Texan Country stalwarts Randy Rogers and Wade Bowen are back with more tunes in the ‘Hold My Beer’ series as volume 3 is released today. (July 7th) The latest entry to their Hold My Beer canon contains six songs exploring love, nostalgia, life on the road and, of course, drinking.
Both veterans of the Country music scene, Rogers and Bowen decided to team up in a professional capacity in 2015 when they released Hold My Beer, Vol. 1. Their newest project, much like the first EP and 2020’s Vol. 2, is a collection of twang-heavy tracks made for drinking, dancing and reminiscing, with Rogers and Bowen trading off as they sing over steel guitars and fiddles, whether they’re heading to the bar after a broken heart in “I Moved Into A Bar”, looking back on their youth in ‘Dumb Kids,’ or taking opposing roles in a cinematic western duel in ‘Shooting Hand.’ We were thrilled to grab some time with Randy Rogers to talk all about it.
Thank you for your time today Randy it’s a pleasure to speak to you. I want to dig into ‘Hold My Beer Volume 3’ but let’s start by saying how much I loved your last studio album, ‘Homecoming’ from last year.
Thank you. It was a satisfying album to work on. A re-connection with an old friend, same producer, same exact band and studios. It felt like we got a second chance to have a second swing with it.
Did you get a renewed sense of vigour with it being the first album back after the pandemic?
Those songs were written on zoom during the pandemic with my friends and collaborators. It was great during COVID to have something to work towards and to keep us musicians occupied. This zoom platform we’re speaking on today was very helpful in terms of being able to stay connected with my songwriting pals.
Did you adjust well to writing over zoom because not all artists did?
I’m still doing it now, too, it’s weird! (laughing) I could easily fly to Nashville and write but it does make life a little easier sometimes when you don’t have to. Yesterday I wrote with a young female artist from Nashville and we did that over zoom. It forces you to focus and get songs finished because you can’t get up and go down to the bar down the street, grab lunch and run into four people you know like you would if you were there in person. (laughing)
Did you and Wade write some of these new songs like that or were you always in the room together?
We were in the room. ‘Hold My Beer volume 3’ was written post-pandemic, which is how we like to be.
The genesis of this project dates back to 2015 and you guys have been working together in various ways for twenty years or so. The Houston Press called you ‘Country music’s best bromance’ a few years ago, is that a fair claim and what is it about each other that makes you enjoy working together so much?
I think we came up through the business at the same time. Wade was a little bit before me, but not much. I first met him after one of his gigs and invited him to come party at my house and stay the night with his band at mine. I think I had a keg of some very nasty beer I needed to shift. (laughing)
It was a very organic beginning. We both had nothing going on and we agreed to just have each other’s backs. You know, if he got a beer deal he’d share the details with me. If I got a clothing sponsorship I’d tell him how to go about getting one himself, right? If a club owner screwed you over, Wade would be the first person I’d call to tell him to watch out for that guy.
It was great to have a friend in the business. My little brother is eight years younger than me so we didn’t really hang out much as kids. Wade has all sisters so the bromance is more like a brotherhood. We have fights and disagreements, we’ve had fist fights before in the past! (laughing) The competition, all be it mostly friendly, is also real too. Just like brothers.
What’s the biggest disagreement the two of you have ever had?
The biggest disagreement? Probably just me being a jerk, right? (laughing) Wade would probably same the thing!
There’s been a rise in the popularity of Texan Country music in the last few years. You’ve got artists like Cody Johnson and Parker McCollum making waves in Nashville right now. Randall King and Drake Milligan came over to the UK for this year’s C2C festival in London and were the breakout smash hit artists of the whole weekend. Do you have any thoughts as to why it is so popular right now?
Obviously Parker having the radio success that he’s had has helped. The traditional sound that someone like Cody Johnson has has re-emerged as a theme in more mainstream areas too, particularly in some areas of Country radio and that has helped younger artists like Randall King. People’s tastes change and tides turn and trends come along that send people down a rabbit hole exploring other similar sounds and styles and maybe that’s what’s happening right now?
This sound and this scene has been very vibrant and alive in Texas for a while now, thank god. It pre-dates even Wade and myself: it started really with Willie and Waylon and then into Robert Earl and Jerry Jeff Walker, the list goes on and on and on of great Texas artists. It’s nice that some of these younger guys are having mainstream success because it shines a light back down on artists that have been doing it for decades.
Where do you see yourself and Wade fitting in now – are you the wise men of the scene ready to impart some wisdom to these kids?
I’d say we are like uncles, right? I read interviews with some of the younger guys who say they look up to us. You know, one of my early albums might have been one of their favourite albums when they were discovering music in their teens, right? Those things do make me feel valued and important, like I did my job as far as continuing the torch of Texan Country forward to a new generation but I don’t feel like the old guy quite yet! (laughing)
How different is your writing process when you are putting together a band album compared to the ‘Hold My Beer’ projects with Wade?
The ‘Hold My Beer’ project is kinda tongue-in-cheek. Most of the songs are sort of goofy, funny and light-hearted and less serious, which makes them much harder to write, actually. When you get in a room with somebody who just broke up with the love of their life, you can write that one real quick, but if you’re trying to write a song about two dudes drinking without it being corny or cheesy, it’s much more difficult to write. Story songs and songs that aren’t necessarily about your own experiences aren’t always the easiest to get right and be believable either.
