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When a band spends the bulk of its year on the road, its members are bound to have their share of trouble and strife. But only the truly talented are able to take those trying experiences and turn them into enduring art. The Randy Rogers Band is one of those few, and they’ve transformed coal into diamonds yet again on their latest album for MCA Nashville, Trouble.
Teaming up for the first time with producer Jay Joyce (Eric Church, Cage the Elephant, The Wallflowers), the Texas five-piece—vocalist/guitarist Randy Rogers, guitarist Geoffrey Hill, bassist Jon Richardson, fiddle player Brady Black, and drummer Les Lawless—dove headfirst into songs of loss, love and, above all, truth.
“No matter what, trouble always finds us. And that title honestly sums up the last two and a half years of making this record,” says Rogers. “At times it cuts deep and you can hear the pain, but it’s honest, it’s real. On the flip, we like to have a good time and you can hear that too. ”
During that time, the band and its extended family suffered an assortment of calamities, including the untimely death of Richardson’s brother. Instead of letting those events derail them, the band pulled together tighter than ever and allowed their personal experiences, pain and loss to seep into their work while hunkering down in the studio with Joyce
“Getting Jay onboard pumped us up, made us work harder, and made me more creative. I think it reenergized our band,” Rogers says. “It was a blessing. The timing couldn’t have been better.”
A blessing for both the group and for their passionate fan base, w ho will no doubt connect with the 11 tracks of Trouble, the band’s eighth album. The band has always enjoyed critical acclaim, thanks to their signature blend of outlaw edge coupled with guy-next-door charm. This album takes that duality to the next level.
The first single “One More Sad Song” is a heart wrenching autobiographical tale of the end of a relationship. The sorrow in the lyric is tangible and echoed by a soaring, haunting chorus. “Fuzzy,” with its dirty, swampy groove, is the hazy recollection of a night that many have heard of and only a few have had. And “Speak of the Devil” is about one man’s efforts to forget his ex whose name and memory haunts the darkest corners of his mind. “I came in here to drink to drown you out and watch you sink…to do anything but think. Speak of the devil.”
“This album is a little more out of the box for us. We pushed the envelope intentionally, to try to grow and experiment with our sound in the studio. Knowing the depth of Jay’s talent and his genius, we were all willing to take a chance to expand our range. We felt comfortable in our skin with him and were able to try sounds that are a bit out of the ordinary,” Rogers says. “Glad we took those chances.”
On “Fuzzy,” for instance, the band uses wrenches and cooking equipment to add texture and layers to the sound. The payoff, a unique album with roots that run deep.
“We’ve grown as a band with this record. But I still don’t think we could make an album without the soul and passion that that embodies Texas music and it’s heritage,” said Rogers. “I am definitely proud that we are from Texas. We got our start here and cut our teeth here. To me, it’s the whole reason I have a gig.” Rogers continued, “Without growing up dreaming to be George Strait or Willie Nelson, there wouldn’t be a Randy Rogers Band.”
As such, there’s a certain cachet attached to the group—an authenticity that can’t be manufactured, and one that is often coveted by other artists.
“We work hard touring, building up our fan base and putting on a good show night after night, over 200 nights a year. I feel like people have grown to respect us for that.” Rogers is nonetheless honored by the group’s three consecutive ACM Award nominations for Vocal Group of the Year. “It’s validating. The ACM nominations, and even the regional awards we’ve won in Austin, mean a lot to the band. I can’t tell you how proud we are every time we hear that we’ve been nominated.”
And they’re equally proud of the fact that their hero Willie Nelson graces “Trouble Knows My Name,” a true-to-life song about the perils of the road that recalls the Red Headed Stranger’s own “Me and Paul.”
“We went out to Willie’s studio to record his vocal and guitar tracks. That is a day I’ll never forget. Having him on our record and being able to be in the studio while Willie Nelson was recording, priceless.”
“In the verse that Willie sings, there really was a guy hanging halfway out of our bus after a show in New Orleans,” Randy says. “We scared him off, and he came back and threw a bucket full of concrete through the window trying to get back in.”
“If I Had Another Heart” is a track that honors one of the band’s influences, Radney Foster, who produced three of the group’s previous albums. “We’ve always been huge fans of Radney and we always try to include him in our records. He was one of my first mentors and I’ve learned so much from him. ‘If I Had Another Heart’ is an incredible song, it really fits what we do as a band on the stage. We were excited he let us cut it, we hope we made him proud.”
Which is exactly where the band excels: on the concert stage. Under those bright lights they actually develop new songs, reinterpret old favorites and, most importantly, forge a connection with their audience before heading back to the studio and employing what they’ve learned. Such was the case with Trouble.
“We like to view albums as snapshots. It’s a photo of where the five of us are and where we came from. We made this record as a team and we’re really proud of it.
It showcases who we are as a band and we got to include some of our heroes—and you just can’t beat that,” says Randy.