Interview: Randy Rogers Band Reflect on New Album, ‘Nothing Shines Like Neon’
Nothing Shines Like Neon, which is available for pre-order on the Randy Rogers Band's website, took the group over two years to create, during breaks in their touring schedule. It was recorded in Austin, Texas, and features seven songs written or co-written by the band, a few outside cuts and two tunes co-written by Rogers and Buddy Cannon, who also produced the disc. Duets on the album include “Look Out Yonder,” with Alison Krauss; “Acting Crazy,” with Jamey Johnson; and “Taking It As It Comes,” with Jerry Jeff Walker.
RRB lead singer Randy Rogers and guitar player Geoffrey Hill sat down with The Boot to discuss the disc, the group's longevity and why they aren't concerned about radio embracing their music.
How would you describe Nothing Shines Like Neon?
Randy Rogers: It’s country. It’s a record that maybe focuses on the stuff we were brought up listening to, those records that we liked, all of us, as kids. Geoff wasn’t necessarily the biggest country music fan, but he’s a fan of music and was influenced by a lot of country albums.
Nothing Shines Like Neon includes three all-star collaborations. How did they come about?
Rogers: Buddy Cannon kind of facilitated the Alison thing. Buddy really likes the song, “Look Out Yonder.” He couldn’t believe no one ever cut that song. [Earl] Bud Lee wrote it; he [also] wrote "Friends in Low Places." "Look Out Yonder" has been knocking around Nashville for 10 years, and Buddy couldn’t believe that nobody cut it, so we did, and he played it for Alison, and she was like, ‘You know, that’s a beautiful song, and I’d love to sing on it.’
Jerry Jeff Walker, I’m friends with his son, Django, and I called Django and asked if maybe this could happen, so he gave me his dad’s phone number. So I called Jerry Jeff Walker on the phone, which was really fun. He agreed to do it; he liked the idea. The song ["Takin' It as It Comes"] was a big hit for him back in the day, and it was a lot of fun for him to play live. He came in the studio with us and played guitar and danced around and sang and told us what to do. He’s a hero to me.
Jamey and I have been writing songs. We wrote that particular song, "Actin' Crazy," and that’s kind of why that came along. It just fit; it’s his song, too. We played shows with Jamey; we were on the same record label forever together. There’s a bit of friendship there, so that’s how that happened.
You write a lot of your songs but also record other people's songs. How do you choose which songs make it onto your albums?
Rogers: We write about 90 percent, 80 percent. I don’t know what this record boils down to -- maybe eight or nine. Geoffrey and I wrote “Neon Blues,” which is the single, and we’ve written songs together in the past which have made albums. We’ve written as a band, but mostly, Geoffrey writes by himself, I write by myself, occasionally we’ll get together and write. We wrote “Trouble Knows My Name,” on the last record, which was a duet with Willie [Nelson].
I’m in the mindset [that] I’m always looking: I want to hear the best. I want people to play me the best that they’ve heard. So I listen to everything anybody sends me. And a couple of the songs on this record -- in particular “Look Out Yonder,” which I had forever -- I got that from Paul Worley. “Things I Need to Quit,” that’s been in my inbox for a long time. I’ve always loved that song, and nobody’s ever cut it, and I just thought we could make it ours.
I think, as an artist and as a songwriter, if you’re cocky enough to just only cut your songs, you’re a bada--, and I think highly of you, because that’s something I can’t do. I love writing songs, [but] I’m not the best at it, so when I hear something that I really dig and I think I can make it my own, I’m willing to swing.
Geoffrey Hill: You really limit yourself if you say, "I’m only going to cut songs that I wrote." You don’t want to put yourself in a box in any kind of way. You’ve got to be open to anything, or you’ll miss some awesome opportunities.
The Randy Rogers Band are one of very few acts in country music who have kept all of their original members since the group began 16 years ago. What do you attribute to your success in staying together?
Rogers: It’s a lot of luck, to be honest, and personalities mixing. We’re all so totally different, but nobody really gets on the other person’s nerves to the point of ever getting into some kind of altercation or disagreement.
And the other thing too is, none of us have ever let each other go overboard on drugs and alcohol. A lot of times, that’s why bands break up. A lot of times, that’s why people burn out, because they can’t handle the road. We’ve always kept each other in check: No hardcore drugs. No taking it over the edge. You have to be in check. And so, that has to be a contributing factor as to why we’ve never broken up.
You haven't had as much radio success as some other artists, but you remain one of the busiest touring acts, of any genre.
Hill: We call it "The Endless Tour." People always ask me, "Are you getting ready to go out on tour?" And I say, "Yeah. We started that in about 2002, and it hasn’t ended since this."
Rogers: I just asked the booking agent for a year off, and he basically said no. I have friends who are, let’s say, radio stars -- they’ve had hits, No. 1 hits, big songs -- that can’t tour. They can’t sell tickets. Albeit, we don’t sell tons of tickets, but we sell enough tickets in enough different markets to make a living. And so, that’s how we make our living and provide for our families. We’re still on one bus, all together.
Do you ever worry about maintaining your level of success in the future?
Rogers: Seven studio albums in, 10 records total, 15 years on the road, I don’t worry about it. I think fans want you to be you and know who you are instead of playing to maybe what fans would like. I think any artist fails miserably if they do what they think they’re supposed to do. We’ve always kind of danced to our own drum, walked our own line. We’ll keep doing that.
I think reinventing yourself musically is just part of your job; it’s something that makes you creative, hopefully an inspiration to younger artists. You have to keep moving. You have to keep changing. You have to keep evolving as a band.
More New Country Albums Coming in 2016