Critically acclaimed chart toppers Randy Rogers Band, whose fan base extends much farther than their home state of Texas, return with their new studio album, Nothing Shines Like Neon, on January 15th. Recorded at Cedar Creek, produced by Buddy Cannon and released on Rogers own Tommy Jackson Records (in conjunction with Thirty Tigers), the album is filled with fiddle, guitar and from the heart lyrics in classic country songs that will surely please. In anticipation of it's release, Rogers graciously took the time to talk about the album, his friend Kent Finlay and more.
The first track, "San Antone," which name checks your buddies Reckless Kelly, feels like a song you would have written....but it's a Keith Gattis tune.
I try to write as many songs as I can of course, but I was sent that song and I fell in love with it immediately. It's one of those songs where I heard it and was like 'Why didn’t I write this song myself?' I couldn't believe that I didn't write it, so I cut it.
Is there any particular reason why you chose that one to open the record?
There’s five of us in the band and we would just argue about it, so I left it up to Buddy [Cannon, the album's producer]. He picked the order.
"San Antone" has the line, “This highways sure been good to me.” Being that the road is a huge part of your life, after 200+ dates a year and 15 years, do you still enjoy it?
It's a way of life and there are better days than others. To a young songwriter, the best advice I could give is to be careful what you wish for. You know, what was my hobby turned into more than a full time job. We all still love being on the road obviously, but it hasn’t been easy and there’s been a price paid for sure, on our families and children. But we're out there playing our shows and just feel really lucky to have jobs. We have been doing this for fifteen years now, and it's all good.
You guys remain pretty consistent with your songwriting and melodies, there’s no surprise Rap or EDM, but “Rain and The Radio” has a bit more of a sultry, bluesy feel. Was that a conscious thing that you and Sean did when writing?
It was on purpose. You gotta push the envelope, to try and reinvent yourself, so that song is kind of a throwback, a nod to the sounds from 80's and 90's that I enjoyed. I love Ronnie Milsap. I love that country music that’s kind of funky and dancey, bluesy and sexy; although it's kinda hard to pull off because I don’t consider myself a very sexy person, but it's definitely an attempt! I really like the song because it stands out, it's different than some of the other stuff we’ve done. I know my wife when she first heard it was like, 'I don’t know about this' and now it's like her favorite song on the record, so I kinda hope the response will be in line with that.
The day you started recording the record was the day Kent Finlay passed. I know he was very beloved by many, but what did he mean to you?
Well, you know he was first person, besides my family, to believe in me, give me a shot, a stage to play and an opportunity. He opened the very first door I ever walked in in the music business, so he meant everything to me. We also became really close friends and for many, many years he was someone I went to for advice, somebody I told things to that I didn’t tell anybody else, a mentor of sorts. Personally, he was one of the dearest and closest people to my heart.
There is an incredibly touching song on the album by Earl Bud Lee, “Look Out Yonder,” that Lee had wanted you to cut for a while. You finally recorded it for this album....as a tribute to Kent.
You know, timing is everything, and it made sense to cut the song now. Years past I loved the song and I loved the sentiment, but for me, playing as much as live as I do, I have to believe what I'm doing up there and now I definitely, and unfortunately, can. I've lived that song and so it means something now. That’s what it's all about; to me that’s what music is supposed to be for, it's supposed to be for your soul.
And that's one of those songs that beginning with the introductory notes, definitely touches one's soul. Have you played it out yet?
I actually played Cheatham Street a couple nights ago. I waited to play it there when I played it for the first time and I played it there for the first time the other night and barely got through it, but now that’s out of the way and I feel like I can play it now.
I can't imagine, must have been very emotional.
The title of the record Nothing Shines Like Neon, is a nod to Kent as well.
I asked his daughter to send me a bunch of his lyrics and that one is pulled from a verse of one of his songs, "Tennessee Whiskey and Texas Swing." It just jumped off of the page at me and I knew the direction we needed to go with naming the record. There's several mentions of the word neon and there's a lot of songs on the album that kinda have that barroom angst feel, so it was just like it was meant to be. It was really nice of her to share those lyrics with me and obviously a big thanks to Kent for writing what ended up being the title of our record.
While there's a lot of heartbreak and emotionally charged songs on the record, there's so much fun that exudes from the speakers, particularly with “Taking It As It Comes.” Was it as fun recording with Jerry Jeff Walker as it sounds?
Jerry Jeff came into the studio with us and lit that son of a bitch on fire! He was jumping around and we were all staring at him jumping around; he was just a tornado of sorts. When he left we all kinda high fived each other; kind of shocked and in disbelief that we just rocked out in the studio with Jerry Jeff Walker. Growing up listening to him and knowing all of the songs and everything, it was definitely one of those moments for all of us. It was pretty neat.
The closer, "Pour One For The Poor One" is a tear in your beer song for sure, but also seems like a nod to the guy who is always sitting at the bar, talking and drinking.
You know, being out on the road, I've hung out in a lot of dive bars and I've seen that guy quite a bit. I was sitting at a bar somewhere day drinking and heard an old man say that phrase to the bartender, so that’s where that came from. It for sure sums up the guy in "Neon Blues" drinking by himself too. "Tequila Eyes" is kinda the same thing. A friend and I were in Houston and he told me about a girl he was running around with the night before. He said, 'I could see the tequila in her eyes.' So the next week, I wrote a song from it and he was like 'You son of a bitch, you turned me into a song.' (laughing)
Friends have to know what they say could be turned into a song. (laughing)
So finally, in keeping with all of the year end "best of lists," what is your pick for best album of 2015?
William’s [Clark Green]. Ringling Road for sure.
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