Randy Rogers Band’s ‘Homecoming’ Is a Sharp-Penned, Confident ‘Celebration’ of 20 Years of Music [Exclusive]
Randy Rogers Band frontman Randy Rogers is confident enough to know that the band's new album, Homecoming, stands for itself.
"I've done this for so long, and done so many interviews and so many press events where I'm professing the fact that this is the best s--t we've ever put out. I don't plan on doing that this time around," he tells Taste of Country. "This is a celebration of a band that's been doing this for a long time — an anomaly, in a sense — and with a producer that has a proven track record of being an amazing, songwriter and producer. I just feel confident, more than anything."
No wonder he feels so self-possessed about his new project.
RRB have been stalwarts of the Texas country scene and beyond for two decades — a rare feat of longevity, as he says — and their latest project takes them back to their origins, working with their early-career producer Radney Foster and creating it at the two studios where they arguably made the biggest albums of their career: Dockside Studio in Louisiana, where they made their self-titled album in 2008, and Cedar Creek in Austin, Texas, where they made Rollercoaster in 2004.
The gang was all there in the studio, too. They brought back keyboardist Michael Ramos, who played on Rollercoaster, and guitarist Eric Borash, who's previously worked with them in the studio and even once filled in for band mate Geoffrey Hill on the road during a tour.
"It just felt like we were back in our 20s, and hungry again. It was nice," Rogers says of the album-making process. "... It felt like home, which is where the album title came from. It felt like it was supposed to be."
Not that the album-making process felt entirely like a throwback. It couldn't: The world outside the studio was unrecognizable, already years into the COVID-19 pandemic. Rogers started his days on Zoom with Foster, sharing a cup of coffee through their computer screens and talking about songs. Foster was leery about getting back into the studio in-person too soon, but the extra time before recording sessions ultimately proved helpful: They wrote more songs, Rogers explains, had more time to mull them over and more time to consider the A&R aspect of making the record.
Giving more space to the songwriting process allowed Rogers — who co-wrote 10 of Homecoming's 11 tracks — time to go deeper, too. He went deeper into the writing process, coming out of it with songs that were inspired by the time period that produced them. Sometimes, that meant taking inspiration from the pandemic itself, like with "Picture Frames," which the singer says came from his realization of "how fast it's all moving" — referring both to his two decades touring with his band, and the time he spent with his wife and kids.
Another song, "Bottle of Mine," was a co-write with just Rogers and Foster, and the singer calls it "the most depressing, saddest drinking song I've ever made." The track was a reflection of the pandemic shutdowns, and the jump in alcohol consumption that accompanied them.
"I think a lot of us during the pandemic — I found myself, like 'Whoa, why am I drinking so much?'" he recounts. "I know you read the reports about alcohol sales going through the roof at grocery stores and stuff."
Then there was "Heart for Just One Team," a song that Rogers points to as perhaps the most serious song he's ever cut. He wrote it with his father in mind, he says.
"We lost my dad during the pandemic. He didn't die from COVID. He died from a very long, very serious battle with cancer," he goes on to say. "I needed that song to process his death. The relationship that he and I had wasn't the strongest relationship. You know, he was a Baptist preacher, and I was on the road in a band. We had certain things in common, and we had certain things we didn't agree on."
"I don't think I'm alone in saying that sports — football and baseball — really brought us together later in life," Rogers adds. "When I talked to my dad on the phone, we talked about sports. We'd talk about the game, we'd talk about the coming year, and that was one thing we shared. I don't think I'm the only one."
The singer admits he's a little daunted by the prospect of performing "Heart for Just One Team" live. It'd be a great addition to the setlist, he knows, but it will also be an emotional song to sing.
"The only thing I can compare it to is being on the road with Miranda [Lambert] for years and watching her sing 'The House That Built Me' every night," he says. "... It's gonna be hard for me to do that song, is my point. I'll do it when I'm ready to do it."
Still, another reason why he's so proud of Homecoming, Rogers says, is because he knows some of its songs will make it into the band's permanent setlist — a tall task, when there's 20 years of hits competing with the new material for a spot in a 90-minute show. "Nothing But Love Songs," "I Won't Give Up" and "Fast Car" — all them, the singer says, he expects to incorporate into RRB's live show for years to come.
For as much as Homecoming looks back towards the band's formative years, it also reflects the growth that those 20 years have afforded them: Not just because they're "less green" now than they were then, as the singer says, but also because their status in the music business is different. They still see Foster as a creative mentor, but one of the co-writers on "Where'd You Run Off To" — the penultimate track on the album — is Parker McCollum, a young, Texas-based star who sought advice and guidance from Rogers while he was getting his own career started in the music industry.
"I met Parker about seven years ago. I had a management company at the time, and I managed Parker for three or four years until we got him up to the big leagues," Rogers says, a little slyly.
"He's like my little brother. What's interesting is the relationship I had with Radney at his age, he and I have the same relationship," he continues. "We were writing for his record when we wrote that song, and he decided he had something else similar [and wasn't going to cut it]. Out of respect for him as a writer and friend, I wanted to put it on my record so he would have a cut."
In Homecoming, "home" looks different than it used to — the band is a little more seasoned, a little wiser and in a position to offer another artist the same guidance they once got, and continue to get, from Foster. Two decades into their career, the band is in their artistic mid-life. They've got a storied past in the rearview, while several chapters — and potentially their most exciting work — still lay ahead.
"In the prime!" Rogers crows in agreement, clearly fired up about what's to come.
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