It’s a completely different approach with the ‘Hold My Beer’ albums. This new one is our third one now and I feel like we are getting better at doing them now. We are also getting better at explaining what we are trying to do with other writers who are involved too.
You and Wade considered ‘Rhinestoned’ as the pivotal track from the second volume. Is there a track that holds that place or accolade from volume 3?
You know, it has to be the one that we ran with first, ‘We Ain’t the Only Ones’. That kinda poked a little fun at all our friends in the industry. We did leave out a few folks that might have got their feelings hurt! (laughing) There was some purpose behind some of the little jabs we took at people in that song and most people took it well, only a few haven’t called us back about it yet!
The camaraderie and the brotherhood, the sisterhood, is what that song is all about. We all root for each other. When I see Parker McCollum’s success, I managed Parker for a while back there in the beginning, I’m so happy for him. Cody Johnson played with us and opened shows for us for years too and I don’t have any jealousy about what they’ve both gone on to achieve at all. I’m proud of them and it only does good for the scene that I’ve been a part of for years.
Did you go round in circles about which artists you were going to name-check on ‘We Ain’t the Only Ones’ or did you have a clear idea from the start?
It came real quick. We already knew the artist and the joke, you know? There were several that we thought about including but we didn’t because maybe the joke wouldn’t have gone over as well with them! (laughing)
‘Shooting Hand’ has a terrific cowboy vibe and very cinematic story. I love how you and Wade take characters in that song.
I didn’t really understand, when the hook was pitched, what the term really meant at first. It’s a saying our grandad’s used to say, right? Like I said, those story songs can be harder to write than the heartbreak ones. We created the good guy and the bad guy for the song and it was so fun to do. That’s the liberty you can take in fictional songs, the story can go wherever you want to take it. I don’t think I’ll ever write a movie or a TV series but little songs like ‘Shooting Hand’ are similar types of creations to me. You could easily write a spin-off from that song!
There’s a fantastic video of ‘Shooting Hand’ waiting to be filmed, right?
(laughing) Videos are expensive, man! (laughing) I also don’t have any acting skills! Maybe I could just be the bartender in any video that we might do for it (laughing)
‘Dumb Kids’ is such an evocative song. I think you have to be careful in nostalgic songs that you don’t become too overly sentimental, you strike the right balance with ‘Dumb Kids’. Why do you think we eulogise our childhood’s so much?
Everybody has something they can take away from that song, we wanted it to be relatable. We had a lot of freedoms when we were kids that kids don’t have these days and I think it makes for some powerful memories. We’re also just a bunch of big kids still, today, right? I’m a father of three and most days I still don’t know what I’m doing! (laughing)
As human beings, we tend to take a stroll down memory lane more times than not, particularly when we’re going through tough times as adults and songs like ‘Dumb Kids’ can be pressure relievers or help us get through things in life that cause us anxiety. We wrote the song with Alan Shamblin who wrote Miranda Lambert’s ‘House that Built Me’ and that’s all we have to say about that! (laughing) He’s got a knack for pulling on the heartstrings. It’s probably the song that Wade and I have recorded together that has the most substance.
We’ve touched upon humour in the ‘Hold My Beer’ project and you can find that in ‘I Moved into a Bar’. We’ve just published an article called ‘Where Has all the Humour Gone in Country Music?’ postulating that mainstream Country music is all very serious, intense and navel-gazey at the moment. The Texan guys are keeping that humour alive but you think it’s harder to do than the heartbreak songs?
It is harder to write. The history of Country music is littered with example of great humour. Dolly Parton, Porter Wagoner and the TV show ‘Hee Haw’ were fine examples of people who got it right. Moe Bandy, Ray Stevens, obviously, were other guys who managed to combine music and laughter. This ‘Hold My Beer’ project allows us to do a little of that as well.
It is something of a lost art. It’s been a while since there was Jeff Foxworthy song, right? (laughing) It’s been a minute. Comedy has disappeared, you are right, in the Country music mainstream, I haven’t thought about that before, but it has.
What makes you laugh?
Oh man. I would say that my therapist would probably love it if I watched more comedy! (laughing) My kids make me laugh. We don’t watch a whole lot of TV at my house. I get a lot of joy from my kids and the goofy sh*t that comes out of their mouths! They are 13, 10 and 6 and all girls, so their opinions and the way they see the world is a real joy to me, everyday.
You and Wade are out on tour together for a bunch of the summer. What’s the best and the worst bits about touring together?
The best part is that we are 50-50 on the show, right? (laughing) I don’t have to do the whole show by myself, which is nice. The friendship and camaraderie is great. Dinners together and catching up. We see a lot of mutual friends and some family out on the road too.
The worst part, just like every other touring musician, is being away from home. We’ll play four or five gigs in a week and then we’ll turn right around and go play full band shows too. The schedule is very tight and very busy. Switching back and forth between the two roles is hard work too. Here’s the ‘Hold My Beer’ shows and here’s the Randy Rogers band, right? Different set lists, different bands. That transition isn’t as easy as you think it would be sometimes.
Is it financially impossible for you to bring the tour to Europe, being independent artists?
I wouldn’t ever so no. Wade’s been over there a few times now. His kids are older than mine and he has a little more freedom right now whereas mine are still quite little. Real life makes it harder than it should be sometimes!