Rolfe Neigenfind started his musical career at a young age.
When he was five years old, Neigenfind spotted a piano through the window at his neighbor’s house. He was not from a musical family, and even today is not sure what drove him to do what he did next. He knocked on his neighbor’s door and asked if she would teach him to play it.
She said she would and, luckily, his parents agreed to pay for lessons.
“I can’t tell you what possessed me,” Neigenfind told me in an interview I conducted with him in February of this year, while he was raising money through a crowd funding campaign to record an album, his first. He ended up raising around $2,500 through the campaign, and after it ended, received some additional donations, making the recording process possible.
The album is now a reality. The six song EP is titled “Chicago,” and will have its official release at Petra’s in Charlotte on Oct. 29.
“There have been a few moments like that [the introduction to piano via his neighbor] with the music,” the now multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Neigenfind continued, reflecting on the journey that brought him here. “One time I was in Memphis and I had to be like 15 — 14 or 15. I was on a youth trip or something. There are bands playing up and down Beale Street. Blues bands and stuff, you know, like, old black guys. I can’t remember the conversation that transpired, but next thing I know I’m playing with them, separated from my church group. And they come find me and I’m playing with this Memphis blues band.”
So, it was clear early on that music was his path, and he has never veered from it. He is now able to support himself as a full-time musician, after formerly working for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department as a dispatcher and trying to fit music in when he could.
He is clearly pleased to be able to dedicate himself more fully to his craft and believes that having an album will help push his career and allow him to do even more.
The initial goal was to do a full-length album. But one of the many things he learned during the process, which he said taught him as much or more about music than everything leading up to it, was that recording is more expensive and takes longer than originally expected.
But he is happy with the outcome of “Chicago” and knows this is only the beginning.
“One [possible] scenario that would be amazing [would be] the next time I want to do this, I could take this to an investor or a label and say, ‘This is what I do, I want to do a 10-song album,’ so maybe they come up and support me. That was kind of my logic behind it.”
He also hopes to use the album, which he says is probably most easily described as Americana, even though he is, at best, ambivalent about that label, as a way to transition from mostly a covers act to playing originals.
The album features five original compositions and only one cover, “Little Bit of Love,” by the band Free.
“Hopefully it means I can play a gig without singing ‘Wagon Wheel.’ I’m in that transition right now where I’m trying to find out how to do that,” he says. He adds that he wants to begin playing less at restaurants and bars, where covers are more the norm, and begin playing more music venues, like The Evening Muse.
“I don’t necessarily want to be playing in a cover band the rest of my life,” he admits.
Neigenfind, who is openly gay, says the album is something of a relationship record, but that he wasn’t necessarily planning it that way. He also didn’t spend time thinking about writing from a gay perspective.
“As far as the music’s concerned, it’s all pretty universal stuff,” he says.
Neigenfind says he has stayed in Charlotte to see this project through to its conclusion and is now deciding whether or not he wants to continue living in the city. Whether he is here to stay or not, make sure to see him at a show soon. He may just be on his way to becoming a harder act to catch live.
Learn more about Neigenfind and listen to his music at rolfeneigenfind.com.