Randy Rogers has just made the trip home from Pryor, Oklahoma, where he pulled double duty at the Born & Raised Music Festival — performing both with the Randy Rogers Band and his longtime “Hold My Beer” friend and collaborator Wade Bowen. The morning after the festival, Rogers has, by his own admission and his wife’s confirmation, come “limping across the finish line.”
For many, it’s the beginning of the work week. But for Rogers, it’s the first few days of rest he’s had this whole season.
“This summer has been the busiest I can recall … ever,” Rogers says. “After the world went through what it went through, then everything opened back up, I just started saying ‘Yes’ to everything my agent brought to the table.”
For a band celebrating 20 years together, being “the busiest ever” is saying something. And considering the Randy Rogers Band’s prominent place in the pantheon of Texas music, it’s no surprise a group known for putting butts in seats has been putting more butts in seats than ever.
Rogers will say it’s a matter of work ethic — and satisfying a hierarchy of needs. Each member of the band, after all, has bills to pay and families to support — not to mention the crew and employees that rely on the band’s touring apparatus. “Many of them have been with us more than 10, 12 years,” Rogers says. “They really are family to us.”
And sure, there’s a perfectly simple, blue collar component to loading up the bus and touring nonstop. But that’s not why you start chasing music. It’s not what keeps you going in the face of constant industry changes and uncertainty. It’s not what compels you to say “This album isn’t done yet” and return to the studio. It’s not what makes you say “yes” to every show, even if it means performing with two different acts at the same festival. And it’s certainly not what keeps you doing it years after you’ve established yourself as a Texas legend.
No, that’s something else. A compulsion. Maybe an obsession. One that, two decades later, found the Randy Rogers Band “returning to the well” on their ninth studio album, Homecoming, which came out Oct. 14.
“You know, I thought we might come back around to it if the timing was right,” says Radney Foster, who produced Homecoming more than 14 years after last working with the band. Between 2004 and 2008, Foster produced Rollercoaster, Just a Matter of Time and Randy Rogers Band, a trio of records that minted the band as Texas favorites.
Foster is a persistent presence throughout the band’s career. Besides taking Rogers under his wing, producing three career-building albums and consistently contributing songs through co-writes, Foster always has Rogers’ ear. “We stopped making records together,” Rogers adds, “but he was still a dear friend and mentor to me.” For Foster, the band’s members are “like little brothers.”
But the music industry is known for making friends and family who don’t see each other for years, and Foster is busy in his own right. Between planning an anniversary tour, writing a screenplay and recording music, another collaboration was never guaranteed. They laid the groundwork nearly two years ago.
“I remember he called me from a restaurant while on the road,” Foster says. “Randy said, ‘You know, a big chunk of our fan favorites seem to be from those first three records you made with us. We don’t know why we’re not going back to the well.’ And I said, ‘Because you needed to go off and do other things, and that’s the way it works.’”
Rogers agrees. He worked with hit factory producers like Paul Worley and Jay Joyce and legends like Buddy Cannon, taking every opportunity to learn. And that made the decision to reunite with Foster for Homecoming all the more intentional.
But some things changed in 18 years — for starters, the way Rogers and company wrote this record. “When the world shut down, for the first six weeks to two months, I didn’t even pick up a guitar,” Rogers says. “I needed a break. We all did. And when I picked it back up, it was fun again.”
But the way writers were collaborating was already much different. “A lot of songwriters, I’m sure, aren’t as comfortable with the whole Zoom writing thing,” Rogers says. “But I love it — it’s wonderful.”
Rogers compares writing over video chat to a productivity exercise or a “time box.” If you’re on Zoom, you’re pretty much guaranteed to get a song out of it, he says. “But if we’re at my condo in Nashville, it’s, ‘Well, shit, let’s go down to get a drink and have lunch,’ then it turns into a couple of beers, and guess what? You didn’t write a song,” Rogers laughs. “Yeah you had a great time and hung out with a buddy you really like or a super-talented human being you always wanted to write a song with. But there are so many distractions. Zoom helped me finish material.”
Foster isn’t quite as generous with the new Zoom paradigm. “I was reticent at first,” he acknowledges, but when it came to writing with somebody like Rogers, “It’s a whole different ballgame,” and the technological “distance” plays less of a role. In the end, Foster and Rogers co-wrote four of Homecoming’s 11 tracks. Other co-writers include mainstays like Sean McConnell and Randy Montana.
Zoom sessions aside, Homecoming may as well be ripped from time. The album was recorded in two parts, first at Dockside Studio in Maurice, Louisiana, and then at Cedar Creek Studio in Austin. Hardcore fans will recognize both locations as pivotal recording spots for the band’s early albums.
Then there’s the personnel. You’ve got the Randy Rogers Band sextet celebrating 20 years together — Rogers, fiddle player Brady Black, guitarist Geoffrey Hill, drummer Les Lawless, bassist Johnny Chops and musical Swiss army knife Todd Stewart. Foster returned to the producer’s chair. But the band also brought back key studio players like Michael Ramos and Eric “Ebo” Borash, who, Rogers says, were foundational in the sounds of the early records.
