Sarah Rogo has long blond hair, loves to surf and play the blues on her National guitars. While she may look and sound like your prototypical Southern Californian, the 25-year-old singer, guitarist and songwriter was born in New England. She moved to the seaside beach town of Encinitas, CA, less than two years ago, and has taken the local San Diego music scene by storm.
“Everyone in my family has always known California was my home,” she says. “Ever since I was a young girl, I’ve dreamt of being a surfer.”
A nominee for Best Singer-Songwriter at the 2017 San Diego Music Awards, Rogo first picked up a guitar at 13 as a way of performing the songs she’d already written. A self-proclaimed band nerd, she played saxophone, bassoon and clarinet and conducted the school marching band.
Growing up, Sarah spent hours listening to music in the local public library, where her tastes ran from klezmer and Middle Eastern sounds to a 1991 live album recorded by Buddy Guy and Junior Wells, Alone and Acoustic, which changed her life.
“The whole thing is in the key of E and you just know they’re making up the words as they go along, but it totally captivated me,” she enthuses. “That’s the kindof music I wanted to play. I knew the blues had to come from the soul. That’s what made it so magical, what moved me, that authenticity, the mojo, even though I had no idea what those words meant until later. The blues just overwhelmed me.”
Rogo apprenticed and performed with local Boston musicians, guitarist Paul Rishell, who once played with Son House, and world-class harp player Annie Raines, along with acoustic country-blues guitarist Woody Mann, a former student of the legendary Reverend Gary Davis. They introduced her to artists like Blind Willie Johnson, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Bessie Smith, Memphis Minnie, Led Zeppelin and the bottle neck slide on the National Resonator Guitar – for which she’s since become a spokesperson — then took her out with them on tour to Arkansas and Mississippi.
Sarah proved an apt performer, and before long, she was writing songs in the vein of those whose music she idolized, evoking such contemporary singer-songwriters as Bonnie Raitt, Rory Block, Eva Cassidy and folk rockers Dawes.
“The common thread in my writing is the dance between dark and light. I’ve learned to dance with my demons in a healthy way. Life is inherently hard and the blues has taught me how to navigate hardship and guide me into balance. In a nutshell, blues is the yin and yang and I take refuge in that. It’s a meditation and a prayer… it’s a wish, a hope.”
That’s reflected in Rogo’s joyful and spunky performances on-stage, where her energy is contagious. She takes her inspiration from nature and the nearby ocean, always writing outdoors, where inspiration can strike at any moment, and usually does. “I’m fueled by nature. When I’m writing or wandering the woods or the beach I can hear the whisperings of my heart. There are melodies in nature and I scoop them up and take them home.”
An eager student of the industry, Rogo met her current manager, veteran Mike Lembo, at the Durango Songwriter Expo in Ventura, CA, where they had an immediate connection.
“Sarah’s fearless and talented, and I was drawn to her personality without even hearing her play,” said Lembo. “When I heard her sing and play guitar, I recognized an old soul, someone who can not only become a successful artist, but a world-class surfer as well. Sarah has what it takes to make it, and I’m looking forward to working with her on doing just that.”
Rogo is currently writing the songs for what will be a proper debut album, working with possible collaborators and auditioning producers. She’s paid her dues and is ready to ride the wave into a promising, exciting future.
“I just want to learn and have fun with new people in new places. I live to perform and collect stories” she says. “I want to dive right in and fearlessly be myself in this giant shark tank known as the music business”
If anyone can surf those dangerous waters, it’s Sarah Rogo.