my flower bed along the front sidewalk. Someone had ripped it right out the ground, roots and all. It was the only one of its type. I planted it last summer. At the beginning of this summer, it didn’t show much signs of life. I worried that it didn’t survive the winter. But then it produced one beautiful, yellow flower. It survived! Now it’s gone. What kind of person rips flowers up? Perhaps the same type of person who rips music posters down?

So I’m a little depressed today. I guess I’m overly sensitive. But it saddens me to know that there are people in the world who would rip a flower out of someone’s flower bed. And it saddens me to know that there are people who would rip down a poster for a struggling independent musician just trying to reach a few people with his music.


Friends and Fans

It’s been about 3 years since I started playing out as a solo acoustic performer playing my own songs. I’ve noticed an interesting phenomena, which probably applies to bands also (none of the bands I was in before I starting songwriting lasted long enough for me to notice this phenomena).

At your first gig, or rather your first few gigs, of course you have no fans yet, so you invite your friends, family members and co-workers. You have a good turnout, because of the curiosity factor– the “I didn’t know you played music!” factor. But then once their curiosity is satisfied, they stop coming to shows, unless they really like your music; that is, they have become fans. Your closest friends may continue to come to shows for awhile longer, just to support you, but eventually unless they also become fans, you’ll see less and less of them.

This can be discouraging. At your first shows you’ve got 10 or 15 people, now a year later, even though you’re a better songwriter, a better singer, a better performer overall, only one or two people are showing up.

So once you’ve passed Stage 1; that is, after you’ve exhausted the pool of friends, family members and co-workers, the question becomes: how to you get actual fans? People who come not to “support” you, but because they love seeing you perform and hearing your music.

Ah, if I only knew the answer to that problem. I’d be interested in hearing how other singer-songwriters and bands have made this transition.


A singer-songwriter has 4 jobs

It’s not just singer-songwriter; it’s not just two things. It’s four:

1. composer of music
2. lyricist
3. musician (guitar and/or piano, or whatever you perform with)
4. singer

In the “old days”, one person composed the music, another person composed the lyrics, a band of professional musicians played the music, and the singer sang. Sometimes it’s still done that way today. Singer-songwriters are trying to do the jobs of 4 people. No wonder this is so hard. I’m not whining or complaining; I love it. But it explains why it’s so difficult to be good at all 4 things (see my previous blog, “3 Types of Songwriters).

I began as a guitar player. Then I took singing lessons. Then learned how to write songs. Others do it in a different order.

I took piano lessons a few years ago, and took more last year. But my focus for the last 5 years has been songwriting (music and lyric composition). As a result, I’m starting to feel more confident in my songwriting. So now I’m taking singing lessons again, because I think that’s my main weakness.

I’ve got 4 jobs. Not counting my paying job.

When I look at it that way, I don’t call myself lazy anymore.