Before a stopover in Fort Worth, Randy Rogers reflects on the success of the group
Things are different for Randy Rogers these days. It’s a Monday morning as we speak, and the popular country bandleader is still feeling the effects of arriving home in Hill Country late the night before. He spent a week in Key West where he and his eponymous band performed at the annual Mile 0 Fest. Not long before, they had played headlining gigs in Colorado during MusicFest, another annual shindig.
On Saturday February 12, the Randy Rogers Band will perform at Billy Bob’s Texas.
2022 has been a busy year for Rogers so far, but its work has only just begun today. His voice is still a little groggy. At 10 a.m., he not only doesn’t wake up, but juggles tasks he wouldn’t have given much thought to when he and his band started in 2000.
“I hit reality this morning at 6 o’clock,” he says. “My little girls woke up, wanted to have lunch, then we got them dressed, their hair done, and took them to school.”
They say there is no rest for the weary, and that certainly goes for a touring musician. But after all these years, Rogers is seeking no respite from the active life he has built for himself. With essential help from bandmates Brady Black (fiddle), Johnny “Chops” Richardson (bass), Geoffrey Hill (guitar), Les Lawless (drums) and Todd Stewart (keyboards), the Randy Rogers Band has been one of the most critically acclaimed and commercially successful of any act to ever spring from the Texas country scene.
News of Tom Brady’s impending retirement was dominating the news cycle the morning we spoke. Rogers has carefully avoided comparing himself to the seven-time Super Bowl champion, but Brady’s longevity is something Rogers thinks more about these days. Brady was drafted into the NFL in 2000, the same year Rogers formed his band in San Marcos, where he studied public relations at Southwest Texas State University (now Texas State University). It’s understandable, if not inevitable, that Rogers draws at least one loose parallel. Plus, there are more than a few country music fans who will likely tell you that Rogers is their musical Tom Brady.
“If you watch football you know 22 is a long time and it certainly took its toll on his body, mind and family,” Rogers said of Brady. “For me, I’m starting to think about that life time on the road, doing what you love to do. I made that choice a long time ago, and it definitely defined my life, and I don’t really know what else can I do, you know?
The way it was before
The band released their first album, Live at Cheatham Street Warehouse, in 2000, but this year marks the 20th anniversary of the Randy Rogers Band’s first true studio album, Like before. A few tracks from that initial studio effort, including “Lost and Found” and the title track, have remained fan favorites and songs that Rogers still treasures. He may not remember everything from the start of his recording career, but Rogers remembers many pivotal moments and intense feelings from those early days.
“I remember writing songs on napkins, writing songs on register tapes of my job at the Eddie Bauer Factory Store in San Marcos,” he says. “I remember the fire that burned inside of me for the songs that I wrote to be recorded. And I remember hearing them for the first time in an aural way, through speakers in a studio and the joy it brought.
Seeking to capture the joy of his band’s early years is part of the reason Rogers once again worked with revered singer, songwriter and producer Radney Foster. Foster produced the band’s breakthrough effort in 2004 Russian mountains – widely considered one of the best, if not the best, best albums from the Texas country scene – as well as a major label’s debut album of 2006 It’s a question of time and the band’s self-titled album in 2008.
Perhaps not by chance, this trio of albums is arguably the band’s most beloved by their legion of fans. While there isn’t a clunker in the Randy Rogers Band’s catalog, there’s no denying that the period between 2004 and 2008 is when the band discovered their fastball and became a creative and commercial force. Rogers does not hesitate to hope that there remains gold of this time to exploit.
“We have something other people don’t have, and that’s not an arrogant thing to say, I’m telling the truth,” he says. “We have a kind of magic and we’re just trying to cultivate it again, to create something that people fall in love with and become part of their lives the way they did, especially with Russian mountains.”
Even though Rogers has recorded albums with some of country music’s biggest producers, such as Dave Cobb and Jay Joyce, reuniting with Foster, a man he calls a “hero,” seemed like the right move. Some songs for the group’s next album, the sequel to the excellent of 2019 At all costshave already been recorded at the same Dockside, Louisiana studio used for the self-titled LP, while the rest of the new collection will be dropped off in March at Cedar Creek in Austin, where the band set Russian mountains together.
“We decided that we kind of wanted to go back to our roots and record with Radney,” Rogers said. “At that time, we weren’t doing it for the fame or the glory, we were doing it because we were all in love with music and we were in love with the idea of playing music for a living.”
A musical brotherhood
It’s one thing to be in a band for 20+ years, but it’s another thing to be in that band without leaving for that long. Remarkably, the only recent personnel change for the Randy Rogers Band was the addition of multi-instrumentalist Stewart a few years ago. With thousands of gig dates and countless miles of travel accumulated over the decades, there must be some unknown trick to how the band stayed together and the answer isn’t all that complex.
“We ride together with the punches of life,” Rogers says. “These guys got me through some of the darkest shit of my life and listened to me cry every night on the bus. Picked me up when I fell a couple of times. It’s a brotherhood and it’s It’s so much more than what you see in the spotlight and on this stage.
Rogers continued his popular duo, Hold My Beer and Watch This, a project with close friend Wade Bowen, while Richardson recorded albums and played shows with his own band, Johnny Chops and the Razors. Even Hill has his own solo project to keep busy with when the time calls for it. For his part, Rogers sees that the side projects not only helped the band stay alive, but gave the band another chance to appreciate each other.
“We always believed in each other and felt we were stronger as a unit than individually,” says Rogers. “In Key West last week, Geoff and Johnny had their own shows, and I had a Hold My Beer show with Wade. [Bowen]. I went to Johnny’s show and looked around and saw our whole fucking band and the whole crew there watching him play. Families aren’t perfect, but we are a family.
Richardson, perhaps better known as “Chops” to fans, appreciates the support and honest feedback he gets from the guys during his full-time gig. With a pair of killer blues and rock-influenced albums spread over the past decade, the bassist-turned-leader loves being able to spread his own wings a bit. It is an avenue that has certainly contributed to the longevity of the group.
“I wouldn’t even know how to run my own project without watching Randy run ours for so many years,” says Richardson. “But I am also my own person with my own experiences, ideas and dreams. My other project allows me to express and realize these ideas. It also makes me appreciate the amount of work it takes to run your own project rather than being a supporting player.
The roller coaster of life
When Brady officially announced his retirement last week, many sportswriters and fans proclaimed that he was leading not only as the oldest player in the NFL, but as the best player in the league, even at 44 years. Unlike Brady, Rogers isn’t slowing down anytime soon. He’s a lifelong musician. As new generations of Texas country artists continue to emerge, you’d think the older guys would start to feel like they were aging offstage, but you’d be wrong, at least in Rogers’ case.
“We may not live and work the way we did in our 20s,” Rogers says. “But I was thinking about that in Steamboat [MusicFest] and last week at the Miles 0 Fest, that we’re some of the older statesmen on these bills, but we’re not. I don’t feel like we’re the old ones yet, and that’s because we’re not. I mean, we’re still in our early 40s. We’ve been in the game since we were 20 and we’re going to keep playing.
It’s good that Rogers is still full of energy. Before he worries about writing another song or going on another tour, there are more important things to deal with.
“I’m about to go grocery shopping,” he said. “So I can fuel up and be ready for when the girls come back from school.”