Meet Gen Z’s Elton John, Singer-Songwriter Jake Wesley Rogers

Photograph by Greg Swales. Jacket, pants and bow, price on request, Harris Reed. Boots, $1,075, Harry Halim.

The singer-songwriter spent his teenage years rummaging through shelves of vintage clothing and Stevie Nicks records. Now he performs on four inch rigs and has earned the title of “Gen Z’s Elton John”.

When Jake Wesley Rogers appears on my laptop screen on a gray February day, I am instantly blindsided by the color. And not just any color: the bright red of fire hydrants. Between the wall behind him in his Los Angeles home and the top of his head (thanks to a recent hair refresh), the 25-year-old singer is bathed in a crimson halo, made more vibrant by his V-purple, green and orange. neck sweater. The only neutral in this whole pop-art tableau is the black of his thick aviator-style glasses.

Photograph by Greg Swales. Jacket, $4,500, Dior Homme. Top, $1,085, Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello. Glasses, $340, Gentle Monster. Necklace, price on request, Lazoschmidl.

Despite this colorful chaos, Rogers is incredibly calm. He periodically sips herbal tea from an old mug throughout our conversation and takes great pleasure in talking about his tea preferences. (He likes a good green or dark brew, if you’re wondering.) Considering the theatrical performances and flamboyant fashion he’s become known for and the fact that he’s on the verge of stardom, I’m pleasantly surprised by the serenity, wise and introspective he is.

Like everything else in the Kansas City-born singer-songwriter’s life, Jake Wesley Rogers didn’t find fame the conventional way. After a brief stint on America’s Got Talent in 2012 and a string of singles, he caught the eye of hit songwriter Justin Tranter (think Justin Bieber’s “Sorry” and Selena Gomez’s “Lose You to Love Me”) and in 2020 was signed to Warner Records. Shortly after, Rogers’ rocket took off on TikTok, not because of his music but for spilling tea on “queer icon” Abraham Lincoln, who he filmed wearing a tea infuser as a loop of ear. His historical musings have racked up over 1.8 million views, and through this atypical portal, fans have begun to discover his true talent for songwriting.

jake wesley rogers
Photograph by Greg Swales. Cape, $7,060, pants, $1,455 and ring, $485, Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello. Earring, owned by Rogers.

Since then, Rogers’ pop-rock ballads and campy suits have earned him the nickname “Gen Z’s Elton John.” In 2021, John invited Rogers to appear on his Apple Music 1 radio show, rocket time, telling the audience, “I like Jake because he reminds me of when I was just starting out.” When I mention this moment to Rogers, he smiles happily. “It’s one of the best compliments you can ever get,” he says.

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Jake Wesley Rogers grew up in the heart of the Bible Belt in Springfield, Missouri, but he didn’t have the typical conservative small-town experience. In fact, he says, his upbringing in the Ozarks was filled with warmth, compassion and acceptance. “My hometown has about 40 churches on every city block, so, sure, it’s very religious, but it also has Midwestern values ​​like love and kindness,” he shares. “I was very lucky to have found a safe place where I was free to be myself.”

Photograph by Greg Swales. Jacket, $4,775 and pants, $1,980, Alexander McQueen. Shoes, $1,700, Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello. Glasses, $355, Gentle Monster.

The “Middle of Love” singer’s coming out was a two-step process. He told his parents when he was in sixth grade, then his friends when he was 16. I was a teenager,” he says. Apart from the natural worry that he would not be accepted by his community, his fear of coming out also stemmed from his early viewing of the musical. Lease. “I was 10 years old and it was the first time I saw homosexual people,” he says. “And while it was empowering, it was also terrifying because I thought being gay meant I was going to get HIV and die.”

With the Missouri school system offering little to no education on the subject, it took a few years for Rogers to fully understand and embrace his identity. Fortunately, Jonathan Larson’s production didn’t completely alienate him from musical theater and he found support through vocals. “In high school I was known as ‘the musician’ and I felt that because of that people were okay with me being different. Like ‘Jake is really good at singing so he can be his- same’.

jake wesley rogers
Photograph by Greg Swales. Top, $530, pants, $680 and necklaces, price on request, Lazoschmidl. Boots, $1,310, Alexander McQueen.

