For almost fifteen years, the Randy Rogers Band has been a mainstay on the Texas scene and beyond with their music that focuses on songs both heartfelt and dance hall ready. They continue to tour over half the year and have released a total of nine albums, including their latest, 2014's Homemade Tamales: Live at Floore's. On April 20th, Randy Rogers will release an new album, Hold My Beer: Vol. 1, with longtime friend Wade Bowen. Randy graciously took the time to talk about Hold My Beer, new RRB music, and much more, including his bucket list item.
Hold My Beer Vol. 1, your record with Wade Bowen, releases on April 20th. Sometimes people say not to mix friendship and business, but in your case it seems to work well. How was it working with one of your closest friends making an entire record as opposed to say, just guesting on one?
Well you know, we’re really close friends; everybody in the press calls it a "bromance" (laughing). We’ve been on the road touring together for over twelve years, so making the record was more fun than it was anything. I think Wade’s a funny dude, and we had a blast!
The album cover is awfully fun. How did you decide whose name went first?
Well, we farkled for it, rock paper scissors, you know. That’s pretty much how we solve all life’s problems (laughing).
You have been doing the acoustic shows with Wade for eight years, so what finally spurred putting this album out now?
Truthfully, we both got dropped from our record labels. Wade was on Sony, and I was on Mercury and MCA for the last ten years. I made four records for them, and my contract was up. It was the right time for us because we were able to make a record without any red tape, without labels telling us who we could record with or when it could come out.
The record is being released on Lilbuddy Toons. Is that a joint venture with Wade?
“Joint venture,” (laughing) I like that; the record comes out 4/20 you know. Lilbuddy is something Wade and I started. It’s what I call him, my lil buddy.
And being that it’s titled Vol. 1, can we expect a Vol. 2 in the future?
You know, we named it Vol. 1 as a little foreshadowing. It forces us to be hard workers!
The record has both original songs and a few covers. Did you write the originals with Wade, or did you bring in other people as well?
There are a couple that he and I wrote together and four or five that we wrote with other folks. It’s hard writing songs for two dudes to sing; it’s kinda weird. Usually I write love songs or songs about getting your heart broken, so it was interesting to try and figure something out that’s clever without being too cheeseball.
The album also includes two Merle Haggard covers and one from Joe Ely. Being that those guys have nice size catalogs, why chose those three? Are they personal favorites?
The Merle and Willie duet from the 80’s [“Reasons to Quit”] sums up my life on the road and Wade’s as well. We’re not getting any younger. We’re both raising families; at the same time we’re out here playing 165 shows a year, so you start to weigh the pros and cons of being on the road. “It’s Been A Great Afternoon” is a Merle standard that I’ve always loved. It’s all about the hair of the dog, getting back on the horse after you have partied all night. Being from Texas, Joe Ely’s music is a staple in my catalog. We wanted to give him a nod because he kinda blazed the trails and paved the road we’re on now. We chose it [“I Had My Hopes Up High”] not only because it’s a great song, but out of respect too.
The friendship and fun you guys have really shows in the “Standards” video. I read that you said the song was really a “feel good” song, but a lot of people latched onto the “I don’t have hits, I have standards” line. Given the state of country radio, did you intend to make a statement, or is it something totally different?
I had a great experience in Nashville, being on that record label. The story in the song about the record label playing me a dirt road song, it never really happened. The song is really more of a metaphor. People might not know what standards are--they’re those classic solid country gold hits that will be around for our lifetime and many more. They’re songs like Willie Nelson’s “The Party’s Over,” or “Crazy” that Willie wrote and Patsy Cline sang. It’s more of a play on the word standards than it is anything.
I’m not gonna start rapping during my country song or anything; I mean some people do, and that’s okay, but the country music I was raised on was kinda like the blues--it wasn’t always necessarily a good topic to talk about. It was blue collar hardship, the working man’s music. You know, every night I stand on stage and people dance to my music, that’s like a standing ovation to me. When people are on the dance floor, having a good time and enjoying themselves, that’s what I strive to do. I’ve had some country success on the radio, but in the Top 30, never in the Top 5; never a big huge country hit. Wade and I joke about it because Wade called one day and said his song was #39 [“Saturday Night”] and literally next week my song went to #38…..and died right there! So we joke about the fact that I have a bigger hit than he has (laughing). We make fun of ourselves more than anything.
