After more than 16 years on the road, the Randy Rogers Band is as strong as ever. They’ve built a devoted fan base not just in Texas, but across the nation, by being one of the hardest-working bands in the business. Rogers calls his job is the “never-ending tour,” but says he and the guys are still enjoying the thrill of the stage.
I caught up with Rogers fresh off the heels of his two record-setting, sold-out shows at Floore’s Country Store, one of the top country music venues in Texas. We talked about new music he’s working on — including a follow-up to 2015’s Hold My Beer, Vol. 1, a duet album he recorded with Wade Bown — as well as life on the road, who he’s listening to now, and the ever-changing landscape of Austin, Texas.
How’s it going?
I’m good. Just finished up writing a song with Bruce Robison. He came over to the house today.
Congrats on selling out Floore’s Country Store two nights in a row. How did it feel to be up there during those shows?
It was one of those nights — well, two nights! — but it was perfect, man. I just felt like I was on fire up on stage. It was awesome. It’s a testament to our fan base and our genre of music, and the luck we’ve had in our career has been this long. This is our 16th year of touring, and I’ve been playing Floore’s for probably 12 years. I’m very thankful, honestly.
I was in Nashville this week writing with Radney Foster and just talking with friends and people in Nashville, and you know everyone was just kinda taken aback by just how strong the music scene still is down here. I brag about that. It’s really lucky, it’s really cool.
We’re going to film rising artist Cody Johnson at Floore’s this weekend. Are there any up-and-comers you’re keeping an eye on?
Cody is great. I got a cut, a song I wrote with him on his new record. Red Shahan just put out a new record called Men & Coyotes. It’s a really hip, really cool record. You know, it’s crazy from a transitional aspect in me. I used to be the youngin and now I’m kinda the old guy, which is kinda interesting to see. But there’s guys that come out that are great and sound good. Cody, for example, has as big of a chance as any of us to crossover into the commercial world of country music. He’s what country music needs right now, in my opinion.
It seems like country fans want a return to the spirit of the genre. Do you feel that way?
I do. Obviously, I’ve seen Chris Stapleton and his success and the critical acclaim that Sturgill Simpson and Jason Isbell get. And you know, the fanbase, they’ve been able to grow. It just means there’s more to country radio than the “P1 listener” (A listener who listens to a station more than anyone else), or how well a song researches. People ask me about my music, and I just say “I play country music, and you know I try to keep getting better and writing better songs with the band, and we just keep pushing ourselves to stay within the traditions of our genre.”
I will say that it’s big enough for everybody, though. I’m not gonna sit here and bash anybody or say their music sucks. To each their own. But I do think there is a growing consensus to try to make room for the traditional. I mean when was the last time a traditional female country artist was on the radio? It’s been decades. That’s frustrating.
Are you working on material for a new album?
Yeah, just trying to write. I’ve been on the road, and I’ve got kiddos. And it’s hard to write on the road and sometimes it’s hard to write at home, so I just block off days here and there to write and try to see what we can come up with.
Are you going to do another album with Wade Bowen?
Yeah, the goal is to go back in the fall. Wade and I have had a couple writing dates together. We’re looking for those songs. Those songs are kind of hard to write. Male duet songs are hard to write without being overtly cheesy and making it about beer or partying or something stupid.
You wouldn’t think that, but when you sit down it’s like damn, what can we say that’s not contrived or stereotypical or not been done before. So we’re looking for those songs now trying to figure out the last piece of the puzzle. We talked to Lloyd [Maines], and he was on board, and we had so much fun we have to go back and do it.
Making a record like that, though, we didn’t give a s*** about it. It was just like, this is for us, this is for fun. It’s the music we grew up listening to and stuff that we enjoy playing.
You guys are playing the Nutty Brown tomorrow. What do you think about the venue moving up to Round Rock?
Some things you can’t stop, Austin expanding and growing. Austin has become a beast, man! A lot of my friends that live there are having to change their way of life or move because they can’t afford it. It’s something that I think is an inevitability. It’s just like the old Backyard. Same kind of thing. I couldn’t believe when that happened. Same thing with Nutty. Kinda hard to believe a couple people who live a couple miles away bitch about the sound. I mean, you live in Austin, Texas. Same thing with downtown — the noise ordinances and the tickets they write people for being loud. It’s just crazy. What happened to Austin?
Are there other pockets in Texas where you see music thriving?
Lubbock always churns out a bunch of kids. There’s a lot of great bands that come out of there in West Texas like the Flatlanders and the Maines Brothers. Seems like that place has always been a breeding ground. Still is.
You’ve got a tattoo of Merle Haggard on your arm. He’s had some bad health issues lately, but recently said he can’t stop touring because it’s what he knows how to do. Do you kind of feel that way too?
Nobody’s really buying albums anymore. Being able to make a living by going on the road, what else is there? That’s kind of been our way of life. If you count being in the band I was in when I was 18, I mean half of my life has been on the road and on tour (laughs). I mean it is what it is. That’s how we make our living.
What’s your favorite part about being on the road?
The camaraderie. My brothers. Experiencing our wonderful country we live in.
Do you guys as a band spend time with each other when you’re not on the road?
Our kids are friends and play all the time. We have golf games together. We do stuff together. We had a big Easter party. It’s a family. It’s more than a family. We’ve spent a lot of life together.
Did Willie Nelson give you advice about that?
Yeah (laughs), with Willie being the inspiration he is to all of us, and kinda taking everybody along with him, [he] definitely was something we modeled our band after. We wanted everybody to have an equal say so, and for the most part I think we have done that.
After all these years, we still have fun on stage. There’s nothing like it.