“I don’t feel old yet,” Randy Rogers says when asked how he feels after 2 decades of making music with his band. “I feel like our band is really coming into its own.” He admits that might sound a touch cliche, but he means it, adding of the Randy Rogers Band, as a whole, “We’re comfortable in our own skin.”
Fronted by singer-songwriter Rogers, the rock-tinted country ensemble behind hits like “Kiss Me in the Dark” and “Too Late for Goodbye” also consists of guitarist Geoffrey Hill, Jon Richardson on bass, Brady Black on fiddle, drummer Les Lawless, and the multi-faceted Todd Stewart on guitar, fiddle, mandolin, and keyboards. Together, what they’ve accomplished is no small feat, spending the last 20 years bringing the country music tradition of their home state of Texas to the nation.
“I’m very proud that we’ve been together, the same five guys, for 20 years,” Rogers tells American Songwriter, saying the biggest takeaway from the last two decades has been from learning who they are as individuals to, in turn, become the band they are now. “We’re all a little bit different and what we bring to the table turns out to be this cohesive thing,” he explains.
“There’s so many different scenarios and situations we’ve been put in as a band and I think that we’ve all taken bits and pieces away from all those situations,” Rogers adds. Those experiences have helped create the band’s current sound, a seasoned, proud sound that can be heard in their new album, HOMECOMING.
A love letter to their past as the band celebrates their milestone together, HOMECOMING is just that, a true homecoming, bringing the band back to where it all started for their ninth studio album.
The group recruited producer Radney Foster, who helmed much of their early work, including the 2004 breakout release, RollerCoaster. “Going back and working with Radney Foster, after all these years, he probably was relieved that we weren’t the young men that had no clue and thought we knew everything,” Rogers jokes.
The recording process for HOMECOMING was just as personal as the album itself. “There were definitely moments that we strolled down memory lane, that we remembered certain things that happened on the days we recorded those older songs,” Rogers shares, adding the same studio musicians, the same instruments, even down to the exact amplifiers that helped create the sound of RollerCoaster, years earlier, can be heard on their new work, as well.
It was those little moments, the frontman explains, that made the process easy and fun. “We felt like we were doing what we had always said we were going to do which was go back to the original sound, the original producer, and cut a record,” he says.
This album is by no means a continuation of RollerCoaster, but it’s something else entirely. Rogers describes HOMECOMING as “a rejuvenation of our youth all wrapped up into a record.”
The 11-track album is riddled with bittersweet nostalgia as poignant, deeply personal songs touch on themes of losing love, losing time, and unearthing memories once thought to be lost. HOMECOMING holds tight to the spirit of the band’s early work, but also shines a light on where they’ve been and how far they’ve come.
“There’s a range of emotions on the album,” Rogers says, chronicling the good, the bad, the boozy.
The pandemic brought out a lot of drinking songs for the frontman. “A lot of people didn’t know what to do with themselves, me included,” he admits. “I was writing these dark, weird drinking songs.” It was a period he describes as pretty gloomy, giving life to songs on the album like “Bottle of Mine” which he says is “probably the saddest song I’ve ever written … And ‘Over You Blues,’ the same thing.”
With a chorus that wails, Since you been gone / I’ve been pourin’ ‘em strong / Cause now I’ve got nothin’ to lose / I got those scared to be sober / I can’t get over you blues, “Over You Blues” is a lump-in-your-throat kind of song. The arrangement hangs like a heavy head, liquored up and feeling low.
“So I was like ‘We gotta stop writing these drinking songs,’” Rogers continues. “We can’t just make a whole record of depressing drinking songs.” With that, he began to take a different approach to songwriting, saying “I started thinking about those important things to me, like my family, like my father, my kiddos, my wife, my band, my life, how fortunate we’ve been.”
Rogers spent the pandemic going through phases of not touching a guitar to writing a song a day to back again. He explains he spent his time making music “really trying to capture all those emotions that were running through my mind and my life.”
Rogers lost his father in October 2020 after a lengthy battle with cancer. “Heart For Just One Team” was written in his memory, allowing listeners to experience a piece of his dad in the vulnerable track. Recounting a childhood memory of the father/son duo attending a Dallas Cowboys game together and the bond they formed in the “nosebleeds” that day, the song holds a heavy-hearted, but beautiful sentiment.
The opening track, “I Won’t Give Up,” is another touching tune, a love song for his wife. “No matter how messed up the world is around us, I won’t give up on you and we’ll be okay,” Rogers said of the song’s message. When I said forever / Forever’s what I meant / Yeah, my promises don’t break / Hell, they don’t even bend read the passion-fueled lyrics that are backed by an equally fiery, beat-driven arrangement.
Even as the emotions range from dark and desolate to mournful and sentimental, Roger says “I do feel like it still is a cohesive collection of the human experience and that to me is my job. That’s what I’m supposed to do.”
HOMECOMING is out now.
1. “I Won’t Give Up”
2. “Nothing But Love Songs”
3. “Fast Car”
4. “Over You Blues”
5. “Leaving Side of Town”
6. “Picture Frames”
7. “Know That by Now”
8. “Small Town Girl Goodbye”
9. “Heart for Just One Team”
10. “Where’d You Run off To”
11. “Bottle of Mine”
Photo by Peter Zavadil / Sweet Talk Publicity