By Craig Clizbe
Today I would like to take a moment to sincerely wish our friend and supporter, Roger Ortega the very happiest of birthdays. Roger Ortega is an indie R&B singer/songwriter from New Jersey who has been part of the Clizbeats.com family since we first profiled him in our “Indie Artist Spotlight” column in July of 2014. He also became one of the first artists to be profiled in the column twice after we did a follow up post about the release of his 2016 album, The Lottery. Since we first met Roger along with his wife Heather, and his manager Katrina have treated my brother Matt and I with sincere genuine kindness that has always been appreciated. As a result, we have always wanted to include his infectious spirit when creating unique original content for Clizbeats.com. A good example of this came up during the 2018 Grammy Awards season. Roger had the opportunity to attend the 60th Annual Grammy Awards on January 28, 2018. This was Roger’s first Grammy experience as a recording artist. Also, when the Grammy Awards come around we always try to find cool ways to create original content around the whole Grammy experience. It was with that in mind when I came up with the idea to ask Roger to become a guest blogger for Clizbeats.com to share his Grammy experience with us and the world as a R&B/Pop artist on the rise. He agreed and took the time to write a post for us at Clizbeats.com in early February 2018.
However when he emailed us what he wrote about his experience to be published soon after, it was at a time when Matt and I both came down with the flu. As a result I was down and out for days during a time when it was physically difficult for me to work a regular schedule. While this was happening I realized that Roger’s blog post was time sensitive and I was losing the time window to be able to publish content related to the 2018 Grammy Awards. Since then I was determined to find unique way to include Roger’s Grammy content on Clizbeats.com. It is with that in mind that I am happy to say that, since it is Roger’s birthday I have decided to share his detailed Grammy experience from this year’s Grammy Awards. Once again I apologize for the lateness due to being under the weather at the time, but since Roger is such a hard working and genuine talent I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to show him support once again. Matt and I wish you a very happy birthday and we wish you continued success as always.
My first Grammy Experience
By Roger Ortega
Someone asked me which celebrity I was hoping to meet at the 60th Annual Grammy’s in New York City. It took a minute for me to reply because I hadn’t thought of that. I wasn’t looking at it through the eyes of fandom. When I thought of an evening amongst music’s elite my first fantasies weren’t of celebrities but of how beautiful my wife, Heather, would look in her gown and how it would seem as if she belonged there. In fact I never really answered. Meeting famous people is cool for pictures but not usually for your career. No. I wanted to meet the people behind the celebrities.
My very first experience at The Grammy’s came when I picked up the passes. I was nervous as I walked into the hotel and was kindly directed to the convention room where I’d check in for my tickets. I was nervous because what if someone told me wrong? What if I wasn’t really on the list? What if this was a big prank? So far that wasn’t the case. I was treated with the utmost respect and guided through the process. When I opened up the packet and saw the laminated tickets, they were the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen, tickets worth framing. And trust me, this is my first Grammys so they will be framed. But the best part was they were in my possession.
During the week of the Grammy’s there’s all sorts of events, seminars & shows leading up to the main event. On the Thursday before, I was invited to The Roots Jam Session put on by Citi. Me and a guest. I was told I’d be on the guest list. I’m always nervous about that. There’s always the fear that someone didn’t follow up or that something got miscommunicated and I’d be standing there looking like a fool. As I checked in they didn’t have my name on the list. Of course. ‘Here we go’ I thought to myself. ‘This will be the first of many times I’m denied entry into events, including ‘The Grammy’s.” The lady checked again and then asked if I was on the VIP list. Of course I’m not. But low and behold I was on the VIP list. I couldn’t believe it. My guest, who happens to be one of my producers, Edson Sean, and I walked right up to the stage. Front and center. We watched The Roots with all sorts of special guests including R&B crooner Anthony Hamilton & Common to Dave Chappelle, Kirk Franklin and many more.
The Grammy Museum Experience in Newark, NJ was our first stop of the weekend. With my wife and management team, Mex Mix Entertainment’, tagging along we viewed the history of the Grammy’s along with interactive features such as singing along with Ray Charles, remixing Whitney Houston’s classic ‘How Will I Know’, rappin with Wyclef Jean and so much more. Seeing the evolution of the Grammy award hardware itself was interesting too. Cased in glass were outfits/gowns worn to the Grammy’s by artists such as Shakira & J-Lo. Lots of memorabilia were on display.
