Tim Rogers says he's sick of Tim Rogers. To escape from himself, the You Am I frontman has embraced theatre and film, and even (perhaps) invented an enigmatic collaborator for his latest record, Rogers Sings Rogerstein.
Shel Rogerstein is, according to Rogers, a reclusive musician from Cleveland, Ohio, who co-wrote the 13 tracks on his fifth solo outing.
Chatting en route to Devonport, Tasmania, on the national run with a three-piece band to promote Rogers Sings Rogerstein, he insists that the latter is real. They struck up a friendship on a train journey through southern France.
"There's footage of him on websites and the like," Rogers says from the tour van. "I'm very sure that if he didn't exist, then I'd need to invent him. He's the more erudite, more intelligent, possibly more sensible version of me.
"We're planning on spending our 40s corresponding in as romantic a way as two heterosexual men can."
If it is a ruse, then it's a curious one because the new album contains some of the most intensely personal lyrics of the Kalgoorlie-born rocker's 20-plus-year career.
In particular, there are at least two songs, Part Time Dads and Drivin All Night, inspired by the long-distance relationship with his 11-year-old daughter, Ruby, who lives in New York with her mother, film festival director Rocio Garcia. Rogers and Garcia split around 2005.
"I always want her to know that her dad's thinking of her," Rogers says. "The way our lives have gone, we're not with each other a lot. She is a very loved girl and always will be.
"In the past, rather than saying things to people, I tend to write songs about them. But with Ruby, I guess I had to consider whether I was using her. I don't want to use our relationship for material.
"She's on my mind all the time," the 42-year-old continues, "so, really, I couldn't shy away from that. I hope I don't regret it."
Elsewhere on Rogers Sings Rogerstein, the Melbourne-based singer indulges in characterisation, creating rapscallions for Walking Past Bars and the defiant I Love You Just As You Are, Now Change. Neither narrator seems too unlike Rogers, who occasionally fulfils common expectations of the rock'n'roll frontman.
"There are times when I found myself, and the company I keep, really championing a lifestyle, for lack of a better term, which is really quite juvenile," he admits. "But, you know, I have a big streak of juvenility."
Rogers feels out of touch with what kids are into these days. Riding his bike home recently, he cycled past a big outdoor dance festival, which inspired the tongue-in-cheek country waltz of Beefy Jock Guys and Modern Dance Music.
"When you look back and realise that you're a couple of generations on from the zeitgeist, I enjoy that. I enjoy it a lot," he laughs.
Not that Rogers is moping around waiting for generation whatever-it-is to latch on to You Am I's back catalogue. The gangly muso has spent the past few years relishing the highly collaborative nature of theatre.
Rogers made his stage debut in Michael Kantor's adaptation of Woyzeck, featuring music by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, at Melbourne's Malthouse Theatre. His most recent theatre gig, scoring Marion Potts' production of the Federico Garcia Lorca tragedy Blood Wedding, finished at the Malthouse on Sunday.
"It's kind of exhausting going between all the projects but I'm not really great at socialising anyway, so I just cut out the socialising and get down to work," he says of mixing music and theatre.
Rogers has also signed on for acting roles in three films, which he'll begin shooting after the national tour wraps in October. He says the films present him with another chance to "live in imagination".
"I wouldn't be in them if I was just playing a Tim Rogers-like character," he says. "I'm pretty sick of that guy, so I'm throwing myself into characterisation. I'm really just seeing whether I can do it properly. That's what interests me. The directors are taking a big chance and I want to work hard for them and do the best job I can.
"While I'm being offered really interesting work, I want to do as much as I can so I've got money to go on holiday with my daughter one day."
'I found myself, and the company I keep, championing a lifestyle, for lack of a better term, which is quite juvenile. But I have a big streak of juvenility.' <div class="endnote">