Roger Hodgson used to be Supertramp. At least he still owns the songs, writes Michael Dwyer.

CALL it the Roger Syndrome. In British rock mythology, Roger is the shy geezer who leads his band to staggering heights then makes a graceful exit at a timely peak only to hear his own songs echoing around stadiums without him for the next 20 years.

Like Roger Waters of Pink Floyd, Roger Hodgson was the heart of a massive '70s prog-pop phenomenon who couldn't stop his brand - Supertramp - thundering on after he'd called it quits.

''I signed some things that I shouldn't have,'' says the singer and writer of such hits as Dreamer, Give a Little Bit, The Logical Song and It's Raining Again. ''The deal was, 'OK Rick [Davies, band co-founder], you can take the name and I will take my voice and my songs.'

''Unfortunately, Rick did start to play my songs a few years later, so he broke the agreement. At that time, it was very emotional. I'd given up my baby. But I didn't have a good attorney … what can I say?''

Davies had been a fine foil for Hodgson since they played their first gig together in 1969. But as writers, theirs was a Lennon-McCartney arrangement - the joint credit an umbrella for two distinct processes.

''Davies and Hodgson were two very different people,'' Hodgson says. ''Actually, music was one of the only places we were able to communicate.

''I was very much the creative force that made Supertramp what it was. It really was my drive and my passion and my idealism, most of which the other guys didn't understand. They tolerated it because it achieved the level of success that it did. But none of them understood my spiritual yearnings, for example.''

Wives, families and other ''opposing forces'' led Hodgson to leave Supertramp in 1983.

His subliminal spiritual quest on albums such as Crisis? What Crisis?, Even in the Quietest Moments and Breakfast in America had struck a chord with vast audiences. He found it still ringing when he returned to live performance without his band.

''Whatever journey I had to take in the 20 years that I was away was good for me,'' he says. ''When I was with Supertramp, I was very shy, very unsure of myself, very insecure and I was held back in a lot of ways because nobody else in the band understood me. So I was hiding myself, even within the band.

''Now I've found the connection I can have with an audience - just doing the songs solo - is a deeper connection, a more intimate connection. It blows people away because the sound is so big, so full and so rich and people can feel my voice when it's not cluttered with other stuff.''

Hodgson's first visit to Australia in 25 years comes with a surreal twist. Playing on an adjacent stage at the Byron Bay Bluesfest on Sunday night will be the man who spent much of the past 20 years singing his songs in Rick Davies' Supertramp. Mark Hart is now better known as a permanent member of Crowded House.

''It would be great to meet him,'' Hodgson says. ''I know he's a great musician. I think I'll just say, 'I'm very sorry for you; that Rick had you sing my songs.' He always looked very uncomfortable singing them and I have a feeling Rick made him do it. It will be interesting to find out.''

Roger Hodgson plays the Palais, supported by 10cc, on Tuesday.