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Randy Rogers Band Q&A
Randy Rogers Band Q&A
By Michael Devers
Sep 2008

Yes, the Randy Rogers Band is on Mercury Nashville. Yes, their label mates include Sugarland, Billy Currington, and Bon Jovi. And yes, they will be making an appearance during the annual Nashville orgy know as Fan Fest. But if there’s anyone out there yelling “sellout!” they’re either not paying attention or they’re just willfully ignorant.

To start with, the lead track on the band’s new CD, Randy Rogers Band, wasn’t written by some Nashville “song doctor”, or for that matter, even by Randy Rogers. Jon Richardson, the band’s bass player wrote “Wicked Ways” and the only other solo-write on the album was turned in by the band’s guitar player, Geoffrey Hill on “Break Even”. Randy co-wrote every other track on the album with the exception of the albums swan song, “This Is Goodbye”. While a great song, it’s definitely more of an album track than some over-mixed, over-calculated hit jammed onto the record to give a radio promoter “something to work with”. It was written by an Oklahoma songwriter and friend of Randy’s (Clint Ingersoll), and Heather Morgan, who used to open for the RRB during the Like It Used To Be days.

A quick perusal of the album credits reveals that the band playing on the record is the same one you’ll see if you drop by Cheatham Street Warehouse for one of the group’s legendary shows there. Which is another thing – they could make significantly more money playing somewhere else in the area, but they make it a point to celebrate each significant milestone in their career with a show at the birthplace of the Randy Rogers Band.

It’s not as if avoiding the sellout tag has come from a lot of effort and struggle on the band’s part. It has been as easy and natural for them as a G-C-D chord progression. It stemmed from advice Cheatham Street Warehouse owner Kent Finlay would offer any new songwriter, the same way he offered it to Randy years ago: remain honest and sincere about your music and work hard and the rest will take care of itself.

LoneStarMusic caught up with Randy Rogers in late August to talk about the new record, being on a major label, songwriting, and the joy of laundry.

Your last record and your major label debut, Just a Matter of Time, did it accomplish what you hoped it would?

I think so, I think that it sold as many records as the record label wanted to sell…of course I would have liked for it to have gone gold or whatever but as far as working a record, the past two years have been everything I thought it would be. There weren’t any pitfalls and there weren’t any surprises.

I know the label always has one kind of agenda, but what are the band’s expectations for the new record?

The band’s expectations are to tour, as far as we can go coast to coast. I don’t think anybody has an expectation of having a number one Billboard hit. We’re all pretty reasonable when it comes down to our goal setting. We set goals every year and we try to reach those goals. Everybody wants it to work, I think that we want to be able to have airplay; I think we want national airplay. We’re all conscious of that and we’re also very conscious of how difficult it is to bust out of the regional type situation to more national. So I don’t think that we are setting ourselves up for anything more than just expanding our fan base and touring and being conscious getting ourselves in new markets. Sometimes the only way to get in a new market is to get radio so hopefully I guess our expectations as a band would be to get a little bit more radio. That would allow us to break into more markets.

So it’s the old RRB plan of building your audience one show at a time?

Yeah, I mean I think that we tour and that’s what we’re going to continue to do, just work and tour, play as many shows as we can. Hopefully optimize those plays so we are getting in front of the people who will get turned on to what we do.

You guys are one of the hardest working touring acts out there. Would less than 200 shows a year be a disappointment to you?

Less than 200 shows a year might be a little boring, but we haven’t done that in the last five years. We’ve been working that hard for so long that it would be a little weird. But you know I could play 150 shows a year, I think maybe I could focus more on writing, more on being a husband, but I still think that I would find ways to play shows. I would show up at somebody else’s show and get on stage.

Do you see that changing as all of the members of the band are now establishing families, and you’re more established as an act?

I think everybody’s handled that transition pretty well, we continue to focus on family and we put that first, and so if you need a day off or some time off or you gotta take your little kid to the doctor or whatever, it takes precedent over a fifty million dollar gig. I’ve watched everybody grow up a little bit, and at the same time I don’t think anybody’s really grown up that much. I don’t think that the addition of children has really changed the dynamic of the band. I think it’s just grown the band, it’s bigger now, we have a bigger family.