You strike me as the type of guy who wants to stay true to himself and make the type of music you want without compromise. Still, is a national hit something you want?
I would like radio play. I mean, I grew up listening to the radio, and I grew up playing, writing songs and dreaming about being on the radio, so yeah absolutely. By no means is this [“Standards”] a song bashing anything. I love radio, and I love country radio. There’s some great music being recorded and played right now. I’d love to be a part of that. I just think that there should be room for everyone’s sound. And in a shrinking format, which country music kind of is, there’s a lot of great music out there that nobody will ever hear. I’m not even talking about mine, I’m talking about Vince Gill and LeeAnn Womack for example. There’s still great music being made, I just wish there was another outlet or another format for it. I’m not trying to wave a flag, I just wanna make people get out of the house, get away from the news, drink and dance (laughing)!
So are you happy where you are professionally at this point?
I’m on the road in the tour bus playing a show tonight. I’m happy if I’m playing music and doing what I love for a living. In October it’ll be fifteen years on the road doing that crazy stuff, so I could not be happier.
In your fifteenth year, can we expect a new Randy Rogers Band album?
The record is finished; we’re just trying to figure out when we are going to put it out and if we are going to shop it around to a label, so we’ll see what happens. We’re really happy with it. When you make a record, it’s like sitting around waiting for Christmas til it gets released.
I know you did a lot of different things with Jay Joyce on Trouble. Did you do anything differently on this new record?
We recorded it with Buddy Cannon who is just a fabulous songwriter, singer and producer. He’s been producing Kenny Chesney for years, and he also just worked on the record Willie Nelson did with Merle.
We also have a duet with Jerry Jeff Walker, which I think is pretty cool. He’s another pioneer in the Texas music scene, and I’m a huge fan. I might be speaking too soon, but there will be a duet with Alison Krauss on there too. I’ve been madly in love with her voice for so long, so I’m real excited about that.
After a year absence, you guys are coming to NYC to play the Best Buy Theater on April 17th. Last year during the Four On The Floor Tour, you remarked on the size of the crowd and the fact that everyone was singing along. Were you surprised at the turnout?
To be honest, I’m always surprised if it’s a good turnout (laughing). I love New York. Like we were saying earlier, people all over have different tastes in music and there’s room for everybody. If you wanna come out dance, drink and have fun for a night, that’s great. There are also a lot of displaced people from the south that live in NY and miss home; maybe we provide for them in that minute, you know, the feeling of being home. We play DC, Boston, and Philly and people always come up and say “Thank you for coming up here. I really miss home.” Things like that are really nice to hear.
Do the crowds in the Northeast differ greatly from those in Texas?
Nah, people are people (laughing). It may be that the enthusiasm is more peaked in the Northeast because what we bring for an evening isn’t always available every weekend, so I think people get excited…and I get excited too. I grew up in a little town in Texas, my mom’s only ever been on one airplane her whole life, so getting to see the country and these beautiful cities and to take in the culture is wonderful. I’m really lucky.
Do you get to enjoy NYC, or is it always onto the next show?
Actually, I’m coming in a day early to catch a Mets game. Sorry Yankee fans! I’m a huge baseball fan, and some of my friends play professionally, so it’s great to get out and do those kinds of things. My bucket list includes going to every ballpark, which I’m well on my way. Go Mets!!
Speaking of bucket lists, you’ve had a lot of great experiences, so is there anything left on Randy Rogers’ professional bucket list?
We were home for Easter and were watching Saturday Night Live. I was thinking about how I grew up watching it and even now, still think it’s funny. Being the band on SNL might be at the top of the bucket list. I’ve done a lot of great things over the years including late night TV like Leno, Conan and Letterman, and I’ve gotten to live a lot of my dreams, but SNL…..I’m gunning for it.
Finally, I always like to know who you are listening to. Are there any up and comers that we should keep our ears open for?
You know, there’s a guy called William Clark Green. He’s a friend of mine, and I think he’s a really talented dude. We write our own songs down here in Texas and he’s one of the true songwriters who I think will be around for a long time. If I was a gambling man, he would be my bet.
For more information visit the Randy Rogers Band official website
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Purchase Hold My Beer here
Randy Rogers Band and Stoney LaRue will play the Best Buy Theater in NYC on April 17th
Doors 7pm/Show 8pm
For tickets visit here