Jake Roche is tired and out of breath. Feeling badly for delaying an interview because he was stuck on “the tube,” he quickly ducked into a London pub in Oxford Circus where he could find relative peace.
Roche—the lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist for the English pop band Rixton—is anxious to talk about his band’s debut, Let the Road, which hit stores on March 3. He and his bandmates were preparing to promote the album while opening for American songbird Ariana Grande on a tour that comes to US Airways Center on Monday, April 6.
“It’s just all a bit crazy at the moment,” Roche says. “We always feel that with our live show, we have to step it up. This is the perfect platform. We feel her audience has such a side demographic.
“We can’t really wait to really (captivate them) and have a lot of fun, really. I think that’s the bottom line: Have as much fun as possible.”
Naturally, the set will include Rixton’s Matchbox 20-inspired hit “Me and My Broken Heart.” Ironically, the relentlessly catchy song wasn’t the one pegged to capture Americans’ hearts. “We All Want the Same Thing” was the golden child, but Rixton kept writing and “Me and My Broken Heart” did the trick.
“Originally it didn’t fit right,” he says of “We All Want the Same Thing.” “We were struggling; we were in and out of the studio. We’d try and challenge each other. But straight away it just hit us. It was the last song we recorded for our album. We were very happy that it was our first single.”
Rixton can see its career moving forward, thanks to the boost from “Me and My Broken Heart.” The subsequent single, “Hotel Ceiling,” is moving up the charts and garnering radio play on terrestrial and satellite radio.
“We want to be a band that grows with the audience,” he says. “It’s been a real snowballing effect, where you feel like it can only get bigger and bigger. We want a gradual slow build.
“We want to be doing this for 10 to 15 years or later. We want to hold our own and not rush it.”
Roche knows a thing or two about show business. He is the son of actor Shane Patrick Roche, also known as Shane Richie, who played Alfie Moon on the BBC One soap opera “EastEnders” from 2002 to 2005 and again since 2010. His mom is English singer/presenter Coleen Nolan.
“I come from a very large singing family,” he says. “My mom was in a girl band and in the ‘70s and went on tour with Stevie Wonder.”
His mom largely influenced him, turning him on to swing music, jazz and R&B. He grew up idolizing Michael Jackson and then moving on to Justin Timberlake, Ed Sheeran. But he generally finds himself going back to the legends.
“They put their own stamp on the music and did their own thing,” he says “They’re not in your face.”
Roche and bassist Danny Wilkin began writing songs together when they “left school,” the English equivalent of graduating from high school. Roche writes songs on an acoustic guitar, based on his or Wilkin’s ideas.
“It’s all recorded on the voice memos on our phone,” Roche says. “They are the worst sounding things you’ve ever heard, but they make sense in our heads.”
The songs bounce around between the band members’ emails, proving that Rixton is a democratic being.
“There’s not a real John Lennon thing going on here,” he says.
Roche is looking forward to sharing his music with fans at US Airways Center, as Rixton has been one of the few English artists to really crack the U.S. market. U.K. superstars like Robbie Williams, who sells millions of tickets in one day overseas, is a relative unknown in the States. Olly Murs is another English singer who isn’t getting the respect he deserves. Roche says he believes that Rixton is making its mark because its sound is “American friendly.”
“That just helps a lot,” he says about the pop sound. “We worked with Benny Blanco, who’s worked with Maroon 5 and Katy Perry—they haven’t done too bad for themselves. We have that lucky ingredient plus we have the Rixton sound. That really helps.”
Rixton only has an hour to warm up fans for Ariana Grande, but Roche gives it his all.
“It’s a high energy show,” Roche says. “It’s as high energy as possible. We feel like we stepped up now that we’ve worked closely with Jennifer Lopez’s musical director. We’ll include a few covers.
“Basically, we’re just there for the fans. We love making new fans but we consider ourselves very, very lucky that radio has been supportive. It’s a great honor.”
Ironically, talking about playing arenas while sitting in a pub makes Roche recall the earlier days.
“We started out in places like this,” he says. “We feel like we can grow with the audience. We’ve gotten bigger and the audience has gotten bigger. Arenas are crazy. They are just mind blowing. We just can’t wait.”
Ariana Grande w/Rixton, Cashmere Cat, US Airways Center, 201 E. Jefferson Street, Phoenix, ticketmaster.com, Monday, April 6, 7:30 p.m., $25-$65