As the charming rule breaker that he is, Rogers has pushed the boundaries of his difference through fashion. “What I recognize now is that a lot of people feel they have to follow a script – go to college, get married, have babies, etc., and if that’s your truth, no shadow,” he said. “But I turned those expectations into a game. Going to thrift stores let me know who I was and who I wanted to be. Being different pushed me to be more different, and fashion has always been my superhero cape. Even now, he jokes that his first question to his manager every time he books a gig is, “What am I going to wear?” “As soon as I got my contract recording, I was like, ‘When will I get a stylist?'” he laughs.

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It’s hard to describe Jake Wesley Rogers’ style without referencing pop icons like David Bowie and Freddie Mercury, but it wasn’t always intentional. Although he cites Adele and Lady Gaga as his earliest influences – the British for her vulnerable lyrics and the American for her theatrical persona – it wasn’t until college that he dove deep into musical history. real. “Elton John wasn’t a thing in my house growing up, but I now recognize that he, Bowie and Madonna obviously influenced Gaga,” he says. “I got a lot of that inadvertent inspiration from her.” Rogers also admits he’s always had a love affair with the ’70s – hence his preference for four-inch rigs, which makes him a whopping six-foot-eight. “My number one icon of fashion and everything has always been Stevie Nicks,” he says. “So at the end of the day, I just try to be as cool as her.”

model with red hair and graphic liner
Photograph by Greg Swales. Jacket, $4,300 and top, $1,400, Gucci. Necklace, $18,300, Tiffany & Co. earring, owned by Rogers.

Much like Nicks’ aesthetic, Rogers’ aesthetic cannot be categorized with a single adjective. In her music video for “Weddings and Funerals,” Rogers wears a pair of feminine 1950s cat-eye glasses, oversized floral earrings and a bloodstained white tuxedo. Then, for his latest song, “Dark Bird,” he took to Instagram to show off a lace-up patent leather corset paired with punk accessories and graphic eyeliner. But he admits it’s intentional. “Each song has a different energy, so fashion helps me embody what I sing.”

What Rogers chooses to sing about are raw emotions like pain, love, and self-acceptance. A master of storytelling, he uses poetic symbolism in “Dark Bird” to explore themes of resilience, freedom, and “metaphorically burning your life to make something better.” Speaking about his process, the singer recounts his 11-year-old songwriting experiences to the world of Harry Potter, where young wizards accidentally perform magic before realizing their powers. Over a decade later, Rogers (like Harry) has learned to harness his talent and find those magic moments. “I write a lot of songs, but most of them never see the light of day,” he notes. “The songs I end up releasing are the ones in which I feel like I’ve transcended myself and carry a message bigger than myself.”

@jakewesleyrogers Pre-save 🔗 in profile, babies!!!! #fy #originalmusic #witchtokrising ♬ Dark Bird – Jake Wesley Rogers

But what Rogers is really looking for with his music is the element of surprise. “It’s my favorite emotion because it takes so much to be surprised these days,” he shares. He reads my thoughts when he refers to the Latin proverb “Fortune smiles on the daring”. “There’s no time left to not do something daring,” he says. “If something doesn’t cut through the mess and surprise you, I don’t see the point. It’s not me or my music.

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And therein lies the truth about Jake Wesley Rogers. As we virtually sit together contemplating life, TikTok and dance in wedge heels, somewhere along the way my eyes adjust (metaphorically and literally) to the calm red silhouette of the fire hydrant in front of me, and now I can’t imagine it any other way. He’s outspoken and a little goofy, and like tea, the longer we stay together, the tastier he gets.

“I don’t accept myself all the time, but I love myself,” he reveals, stopping to sip his cup. “It’s tough and it takes practice, but through my music, I remind myself that I’m worthy of it.”

fashion magazine cover
Photograph by Greg Swales. Jacket, $9,065 and pants, $2,265, Alexander McQueen. Necklaces, from $485, Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello.


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