“For years, fans have said Rollercoaster is the record they associate most with the band,” Rogers says. “This was the exact same guys in the exact same room. There was something nostalgic about it, but it was also just the right time.” This time, however, the band brought the maturity that comes with going from young upstarts to forefathers of the scene.
“When we were making Rollercoaster, they were opening for me,” Foster says. “And Randy was just bugging me and sandbagging me about producing a record with them. I finally agreed, and we started writing together. I held his feet to the fire to write a lot more. He was like, ‘I’ve got 12 songs; I’m ready to go.’ I was like, ‘I’ll be the judge of that,’” Foster laughs.
After Foster pointed out he and Rodney Crowell write 50 songs for an album and Bruce Springsteen has “suitcases” full of songs that will never see the light of day, Rogers took the lesson to heart. “Once it got under his skin,” Foster says, “it stayed under his skin.”
Rogers wrote dozens of songs for Homecoming, brought 30 to the table and ultimately chose 11. But Homecoming wasn’t even initially going to be a full album.
“We were originally planning on just doing an EP and calling it Dockside Studio Sessions,” Rogers reveals. But in a full-circle moment, Rogers felt there was more to say. “I didn’t think it was done yet,” he says. “So we hit pause, and I really dug in. I started writing more, and Radney and I dialed it in.”
Six months later, the band went to Cedar Creek Studio. “We had the material then,” Rogers said. “We had it covered.”
Perhaps there’s no greater yardstick for the band’s growth between Rollercoaster and Homecoming than the story of the two times Foster has ever seen Rogers “get hot.”
The first song the Randy Rogers Band ever recorded with Foster was a co-write between Rogers and Foster called “Somebody Take Me Home.” The band had been playing it live for a while, and they were bringing a “live” energy to it in the studio.
“The Clash could not have played that song any faster,” Foster laughs. “I was like, ‘Woah, woah, woah! This is a power ballad! It’s a spooky song, and when you play it too fast, you’ve lost all that spookiness underneath.’”
Foster continually asked them to slow down every take, which didn’t sit well with Rogers. Foster suggested they all take a break, then approached some of the members individually. “I was like, ‘Think of this as something spooky the Police would play, or U2 — how would they play it?’” One by one, the band members started to understand where Foster was taking the song — but Rogers wasn’t pleased.
“He was pissed,” Foster says. “He literally gave me the silent treatment for the rest of the day. We cut another song that evening, but he was not happy. So at the end of the day, I said, ‘Look, man, if you still hate this in four days when we’re done with the album, we’ll record it the way you want.’”
The next morning, Rogers came back to the studio with fresh ears and listened to “Somebody Take Me Home” again. “He was like, ‘I [expletive] hate saying this, but you’re right, and I love it,’” Foster laughs. “And that was my first day with him.”
Fast forward to the recording sessions for Homecoming. The band was recording “Picture Frames,” a standout track Rogers wrote with Drew Kennedy (and the first single from the album, released in late 2021). It was getting late, not just in the evening, but in the process of finishing the record. And something wasn’t sitting right with Rogers.
“Randy came in to the studio, and he was hot — I hadn’t seen him this hot since that first session,” Foster says. “He said, ‘That bridge is just sitting there. This is a hit song, but that bridge is just sitting there, and we need to do something to change it.’”
So the team put their heads down and layered together a bridge worthy of the band’s standards. “It all came together,” Foster says, “and we all just kind of sat back, laughed and said, ‘Randy was right.’”
In Foster’s words, the band was “good, but green” years ago. Now, they’ve become a unit in a league of their own. And that’s not something Rogers takes for granted. “A lot of people don’t realize the band you hear on the records isn’t usually the band on stage,” he says, “but for us, it is, and I think that’s one of the things that makes us strong and unique.”
Plenty hasn’t changed throughout the years for Rogers. He still doesn’t love recording demos. He still isn’t much for social media — “The less you see of me, the better” — though he says maybe he would’ve encouraged his former self to embrace “socials” a bit more. His motto is still “Be excellent and be gone.” And he still really loves the business side of it, too — enough to take other artists under his wing like Foster did all those years ago.
“The reason I wanted to go on the road and be a touring artist was the Randy Rogers Band,” says Parker McCollum, the Academy of Country Music’s New Male Artist of the Year. “Randy managed me, took a massive chance on me, stuck his neck out there for me — time and time again — in Texas and in Nashville, trying to get me a record deal and a publishing deal.”
For Rogers, working with other artists is all part of the fun — and potentially part of the next 20 years, too. “I love building people up,” Rogers says. “I love Parker’s success — I’m thrilled for him. The music industry is the most impossible thing in the world to pull off. And to watch somebody get tough, bear down, want it so bad and make it happen? That’s the coolest thing on Earth to me.”
The respect is mutual. “He was the first person ever tell me I had what it took to be successful, and he made me believe it,” McCollum says. “I’m forever indebted to him and forever grateful. He is family to me.”
So what do the next 20 years have in store for the Randy Rogers Band? It’s hard to say, but just like the last 20 years, good songs will be at the heart of it. And even when it feels something like a job, or when Rogers “limps across the finish line,” he loves every minute of it. “I had such a great show yesterday,” Rogers says with a smile. “I came off jumping up and down like a little kid, high-fiving the guys. It was one of those magical nights.”