Rojo Rising

Local Band Adopts A Heavier Sound On The Wait

Given that his dad is a jazz musician and his mom teaches classical piano at the Cleveland Institute of Music, it's no surprise Redwater RoJo singer-guitarist Jason Meyers became a musician.

"Most kids grew up on Sesame Street and cartoons, but I grew up on Miles Davis, Thelonius Monk, Buddy Guy, and the whole jazz and blues thing," he says. "I've always had a deep admiration for that."

Yet Meyers has an annual ritual that goes beyond the call of duty. Every year, he heads down south to visit the grave(s) of Robert Johnson (since no one knows exactly where the blues musician was buried, three different "graves" mark the spot, and Meyers stops at all of them).

"I had one of those moments where I was sitting in front of the grave, and I knew I had to get back into music and I wasn't sure how," says Meyers via phone as he braves a winter storm driving to Kent for band practice.

As soon as he saw the sun set on the Mississippi River, he knew what to do. "I was on the Mississippi Delta, and the graveyard had 30 or 40 handwritten wooden plots, and the grass was kind of long. The sun shone on the river and created a red reflection," he recalls. "I decided I would go back to Cleveland and call my band Redwater RoJo. Redwater for the river and RoJo for Robert Johnson."

He formed the band in 2005 with guitarist Joe Romito (they both attended Solon High School, but they didn't know each other at the time) and a different rhythm section. The group has since gone through several mutations both before and after releasing its self-titled debut in 2007. Meyers says he's happy with the way the lineup has shaken out.

"Our guitar player Joe [Romito] is hardcore into blues. He loves Buddy Guy and Freddie King. Joe [Wheelock], our bassist, can play anything. He's good. You put all that together with our new drummer Derek Desko, who is big into metal, and you get Redwater Rojo."

While the first album was more ballad-driven, the group takes a heavier approach on The Wait. That's apparent from the opening track, "Flip the Switch," a barnburner that finds Meyers snarling, "fuck you for being so beautiful/fuck you for just being you." It sounds like an unholy cross between the Black Crowes and the Stooges. "See Me" has Charlie Daniels-like swagger (but without the race-baiting), and the title track features some Stevie Ray-like guitar work. Even ballads like "Baby Be" and "Boots On" have an edge to them.

"Half the songs that come out of me Travis Tritt could play, and the other half Rage Against the Machine could play," says Meyers. "We just wanted to make this album heavier."

To accomplish that, they recorded at C-Town Sound with producer John Guggenheim.

"He's worked with a lot of R&B guys and with the Jack Fords, and that's why we wanted to work with him," says Meyers. "We love John. He's so energetic. It's the difference between a good record and a bad record. We wanted to pick somebody who could bring out the best of us. He worked us and was honest, and we loved every minute of it, even when he yelled at us."

Meyers says the band's aspirations are little more than to be a working bar band - something he says is well within reach.

"It's our ambition to make music as our life," says Meyers. "I was doing that for all of 2007. I was able to teach and work with the band. We played over 80 shows. We want to make a living, one step at a time."


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About The Author

Jeff Niesel

Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected].
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