Now that you’re expanding out, playing a lot of shows like you said coast to coast, do you find that the shows inside of Texas differ from those outside of Texas?

Sure the shows in Texas are bigger, obviously, and I think that as a whole the shows outside of the state, especially like brand new markets or places where we just never ever once played before I do sense some hunger, the people that come out to the shows know about Reckless Kelly and Wade Bowen, and they’ve heard about all this through Cross Canadian Ragweed, and they have the Live at Billy Bob’s record. It’s people that are actually seeking music and not just people who are going to see music. They’re people who are excited about something different than what their top 40 country radio station has been playin for the last decade. They’re educated fans. And that’s not saying that people in Texas aren’t educated, I just think that we’re just lucky living in Texas that we have a whole bunch of stuff to pick and choose through,

And we have an infrastructure here.

Right, and I think that people outside of the state are just kinda hungry for more of that kind of thing.

With your reputation as such a great live act, can we assume that somewhere along the line there will be another live album from the RRB?

I think that we’re done with live albums until we have some hits. Then we could actually put out one of those records that every song on it is a hit. Maybe that would do it. I would like to do a DVD. We did a DVD for Billy Bob’s but it was kinda more of a record and the DVD came along with the record. I think that eventually that if we get to be on a big stage and do some cool lights and a really cool atmosphere I would like to do a DVD.

You’ve been doing a lot of writing on other people’s records lately, I know you’ve got a couple of songs on Wade’s record and one on Micky and the Motorcars, any others out there to look for?

I sure hope so, nothing that I know of. I know that Leanne Womack cut a version of “Down and Out,” and I don’t know if it’s gonna make the record. I’d love for it to, she kicked it’s ass, it’s really cool. And the last song that I wrote is called, “We Ain’t Talking Unless We’re Fightin,” and I’m pitching it to as many female artists that I can. I think that writing songs is so important to our scene and how people always tell me that you know, “Why did you let Kenny Chesney cut your song?” and I always say well the same reason I’d let anybody cut my song. I think songs are like babies and they all take on their own life and I’m real fortunate to have friends that make records because I’m guaranteed cuts when I go and co-write with people because their about to make a record or play my song live so that’s a real huge blessing for me to have that happen to me.

Do you spend the majority of your time when you’re not performing writing songs?

I wouldn’t say the majority of my time. The majority of my time that I’m not on the road is spent doing laundry, which is what I’m doing today. I signed a publishing deal at Warner-Chapell, in fact the girl that introduced me to Nashville, Alicia Pruitt, was at a small publishing company and I was there with her, and then she found a good job at Warner-Chapell so I just followed her over. I have a publishing deal which means I’m supposed to write eleven songs a year and I don’t think that it changes my writing habits other than I think that maybe now I am more responsible than I was five years ago, meaning that I focus on writing songs because I want to and I like it. I’m real proud of it when I finish one. I think that the amount of time that I spend on writing now is more than it probably ever was in my career, and I don’t know if it’s a combination of factors such as being conscious of “that’s what I do for a living is writing songs,” or maybe it’s because I’ve slowed down a little bit with getting married and seeing what’s important in life and everything, or it may be the fact that Warner-Chapell pays me to write songs. It could be a number of things but I just spend more time on it than I ever have and I’m very proud of that.

I like how you tapped into Micky Braun’s turmoil for “Didn’t Know You Could.”

He and his lady friend are doing really good and when we wrote that song they were doing really good but I think it was just kind of a push and pull relationship, I’ve said this before in an interview but, I always thought it would be a great skit, these two guys on Music Row in Nashville and they hear about their other buddy who’s getting a divorce or breaking up with a lady so they get on the horn and try to get ‘em first or try to get him to lunch so they can go talk to him and write a song. It’s easy to write songs when you’re hurtin’. It’s more difficult to write songs when you’re just happy all the time. I think that I seek out people with a little bit of turmoil sometimes. Tap into their raw emotion.

