It’s easy to listen to Randy Rogers talk until the cows come home. CMT.com's cold beer conversation at Nashville’s Winners bar covered almost everything from family, to songwriting, politics and run-ins with rock legends.
At the time of our Q&A, he was proud to have co-written “Walk Away” with rising artist Cody Johnson on Johnson’s latest album Gotta Be Me. It’s a gut-wrenching ballad about a cheating wife whose spouse confronts his wife’s other man at a bar.
“That’s one of the songs that when we wrote it, I felt like I co-wrote the next thing to change country music,” Rogers admitted. “I’m so thankful it made the record. The cheating wife doesn’t always necessarily get talked about. It probably happens every night in America.”
“I think he’s Chris LeDoux, Garth Brooks and George Strait all rolled into one,” Rogers said of Johnson, his friend of eight years. “He’s a dedicated songwriter, a good dad and a good husband. He’s got a really bright future ahead of him.”
Between sips from a longneck bottle, Rogers revealed his 2017 is pretty much mapped out. In January, he will head into the studio with Wade Bowen to record Hold My Beer Vol. 2, the follow-up to their 2015 duets album Hold My Beer Vol. 1. Known for performing more than 100 shows a year, the Randy Rogers Band will start a new tour on Jan. 6 in Deadwood, South Dakota, with Rogers performing select acoustic solo shows between dates.
On Jan. 19, he will perform a solo acoustic set at the Texas State Society of Washington, D.C.’s Black Tie and Boots 2017 Presidential Inaugural Ball in Oxon Hill, Maryland. The annual event started in 1953 as a pre-inaugural cocktail party for president Dwight Eisenhower and has grown to become one of D.C.’s most prestigious events leading up to a presidential inauguration.
“I plan on being in the studio for the first part of the next year and hopefully have a new Randy Rogers Band album out in the fall,” Rogers said. “What we’ve done as a band consistently for years is put out new music every 18-20 months, so you can expect the same thing. We’re still going to move forward and make records.”
“Now’s my time to focus on what to say next and what direction to go in,” he added. “The last record was really country, you know. I don’t know whether we’re going to stay in that vein or go a different path. It’s kind of fun, though, because we tour so much. We’ve got such a great fan base, it feels like we can be honest with where we’re at in our career, and people respect that. We just gotta figure out what’s next.”
CMT.com: It seems like the current state of country radio has created a fan demand for the music you continue to make and for the acts like Cody Johnson. Does it feel that way when you perform live?
Rogers: It’s really funny that you bring that up, because I’ve actually been noticing us gaining new fans, which I don’t know that that has happened in a while. But it just seems that people have finally kind of turned their head a little bit more to the left. I don’t know, ears have kind of perked up. I mean, the successes that Sturgill Simpson, Jamey Johnson and Jason Isbell have had, it’s weird because I’m nothing like any of those guys. And I don’t profess to be. However, I think that has really helped a genre of music that is in a way needing a revival of sorts of creating hardworking music. If I could be a part of that, that would be great.
It’s interesting because for me, I’ve been doing this so long and I do have an identity as the Randy Rogers Band. People are used to a product that they get from us. It just seems like a lot of people now are kind of listening again. There’s a lot of cool kids out there that don’t necessarily like what they’ve been force-fed and they’re making a difference. Go look at the album sales.
In its first week out, Cody Johnson’s Gotta Be Me, outsold albums by artists who have had No. 1 hits, and he is an independent artist.
That’s tangible proof of what people desire.
It’s hard for songwriters to make a living off streaming services, but at the same time, they get people to shows.
Comparing the mechanical royalties for the albums that sold millions of copies in the ’80s and ‘90s, comparatively to today with streaming services, it’s a crying shame. I’m not a political human being and I don’t profess to be in the know of all the bills, laws and all that shit. I think the more light we can bring to this subject, hopefully it will be a great thing for people who are creative and children who are also thinking about writing their first song or starting their first band. There has to be a way where you can get paid for being creative. I have faith in our government, too. I think they’ll figure it out.
It’s all about making the future brighter for the next generation of rising musicians. I know Wade is a huge Bruce Springsteen fan. I heard you had a run-in with him in Asbury Park and Wade wasn’t there. Tell me that story.
Randy Rogers Band, we were on the road and off on a Sunday, so we decided to pick up a gig at the Wonder Bar. It’s right down the street from the Stone Pony. So we joked, “What if Bruce would be there that day?” It was us and Reckless Kelly, and we were soundchecking. Then Springstreen rode in on his Harley with a couple of his buddies, and they went up to the bar and ordered something to drink. They sat there and watched us soundcheck -- both bands.
I approached him and basically just said, “My buddy Wade and his family are just huge fans and honestly bigger fans than I am. Of course, I love you, Boss.” But Wade named his son Bruce after him. He signed a menu from the bar for Bruce and it says, “To Little Bruce.” I think Wade was on the West Coast, and it was just random. Springsteen was out for a ride on his bike. Totally random.
He couldn’t have been more kind and gracious. He sat, talked amplifiers with the guitar players and took all the pictures we wanted. He signed a couple of guitars for us. He told us he normally doesn’t do that, but he could tell we weren’t going to sell them on eBay.
What did Wade think of all this?
I called Wade and asked, “Do you want to talk to him?” And Wade goes, “No! Hell, no!”
Who reminds you of what good storytelling is?
God bless Guy Clark. I loved every story that Guy Clark told. I think Robert Earl Keen, Lyle Lovett’s big buddy, is the epitome of a storyteller. It seems like every time I go see him play a show, I always hang on to every word and try to learn from it. He’s as close to a modern day Townes Van Zandt.