Like many artists, musician Madeleine Roger took a while to find her footing. She was raised on the edge of Charleswood, just across the road from the Trans Canada Trail.
“We were always listening to music,” Roger says. For many years, her dad operated a recording studio out of her house, yet Roger says she was definitely going to be an actor. She trained as one at Manitoba Theatre for Young People and switched from École Dieppe to Grant Park High School to attend its respected theatre program.
After starting an honours acting degree at the University of Winnipeg (U of W), she took eight months off to travel. She brought a mandolin with her and started writing songs in hostel rooms in Europe. When she returned to the U of W, she still enjoyed her courses but dreamt of writing songs, jotting down ideas in the margins.
“I was yearning for time on my own, to really explore this other form of storytelling that I was deeply curious about,” Roger says. “That whole year was agonizing, because so much of my identity was wrapped in theatre, and I had been working my whole life towards working professionally in theatre. I realized I was going to have to drop out.”
After meeting with her supportive professors, Roger took the year off to work as a nanny and focus on writing songs. While building up an extensive catalogue, Roger was still precious with her music, only playing when she thought no one else was home. One day, her twin brother, Lucas, who was already a professional musician, heard her playing downstairs from his bedroom.
“He convinced me that (the songs) didn’t suck and that we should do a show together,” she says. “Right away, we realized it was a good fit, us playing together, so we decided on the band name Roger Roger.”
Roger Roger released their first album in January 2016. At that point, she had only been playing guitar for four years and writing songs for two, but it became her sole form of employment. During its run, the band toured Europe and played the Winnipeg Folk Festival mainstage. After a few years, she started to write songs that weren’t a fit for them to play together, and he found that he didn’t enjoy the lifestyle of touring as much as he used to.
“We had a really awesome run, and because we knew it was coming to a close, we were also just really, really grateful for the amazing opportunities we had in such a short amount of time. It was really special that we could build a great little band as a brother-sister duo and still really like each other at the end of it,” Roger says.
She launched her first solo album in 2018 and spent 2018 and 2019 touring the album. Her plans for 2020 included recording her follow-up album and touring the United States. While the COVID-19 pandemic led to cancelled plans, she is grateful for the time to slow down, as she was overworked, and the time to write new songs. In the year ahead, she plans to record her next album and do a backyard house-concert tour in Western Canada.
Find Madeleine Roger and Roger Roger’s catalogue of music on all streaming platforms.
Published in Volume 75, Number 21 of The Uniter (March 10, 2021)