You went to Nashville for a bunch of co-writes you had scheduled, and you ended up with an album cut with a little assist from Ronnie Millsap.

I didn’t wanna go on that trip to be quite honest. I was wiped. I’d done like 25, 26 shows, and I was gonna write with this guy named Sean McConnell, who I only met briefly and it’s not that I didn’t wanna write with him or I didn’t like Nashville, I just didn’t wanna go on the trip. I wanted to go home and go to bed, and do some more laundry. I played Cheatham Street that night and I stayed up till like 3:30 cause I couldn’t wind down and then I had to get up at 5:30 to head to the airport and I thought I would sleep on the plane but couldn’t. Then I got to the hotel and I couldn’t go to sleep so I walked across the street from the hotel I always stay in there’s this little neighborhood bar called the Mojo Grill and Ronnie Millsap came on the jukebox and I didn’t have half a beer and I left. I said I know what I’m gonna write today. So I went over and started writing, “Buy Myself A Chance,” and then Sean showed up and as soon as Sean walked in I had already gotten half the song written and the guitar out and I was already in “go mode” so it was a pretty quick day.

So for a co-write, Sean walked into a real good situation

You know he probably thought I was fuckin’ half crazy. I hadn’t been to bed and I had been on the road for 26 days. I looked bad, I probably smelled bad, and I was really dog tired. We got to be friends and that day we had a good day and a good write and we were real proud of that song. I think the next day I was supposed to write with Radney and he was supposed to write with somebody and everything got screwed up from his write and my write so I said, “hey man would you just come back over and maybe we’ll get another one tomorrow?” That’s when we got the single, “In My Arms Instead.”

It was very honestly about the day, the day was one of those days in Nashville, people reading this interview might not know but it’s sometimes really gloomy and rainy and kinda cold, and it was just a nasty day in Nashville. It seems like I’ve been up to Nashville a whole bunch when it’s like that so you know you’re just stuck in the hotel and you’re looking around and it was just a gloomy atmosphere, plus I was stuck there, I didn’t wanna be there so we wrote, “In My Arms Instead” and the girl in the song is actually dead. I haven’t ever said that in any other interview or even the liner notes for the record, but we were just thinking about missing somebody you could actually never ever see again. I haven’t lost anybody, it wasn’t about anybody in particular that was in my life or in Sean’s, it was just more or less the longing and the sadness of never being able to see somebody again. I’ve heard people say that that song is for them and their relationship with their girl, but for us that day it was the real end of a relationship with somebody.

For a trip that you didn’t want to take you ended up with 1/6th of your record.

Yeah, for a trip I didn’t wanna take it sure did turn out pretty damn good. Sean’s great, I think he’s got a couple of cuts on Wade’s record too. You just never know, you could write 50 songs and all of them suck, Sean and I could go back and write 50 more songs and they could suck, for whatever reason that track it may have been that my gas tank was empty, maybe and I was just real honest with the situation but for whatever reason we got two album cuts out of that trip.

Has there been anyone out there that you’ve ever really wanted to write with but just haven’t had a chance yet?

You know for this record I got to write with the two people that I’ve always wanted to write with and that was Bruce Robison and Guy Clark. Neither of the songs made the record, makes me very upset, but those two songs I love they just didn’t get approval from the band. A lot of the songs I usually bring to the table - the band usually tells me they like them or they suck. You know Radney as a producer will tell me if he likes them or they suck and nobody said that they didn’t like these two particular songs I wrote with Bruce and Guy, they just, for whatever reason, didn’t catch everybody’s attention. I loved them and we ended up demoing them. After we went to the studio, we went and did like a B-side for this record, we did four songs and both of them we did in that demo session so they’ll pop up somewhere.

As far as people that I would love to write with, I try not to go after co-writes. I feel like if somebody hears my stuff and thinks that I’m a cool writer, then that would be the way that I would get in with them. Somebody that just sticks out though as being just unbelievable for me would be Dean Dillon who has written just beaucoups of stuff, you know George Strait, and countless other artists. Somebody of that magnitude, somebody that would just completely blow my mind that would be one for sure.

