Country Singer Randy Rogers Hates Happy Songs

Randy Rogers (center) and his band play the Grizzly Rose on Saturday.
Randy Rogers (center) and his band play the Grizzly Rose on Saturday. Courtesy of Shorefire Media
It’s the age-old problem with success in the music business: How does an artist who has built a reputation based on writing heart-wrenching tales of woe continue down that road when the money starts rolling in and life at home is dandy?

For Randy Rogers — singer, guitarist and main songwriter with the Randy Rogers Band — this is something that he had to deal with or risk a career of sunshiny, happy tunes. He wasn’t going to let that happen for one minute.

“I love a sad country song,” Rogers says. “If I’m going to put something on the radio, it’s probably going to be depressing. I think country music is like the blues. I like the true story, not the glitter and glitz. I don’t think everybody is really jumping around on tailgates, shaking their ass, drinking and partying. I really don’t think that happens. People get off work and they’re too tired to shake their ass on a tailgate. I like songs that are a mirror of what’s really going on. Also, I hate happy songs in general. They kinda piss me off.”

Fortunately, Rogers has plenty of backstory to pull from. The Randy Rogers Band formed sixteen years ago, and still comprises all of the original musicians today — Geoffrey Hill on guitar, Jon Richardson on bass, Brady Black on fiddle, Les Lawless on drums and Todd Stewart on keys — thanks to the fierce loyalty and smart business dealings of the group’s frontman.

“I was previously a guitar player and singer in other bands, and I hated how those bands operated,” Rogers says. “Everybody was a hired gun. I wanted to create a family, and I wanted everybody to get their equal piece of the pie. Everybody plays on the record: What you hear when you’re driving around in the car is the same guys that are on stage. We signed a record deal in 2005 with MCA/Universal Music Group, and one of our staying points is that they couldn’t sign just me — they had to sign all five of us.”

At every turn, Rogers and his band have aimed to be the country group that they would want to listen to. Rogers himself is a huge fan of Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard, and he notes that there are no artists anymore in the contemporary scene who sound like Haggard.

Nonetheless, he likes what he hears. “I really think there’s some good music being made,” he says. “Jon Pardi put a really great record out, emboldened with the times and the music that is popular. He’s steadfast on his roots and his stone-cold country take on who he is and what his life is. I think that it’s hard for me to speak to that, because a lot of the time I don’t really pick my head up to look around. I just work hard and play my shows.”

Now in his thirties, Rogers is expanding his brand by investing in his local minor-league baseball team, the Cleburne Railroaders, and their stadium; a notorious San Marcos, Texas, live-music venue called the Cheatham Warehouse (“Stevie Ray Vaughan used to run around there barefoot”); and a catering company called Outlaw Food Trucks. But music remains his first love, and the band’s new album, Nothing Shines Like Neon, has been receiving praise from the likes of Rolling Stone while climbing up the Billboard country chart.

“I would lie to you if I said I didn’t expect it,” Rogers says. “I put my best foot forward. When you write something nice about me or I read something nice that somebody else wrote, it boosts my ego and makes me feel good, but I take the good with the bad. We’re supposed to entertain people and play great shows — help people dance, fall in love, and be a part of their life musically.”

On January 7, the Randy Rogers Band will play the Grizzly Rose, and Rogers is excited to be back in the region that has treated his group so well in the past.

“Grizzly Rose is the quintessential honky-tonk in Colorado,” he says. “It’s where I dreamed of playing, coming up from Texas. It’s been a while since we played there, and we had a few memorable nights there. A storm blew in and the power went out, and everybody had to go home.”

This time, Rogers says, he and the band will perform a selection of songs from all seven of their albums, including some of the earlier gems that they’ve been bringing back of late.

“We had put a block on songs that were recorded before 2010,” Rogers says. “It’s crazy that we had that material. It keeps us on our toes. We’re really proud of the body of work that we’ve created. You’ll see a bunch of guys having fun, and you’re more than welcome to join us.”

And after this tour? The band will go write another album, then tour it, going through the whole cycle again. Because that’s what they do.

The Randy Rogers Band will play the Grizzly Rose, 5450 North Valley Highway, at 8 p.m. Saturday, January 7. Tickets cost $20. Call 303-295-2353 for more information.
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