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Coeur d'Alene Musician Jackson Roltgen Enters NPR Tiny Desk Contest

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Each year since 2014, NPR has invited musicians from around the country to submit video performances of original songs for its Tiny Desk Contest. It’s an offshoot of the popular Tiny Desk Concert video series in which well known and obscure musicians perform at Bob Boilen’s desk at NPR headquarters. 

That’s Coeur d’Alene musician Jackson Roltgen performing his song “Help” in a YouTube video submission for NPR’s 2020 Tiny Desk Contest. Roltgen says he wrote the song for a friend.

“Yeah, he’d lost his father and was kind of going through a difficult time so a couple of the songs on the album are kind of dedicated to him and that’s one of them. It’s also kind of a song that was written towards the start of kind of some turbulent times in our nation and in the world in general. So I wanted to write a song that was kind of for the community. Kind of for just sticking together and being there for each other. And kind of just a bluesy soulful reminder just to be there for one another and to give help to one another because we need that fundamentally as human beings.”

Though written with one individual in mind, Roltgen’s song, with its lyrics about helping each other through hard times, seems especially relevant now given the social upheaval of the last few months.

“I think that’s one of the things that we’re built to do as human beings is help each other out, understand each other, study each other, and be a friend. That’s one of the most beautiful aspects of being a person. So yeah, between the coronavirus thing and the racial divide that has been happening in our country for so long and has kind of come to the front scene again lately, I think being an understanding person, being a listening person, and being a person that is willing to help other people is more important than ever.”

Of course, another unique aspect of the time we’re living through is the inability to be physically close to many of the people we care about. That’s a particular challenge for musicians and performers who are used to sharing their art live in front of groups of people. But like many artists, Roltgen is still finding ways to connect with his audience.

“Yeah, it’s been a little bit of a challenge to get out there and get playing, but I’ve been able to do that a little bit. And then putting out some content online. This album, of course, being one of those things on Spotify and Apple Music. But, yeah, I mean it has been challenging. It has presented its share of challenges for sure. But I think as time goes on, we’ll be able to see ways to overcome some of those things.”

Jackson Roltgen’s new album is called Sentimental and his submission to this year’s NPR Tiny Desk Contest is his original song “Help.” You can find Tiny Desk Contest submissions from independent artists around the country, including the Inland Northwest, at the NPR Music webpage. You can hear our full interview with Jackson Roltgen on this week’s Northwest Arts Review.

Watch Jackson Roltgen's full YouTube video here.

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