I think that Geoffrey could almost compete with Sam Baker for the saddest songs you could possibly write. When you meet him though, he always has a smile on his face. Is there some darkness lurking under there?

I think that Geoffrey has a good ability of tapping into a person’s soul and inner being and he has a way with words in our everyday life and hanging out and being buddies that, you know, he always has a way to make you laugh and he’s always got a way to sum things up if you need things summed up. We like to say that in the band he is the Human Resources Department. I’m usually the Public Relations Department, and he is HRD because there’s sense of all of our crew and all the guys in the band and everything that Geoffrey’s word is the end-all be-all. There’s not a lot of bullshit to Geoff, he’s not going to sugarcoat things and he’s not going to be emotional and blow things out of proportion that don’t need to be blown out of proportion.

I think that with his songwriting, he’s got some of the funniest songs too, you know he’s got a song called “Soap Up In My Dickhole,” about taking a shower. He’s got a song about a tree that he carved his name in, and so he writes some really funny songs. It’s so funny too because the serious sentiment in “Break Even” it’s about an insurance company, it’s about Andrea, his wife, after having a car accident. She had a stroke as well, seems like the last two or three years he’s just been fighting insurance companies, constantly. He gets stuff paid for and he gets stuff done, you know I think that’s what that song is all about. Geoffrey has told me that’s not what it’s about, and then the other day we did an interview and he told me that the song was about Homer Simpson. He said that he was watching the Simpsons and this one episode where Homer was at the bar and he was supposedly hittin’ rock bottom and Homer said, “I’m pretty low but this ain’t the bottom yet, I can get worse.” So I think that song was about the Simpsons.

Now that we have you as the public relations department and Geoffrey as human resources – Brady?

Probably liaison, - he’s Mayor Brady Black. We played a private party yesterday and the bus wasn’t even stopped yet and he was already out the door making friends, playing Blongo Ball, redneck golf and a bean bag game or whatever with everybody. He manages to befriend even the lowliest of folk sometimes.

Do you carry the PCV pipes on the bus for redneck golf?

For my 30th birthday, I got redneck golf and the beanbag game which, well the bean bag game is just our version of washers you know in Texas, but it seems like in the Midwest, everybody plays it and it’s called corn hole. In bars all across the Midwest we play and everything and everybody’s in there playing this beanbag game you know so we felt like we needed to get involved because we wanted to be able to hangout in the Midwest. Just like we have shuffleboard tables, they’ve got this game set up in all the bars and all the kids play it.

So what is Les’ department?

Les is an extreme sports guy. He jumps out of airplanes and plays golf and if you ever need somebody to get you on the golf course or whatever, he’s always in with those kinds of things, sports and recreation. He’ll get you off the bus and out the door and on to some kind of excursion if we get there early before a gig.

And Johnny Chops?

Johnny Chops, Johnny Chops is the only single guy in the band. And that’s the last thing I’ll say about that. He’s the only guy that goes out and hangs out, everybody else is tied down.

You have some distinctive artwork on this record, care to elaborate on any of it?

I think there’s important things that are weaved into that cover of the record. There is stick-figure man that’s kind of like our band symbol, which we completely ripped off from Pearl Jam. Everybody in our band has stick-figure tattoos – so there’s a stick-figure on there. There’s Peaches, which is the ’88 Suburban that was our first band vehicle. We put all of our gear in the back of it and rolled around in that stupid Suburban – it was a death trap. I don’t know how we ever made it out alive. Then the van we got after Peaches, which we called Hope. The truck has CSW on there for Cheatham Street Warehouse, which is the bar that is the whole reason there is a Randy Rogers Band. We wanted to throw a nod back to Kent Finlay which we try to do as much as we can. There’s a rollercoaster in there, there’s some other stuff in there that’s symbolic, you have to find it.

You’re working with Radney Foster again on this record, how has that relationship evolved over the years?

