Student mixes science with songwriting

Student mixes science with songwriting

On an ordinary weekday, junior biology major Bobby Rodgers grabs his goggles and lab coat. He walks outside toward Shelby Hall while flipping through a stack of chemistry flashcards. He pours kaleidoscopic concoctions from one beaker to the next, scribbles down an endless stream of notes and then heads to the recording studio to record his latest hip hop single.

Not many college students choose to balance their time between the lab and the mic, but Rodgers combines his scientific process and creative mind in the hopes of making it big, both as a surgeon and musician.

“I started writing as a kid with little poems and half-songs that semi-rhymed, continued and matured through rap music in high school, and then I realized there was a recording studio here in Gorgas that was included in tuition,” Rodgers said. “So I just figured, why not give this a real shot in my free time?”

It wasn’t all smooth sailing in the studio, however. As Rodgers began navigating the unfamiliar environment of recording and producing, he faced a variety of road blocks. 

“It was really just a battle with how I wanted my voice to sound,” Rodgers said. “Before, it was just writing. I could make myself sound however I wanted in my head because I knew how I wanted it to sound, but once you’re actually recording for the first time you’re like, oh, maybe my voice isn’t great for this.”

Despite the initial vocal complications, Rodgers put in hours upon hours of work both outside of and within the realm of the studio as he continued practicing and experimenting with a variety of vocal effects.

“To be honest, initially I just thought I should stick with writing for people,” Rodgers said with a laugh. “But I envisioned this track for so long and I had been writing for years so I really pushed to make it work, and so far I’ve come pretty far in figuring out my voice.”

Rodgers never went it alone, however, as he began networking with a handful of students across campus who were similarly passionate about music outside of their primary studies. 

“I have a few friends that have been helping me with the beats and mixing,” Rodgers said. “From different instrumentals to hooks, I’ve developed a network of really different people from all over campus who have some sort of interest in music whether it’s what they’re studying or not, and its been incredibly fun.”

Rodgers suddenly found himself in an experimental and thrilling atmosphere of production alongside other musical entrepreneurs. Rodgers’ roommate, Jimmy Pierce, was one of those individuals working alongside Rodgers in the studio and encouraged his growth as an emerging artist.

“I’ve made beats for Bobby, and we both enjoy the occasional free-style rap battle,” said Pierce, a junior majoring in journalism and creative media. “He has always been a great lyricist, but I’ve seen him grow as a hook writer and in the technical aspects of his craft. I think his next challenge will be expanding his musical palette into different styles and moods.”

Rodgers finds most of his inspiration writing lyrics through events he is currently experiencing in life, and has translated these lyrics into his most recent and first mixtape “Can’t Wait,” which he and his friends put together last spring. 

“The tape is really just an ambitious yet realistic take on what I want out of music,” Rodgers said. “It’s also about what music does for me, has a sort of ‘this is who I am, this is why I write’ mantra about it.”

As Rodgers worked with individuals like Pierce within the realm of production, he also recruited the help of Kate Hampton, a graduate student pursuing an MBA with a concentration in strategic management and marketing, as she provided a missing chorus and hook in one of Rodgers’ unfinished songs.

“It has been really cool watching Bobby find his voice when so many new musicians sound the same," Hampton said. "He thought he had to alter his voice at first, though, in order for people to really hear and understand his story. He removed that façade that can weigh real talent like his down, and continues to not only take people under his wing, but also create beautiful story lines within his music that are absolutely timeless.”

Rodgers hopes to continue his work in the future and maintain a balance of meaningful lyrics and instrumentals. His debut mixtape can be found on SoundCloud (@rerbobby), which is also where Chance the Rapper, one of Rodgers' inspirations, got his start. 

“If I’ve learned one thing, it’s just to not overthink a thing,” Rodgers said. “The best artists don’t try to be something they’re not, so be yourself and have fun with it. After all, its gotten me this far.”

A UA biology student trades the lab for the recording studio. Produced and created by: David Jones
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