After interacting with everything we could at the museum experience we jetted off to Harlem to attend ‘How I Wrote This Song’ at the historical and famous Apollo Theater. This was one of my favorite events of the week. It was a panel that consisted of hit making producers and artists that told the stories of how they wrote a certain song or how their careers came to be. The theater was full of industry wanna be’s and industry heavy hitters. When you go to events such as this you have to be nice to everyone because, well first off you should just be nice to everyone, but second because you don’t know who’s who or who knows who. The panel was hosted by a top executive at BMI Music, a performance rights organization. Making up the panel was hit producer Red One (Lady Gaga, Nicki Minaj, Enrique Iglesias, New Kids On The Block and many more), R&B legend Faith Evans, Hip Hop artist Tory Lanez & hit maker Mark Batson (Eminem, Anthony Hamilton, Dave Matthews Band, Seal & Leanne Rimes to name a few). They were inspirational stories and it made me realize that if the wind blew the other way, I could be sitting up there telling MY stories! As if those hit makers weren’t enough they mentioned Rodney Jerkins was in the crowd. Rodney has had so many hits with artists such as Michael & Janet Jackson, Beyonce’, Mariah, Whitney, Brittney Spears, Justin Beiber and so many more. I was playing it cool looking for him to stand up from the crowd. In my mind I was flipping out. Where was he? I heard everyone cheering for him! Wouldn’t you know it. Rodney Jerkins had been sitting behind me through the entire event and I had NO CLUE! Again, be nice to everyone because you never know. We sat there for 2 hours and afterwards I made my way up to the stage. I would have loved to have met Tory Lanez but he’s in his prime as an artist and I wasn’t there to meet/snag celeb pics. I’d met Faith Evans before years ago and she was being bombarded by people so I didn’t need to meet her again. No. I wanted to meet the people behind the celebrities. I met Mark Batson, Red One AND Rodney Jerkins. Brief but inspiring encounters.
Heather and I returned to our hotel to get checked in and I was able to watch a little bit of my Kansas Jayhawks’ beat up on Texas A&M in a basketball game before we met up with Mex Mix Entertainment & Edson Sean for dinner to discuss upcoming business. Shortly after dinner we made our way to B.B. Kings for the Grammy Soiree. This event was full of members of the National Recording Academy and their guests. I got to walk the red carpet and was also interviewed, though what it was for escapes me. We watched some performers and met a few more ‘behind the scenes’ people. They were also honoring Dionne Warwick at the event!
Once we’d had our fill of networking at the Soiree we headed to a bar/club in Chelsea where my friend and producer DJ J-Roc was spinnin. We walked in and surprised him. Then he surprised me by mixing in my spanish song ‘Contigo’ into his set. The night ended with my management team and DJ J-Roc getting my wife drunk. Of course I didn’t mind. In my mind this weekend was just as much about her sacrifice and hard work as it was for me. This was also her weekend. After a night of mingling, networking, laughing and a little dancing we retired to our hotel.
The next morning came fast. It was Grammy day! It started as any other day. With an early workout. We had a photo shoot with Rosario Zinnanti Photography scheduled for 10:30am and my wife’s hair and make-up people were coming at 9am. My wife looked like a movie star sitting there in her robe as the make-up artist managed to make her even more beautiful and the stylist put her hair up. Once Rosario arrived with his lighting in tow he went to work shooting both candid and positioned shots. We were limited to a 2 hour shoot due to the fact we had to be at Madison Square Garden by 2:15pm. As we prepared to go to The Grammy Premier Event where they hand out 75 of the 84 awards I was once again nervous. I told my wife “I’m not even up for an award but I’m so nervous!” She asked why and I replied that “Until I’m actually in my seat I worried they’ll figure out that I don’t belong and rescind my invite.”