You know, Radney and I have probably gone the longest without talking over the phone that we have in like 5 years. I think that he’s been real busy out on the road and we have too. I think that I could stay at his house right now if I needed to for like a year. He has become a dear friend and he was always a mentor but I think that as we’ve grown up as a band, our relationship has changed with Radney to the point where he is beyond a mentor, he is beyond a friend. He’s somebody who has been more of a life coach for me as far as grownup shit like how to become a husband, how to be a better man, live my life, how to cook, lots of different things besides music.

He’s your Obi-Wan?

Who wouldn’t want him to be their Obi-Wan? He’s like the coolest cat you know, the best songwriter, nicest guy, smart, fishes, cooks, he does lots of cool things in his life, definitely somebody to look up to.

You worked on this record far from the normal haunts for Nashville or Texas acts at Dockside in Louisiana. Did the studio and its history add to the vibe of this record?

Yeah it did. B.B. King’s dog was walkin around the whole time we were there, his name was Buddy. I played Lucille in the studio. It was really cool and we never left. I think that was a key, we didn’t even go to the store. We stayed on the property, upstairs in the studio, slept, worked, - ate, slept, breathed music. I think that the coolness of that studio is it’s on this acreage, probably like 12-15 acres, has it’s own pond on it, backs up right to the bayou, these huge barges would come down in the middle of the night with their huge spotlights. We’re just stuck out there you know, writing songs, playing music for 24 hours a day, and a lot of cool records have been made there. I think we were conscious of that. It was just very vibey. Being in Louisiana is vibey anyway. It’s swampy and bluesy, just cool. I think that we were influenced by that a little bit. I think that we felt like the music belonged at the studio.

You were there, what was it, 10 days in a row?

I guess we took a weekend off so we stayed like all week, all through the weekend, and then half of the week the next week.

Getting back to Kent, I’m in the process of working on a story on Todd Snider as well, and obviously Kent Finlay figures pretty heavily in both of your histories. Do you think there’s been anyone more influential, outside of maybe Lloyd Manes, in the Texas Music Scene in the past 20 years than Kent Finlay?

Then Kent? I don’t know that there is anybody more influential than him and I guess I am partial because you know he opened the door for me. I think there’s a lot of people that can say that he opened the door for them too. The only difference between me and Todd maybe is I never stayed on Kent’s couch and I think Todd did. You know I think that there should be more places like Cheatham, I think there should be more club owners like Kent, people that actually care about the artists and the music they make. So no, I don’t think there’s been anybody more influential then the doors of that place and the dude behind them, Kent.

Anyone out there still trying to talk you into the cowboy hats and ankle length dusters or have you dispelled that garbage completely now?

Fuckin pisses me off when people think it’s like that. I don’t know who or where in the hell it came from. We did a photo shoot and they didn’t even bring wardrobe, we brought our own clothes. We’re also sponsored by Panhandle Slim so we’ve got a lot of cool clothes to wear, but yeah Luke Louis never once said to me to change anything about who we are and what we do. In fact, that’s why they signed our band. Some people are misinformed when it comes down to what happens when you join a major record label. They all know that you’re going to get talked into doing something that you don’t wanna do and if you decide to do that, go that route. I never been forced like that. In fact, they didn’t even pitch songs. They know that we write and want us to do that, what we do.

No there’s never been a time when they’ve asked me to put on a hat or sing some stupid cheese dick song. “We love who you guys are and just keep doin’ it.” And I guess a lot of people who have gone to Nashville let Nashville mold and shape them and you know what? So be it. It’s their decision and their choice. If you listen to somebody tell you, “this is what you should do,” then that doesn’t make you any less of a person, it just means you make different decisions than the Randy Rogers Band makes. There is something about our region and our state that I think is true and honest to music and being the artists. We’re proud of that and I think our record label is proud of that.

No choreography for the Randy Rogers band anytime soon?

No. We’ve never been to star school. We’ve never had a dancing lesson, or any kind of “this is what you need to do on stage,” or “Maybe you should run over here to the left and clap your hands and then run over to the right.” We’ve never been told what to do I don’t think anybody could tell us what to do. I think that we have made independent records and we already established ourselves with our touring and we already know who we are so we don’t need to be “dressed up”.




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