After Cee Lo Green took him under his wing during season two of The Voice, semifinalist Jamar Rogers is ready to fly high. But don’t expect any soft rock classics like what he sang while on the show – instead, his coach is one of the few championing the hybrid genre he one day hopes to conquer.
“I’m not trying to be a pop star, I’m too old for that sh--,” Rogers tells The Hollywood Reporter. “Before I sell out and do music that I really don’t believe in, I’d rather just have mediocre sales and do what I love for the rest of my life. That’s what I learned from Cee Lo -- if you’re willing to stick to your guns and be as creative as possible, people can’t help but fall in love with your art and your craft. He’s so weird, and we love it!”
Though he caught America’s attention by singing covers of Bon Jovi, Foreigner and Lenny Kravitz while in the competition, Rogers describes the sound of his upcoming EP as electronic soul, blended with beats of dance and dubstep -- “a cross between Depeche Mode and Sam Cooke” with some Otis Redding and, of course, Green. It’s a musical melting pot he’s always pursued, but kept it under wraps while on the show last season.
“I didn’t get to pick not one song! Not one!” Rogers says. “I’m not gonna say I fought Cee Lo, but I definitely raised concerns on every song he picked for me. I didn’t want to confuse the American public; I knew all along that I wanted to make really funky electronic music, and I wasn’t getting those songs."
Yet Green pushed Rogers beyond his comfort zone on The Voice stage, and continues to do so as the former contestant finishes his upcoming EP, due out in spring 2013. He regularly sends drafts of new lyrics to his coach for feedback.
“When the show was first over, there wasn’t a week that went by where he didn’t text me, call me, email me, just to see how I was doing,” Rogers says. “I can always tell when he doesn’t like something because he won’t really say too much about it. I really respect his honesty; he said that he was going to help out and be a part of my life, and that hasn’t changed, it really hasn’t."
The NBC reality coach recently took the stage with teammates from all three seasons for Cee Lo’s Magic Moment holiday special, which aired on the TV Guide Channel on Friday, Nov. 30. Green was also joined by Rod Stewart, Eric Benet and Disney's The Muppets.
Coinciding with World AIDS Day on Dec. 1, Rogers releases his new single “High,” inspired by his own struggles. The New Orleans native became addicted to crystal meth at 18 years old, and contracted HIV as a result of his substance abuse. He first penned “High” three years ago and has been performing the song at shows since wrapping season two of The Voice.
“It’s just me sharing my heart, my own struggles with drug addiction, and replacing that addiction with love,” Rogers explains. “I just think it’s really relatable, even for people that never struggled with drug addiction. We all have a vice of some sort, we all want to escape. I just want to let people know that there’s always a way out; this is a non-cheesy way of saying that.”
Though Rogers swore off drugs six years ago since receiving his diagnosis, he remained mum about the topic until a year before trying his hand at the The Voice (he auditioned for seasons eight and nine of American Idol without disclosing his health status, reports the New York Post). Thankfully, another reality star intervened: Mondo Guerra revealed that he had been living with HIV for 10 years during an episode of Lifetime’s Project Runway.
“I don’t even watch Project Runway; I just happened to be over at a little house gathering and it was on. And I heard this voice inside me say, ‘It’s time.’ I knew exactly what it was time to do: it was time to talk about it. I fought it for weeks; I was like, ‘No, I’m just gonna go on this show, I’m just gonna sing my ass off, I’m gonna meet Cee Lo.'"
Rogers first shared his story on television when Carson Daly surprised him in New York with an invitation to the Blind Auditions in Los Angeles. Since then, he’s been part of national HIV-awareness campaigns for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Lifebeat.org’s Music Fights HIV/AID, and is set to join efforts with Johnson & Johnson later this month.
“I remember the first time I actually said it on camera -- I lost sleep, I wasn’t eating, I had certain family members that didn’t even know until they found out by watching TV,” he says.
He added: “You have to understand, if I’m just trying to be famous for the sake of being famous, then there’s nothing to stop me from going back into drugs and alcohol, and just being crazy. But if I feel like I have a purpose – and that purpose is to reach as many people as possible and to encourage them, then I’ll talk about whatever. I’ll talk about anything.”
“High” is set for release on iTunes on Dec. 4.