The Randy Rogers Band has always stuck with its bread-and-butter: Texas-bred country rock with plenty of heartbreak and woozy barroom anthems. It's earned them a dedicated following.
For their new album, Trouble, they've taken a chance by handing over the reins to a big name producer. Jay Joyce -- the behind-the-scenes captain of Eric Church's Chief and Little Big Town's Tornado -- hasn't tinkered with the band's sound too much, but longtime fans should notice the difference.
With Trouble, the good-natured party lovers feel like they've set a new standard.
"The first record we made as a group 10 years ago was called Rollercoaster," says Rogers. "And I think we've always just tried to beat that one."
During a break in filming their upcoming music video for "Fuzzy," Rogers, guitarist Geoffrey Hill, fiddle player Brady Black and bassist Jon Richardson downed a shot and talked with CMT.com about the new project.
This is your sixth album as a band. Has your approach to recording evolved?
Rogers: I think we're just trying different stuff now in the studio. We used to be so worried about making the record sonically perfect and arranged perfectly. I think this time we were just more apt to experiment. I think Jay Joyce's approach to the studio is different than anyone else's that we've ever worked with. So he let us have a little bit more freedom, I guess. It didn't feel like we were in a pressure situation. We just got to be little artists in there.
Where do you think Trouble falls thematically?
Rogers: I think there are breakup songs on this album, there are songs about fallin' in love on this album and there are songs that have nothing to do with anything else but just purely partying and havin' a good time. That's what we're doing today: Shooting a video for "Fuzzy," which is basically just a party anthem about too much tequila. We write the truth, and this band, at this point in time at least, is living a little more fuzzy than anything else.
With Jay Joyce producing, it even sounds a little bit different. "Fuzzy" is a very new sound for you guys.
Richardson: That one was the one that he really turned around on us. We had an arrangement worked up that was completely different than the way it turned out. [Joyce] said, "Yeah, that's pretty cool, guys, but can we try it this way?" And he made us approach it in a completely different way.
Rogers: When we were recording that song, I was all but throwing a huge fit because that's not how I had it.
Like, "You ruined my song!"
Rogers: Yeah, I thought that he was ruining my art. But then it turned out to be my favorite track on the record. So it's like ... if you talk about Jay, that kind of sums him up. It scares you, but then you realize that he's right.
What's the significance of the title, Trouble?
Rogers: I think we probably named it Trouble because I fought for that the hardest. I felt like I went through a lot of trouble making it.
What kind of trouble do you mean?
Rogers: Well, a few life changes. I went through a really bad breakup and a divorce. And I think my songwriting definitely was hovering around those negative and painful emotions. So getting into the studio was a bit like therapy for me, especially getting to record "Trouble Knows My Name," which Geoffrey and I wrote about being on the road and always managing to get into the weirdest, most awkward situations that anyone has ever found themselves in.
That song has such a crazy storyline. Is there any truth behind it?
Hill: All three of those stories were very much true. And we can tell you that we were out on tour with Miranda Lambert. We can go ahead and spill the beans on that. But as far as who it was that got arrested, we're gonna go ahead and leave that a mystery.
So it was you then?
Hill: (laughs) I'm not gonna say it wasn't me. Just maybe, maybe not.
So what happened?
Hill: Oh, man, we were supposed to be on our best behavior for that run because we'd been out with Miranda and Justin Moore before, and they knew that we are prone to go out and party a little bit too much. We were pretty new and pretty young and weren't afraid to go out there and really make asses of ourselves. So we went out one night and got way too drunk. Let me just say that it's probably best to stay, you know, safety in numbers. And one of our band members got separated from the herd, ended up in the pokey, and we couldn't find him till the next day.
Willie Nelson does a guest vocal on that track. How did that happen?
Rogers: I sent Mr. Willie Nelson an email and asked him to listen to the song that Geoff and I wrote and told him we would be thrilled if he would sing with us on there. He emailed me back, "Absolutely."
"Goodbye Lonely" is the first track on the album. Why did you think it fit there?
Black: So Randy came on the bus, and he was like, "Hey, I wrote this song called 'Goodbye Lonely.'" And I was like, "Man, you realize that you have a lot of songs that have 'goodbye' and 'lonely' in the title." And he was like "Oh. Well ... here you go. Try this one on." (laughs) Turns out this one is very happy. It's a good song.
It does seem like this record is a little more upbeat. Like how "Flash Flood" is about love coming up when you don't expect it.
Rogers: Yeah, that one has a lighthearted feel to it. Which in the past, I think maybe some of my songs have been more about the end of a relationship than the beginning. Even "Speak of the Devil" is fun because you realize that they're probably gonna hook up anyway.
Randy, you recently remarried. Is "Flash Flood" about your experience meeting your wife?
Rogers: Um, that song was already in the works. The co-writers on that song kind of had it. But, you know, absolutely I lied to my wife and told her it was. (laughs) And it worked.