Once we got to Madison Square Garden I nervously handed security my tickets. They scanned each one and I looked at Heather in disbelief! I’d gotten through security with no issues! We were led to the MSG Theater where the Premier Ceremony was being held. We sat in our seats, three rows from the stage! As we sat there and watched award after award being accepted, it finally dawned on me. I want a Grammy. People around us were getting up and accepting theirs. It was amazing! I saw Tony Bennett, Reba McEntire & Chris Stapleton all snag awards! The entire event was 3 hours. Which means that everyone in the theatre was hungry, thirsty and most likely had to use the restroom. When we left the theatre to go the the arena at MSG we were definitely all three.
After a pit stop in the theatre we made our way to the arena where scores of people were dressed elegantly in their gowns and tuxedo’s. Gorgeous people. Everyone standing in some sort of line. Anxiously waiting for their…chicken fingers and french fries in a paper basket. Yes you read that right. There was not enough time between the end of the Premier Ceremony and the Grammy telecast so our only option was the concession stands at Madison Square Garden. The kicker was that you couldn’t take food or drinks into the event due to it being televised so thousands of people stood around eating their chicken fingers, burgers, fries or whatever in their formal wear! Talk about a juxtaposition! I was wearing a white dinner jacket and was extra careful to not get a splash of grease on myself and though Heather was in a beautiful long black gown she was equally as careful. We had to be seated by 7:15pm as the telecast started at 7:30. Once it started we were in awe of the star power and musical talent that filled almost every seat in the building. On the floor you had the majority of the heavy hitters. Where we were, I was sitting next to a world renown concert pianist named Kento Masuda and his entertainment lawyer of whom we exchanged information. There were also artists sitting around me who’d won Grammy’s earlier in the evening. It dawned on me as the night progressed that I’m seeing performances by artists I might not have ever had the chance of seeing perform. Elton John, Lady Gaga, Sting, U2, Pink etc. All acts I really admire but may not get a chance to see perform and here they were all under one roof. My favorite performances were Kendrick Lamar, Bruno Mars and Childish Gambino. All of whom I voted for in different categories and all of whom won the award. Because of my vote right? In fact with the exception of one award, all my votes went towards the winner of whatever category I voted for. The most moving performance to me though was Kesha’s performance of ‘Praying’. I was never a huge fan. I liked the song a lot because of what she went through. However that moving performance made me not only respect her more but has me rooting for her and her career. During commercials it was funny to see everyone get up and hobnob with everyone around them while past performances played on the big screens. This was clearly most evident on the floor where Jay-Z, Beyonce, Bruno Mars, Pink, Donnie Wahlberg, Jenny McCarthy and several other A listers mingled and I could only dream of the superstar collaborations that may have been born that night. The entire experience was inspiring and eye opening. I have to work so much harder but I was truly inspired to do so.
The day had been long and we decided after the show to head to the 40/40 Club for an after party with Mex Mix Entertainment. When we got there we had a section to ourselves and Heather and I downed an entire plate of nachos in about 6 minutes! Thanks to a heavy hitter in the industry that cannot be named we had a bottle of champagne sent to us. After enjoying the last few hours of this special night we made our way back to our hotel room and looked at all the support and pride coming from people who knew us. It was almost as if I was representing my fans and my home state of Kansas. And all I did was attend. We were humbled to see so many people showing love and living vicariously through us. I knew going in that I should “act like I’ve been there before”. And I did for the most part. But I also know that I tell my people “Where I Go, We Go”. And that’s what I did. I took them with me. We were ALL there.
In 2012 I made a small dent in the music world with my debut album ‘RnBPoPWrytr’. A few years later I made a slightly bigger dent with ‘The Lottery’. However those albums had a huge impact on my life. Since 2012 fans would tell me every year ‘I can’t wait to see you at the Grammy’s’ or ‘You’ll be there soon’, or ‘Next year it’s your turn’ etc. I would graciously accept the compliment and then dismiss it with the thought of ‘How sweet they believe in me’. But it saddened me because I thought ‘I’m gonna let them down.’ I truly never thought I’d be invited to attend and to be honest I never wanted a Grammy. Both of those ideas seemed ridiculously unattainable. But I WAS invited. I WAS there. And NOW?…I want one. Being there was a reward for all the hard work I’d put in over the last 6 years and really to all the years I’d put in since I was 14 years old. I wanted it. I earned it. I got it. And I deserve it.
“When I’m With You”
From The Lottery
“The Worst Hangover” (T. Wahl Remix)
From The Lottery
The Lottery Trailer (April 2016)