But when he’s not singing — or listening to other people sing — the 35-year-old Rohda is shooting: He’s been a camera buff since childhood, and his photography is on display at Soup Spoon Caf' at this weekend’s First Sunday event.
“As a kid, I used to subscribe to all the photo magazines,” Rohda said. “I had a Polaroid Sun 600 (camera) — remember those? (But) I’m just now getting to the point where I’m starting to put stuff together to show people what I’ve done.”
He prefers photographing landscapes and architecture, then digitally modifying the work. “I put them through a program called Picasa, which is so easy to run,” Rohda said. “That way I can crop, zoom in, make an art piece out of it.”
Rohda’s artistic pursuits have been encouraged by Rogerray Frye, a fellow photographer and friend who also has work on exhibition at Soup Spoon.
“He’s a pretty multifaceted guy,” Frye says of Rohda. They’ve known each other since Rohda moved to Lansing 10 years ago.
“He’s very good at macrophotography,” Frye said. “He loves to twist images and find different objects in a photograph, so when people look at it they say, ‘Oh my gosh: That rose has an eye in it.’”
Rohda also does something a little bit different with his karaoke gigs, inserting a few of his own solos between performances by patrons. “I usually put myself in the rotation, especially if it’s slow,” he said. “Part of the reason I do karaoke is that I like to sing.”
Rohda’s musical tastes are diverse. “I like everything,” he said. “But I don’t do a lot of show tunes because I don’t know those.”
Although he has no professional training, he has decades of experience. “I was in choir and show choir and I sang in church,” said Rohda, who hails from Ridgeville Corners in northwestern Ohio. “I guess it just comes naturally. One of my earliest memories is being at home during a thunderstorm, and we had no power. But my mom was singing and playing the guitar.”
Rohda performed with a gospel trio and directed his church choir for three years before he found another outlet for his talent.
“My uncle was in a band and I started hanging around with them,” he said. When the singer quit, the other musicians asked Rohda to step in and rock out. “It was a different experience to go from having to make your voice sound pretty to having to rough it up,” he said.
Rohda made the transition, and transitioned out of his home state, first to Colorado — “That lasted about a week,” he said, with a chuckle. “The vibe wasn’t right.” — and then to Lansing.
As a young gay man, he said, “I had to get out of Ohio. It was a rural area, and there weren’t really a lot of places to meet men: Toledo was an hour away in one direction and Fort Wayne was an hour away in another.”
He’s been with Nothin 2 Lose for three years. Last year, however, he returned to his choral roots when he joined the LanSINGout Gay Men’s Chorus.
“It’s a good experience; it’s a family,” he said. “But you have to kind of throw out everything you know about rock ‘n’ roll for choir — it has to be pitch-perfect.”
Sadly, the same is not always true of karaoke. While Rohda would be happy never to hear anyone would-be vocalist massacre Patsy Cline's “Crazy” or Sir Mix-A-Lot's “Baby Got Back,” years of experience have given him ears of steel — to a point.
“Usually, I have patience,” he said. “But every once in a while you get that one singer where you think, 'Somebody ought to tell her ....'”
In those cases, Rohda has a fool-proof strategy. “I usually press 'play' on the music — and go to the bathroom.”