Kevin Fowler Tries to Break Into the National Scene While Staying True to Texas With New Album ‘Chippin’ Away’
Kevin Fowler has the No. 1 song on the Texas charts, a new album in stores this week and successful endorsement deals through his hunting and fishing exploits at KevinFowlerOutdoors.com. For some reason he's still busting his back in the 107 degree Austin, Texas heat on a Wednesday afternoon. “I put my house on the market, and I didn’t think I’d sell it,” the singer tells Taste of Country. “It sold in six weeks and they paid cash and wanted me out in seven days.”
Fowler has had to move often. His career has taken him to three different record labels, all of which closed not long after the ink dried. These were truly just coincidences, but when it came time to find a fourth label to work with he wanted to be sure. Earlier this year he signed with Average Joe's Entertainment, home to talented ragamuffins like Colt Ford, Corey Smith and Montgomery Gentry. His new album, 'Chippin' Away', has been finished for over a year -- it was originally set to be released on Lyric Street Records before Disney closed those doors -- and Fowler said the title 'Chippin' Away' pretty much sums up his career thus far.
"Nothing has ever come easy," he says with a laugh. "Consistency is the only thing keeping it going you know. I feel like every day, I keep on chipping away, hanging in there, hanging on. Fighting the good fight, you know."
How is the relationship with Average Joe’s working out so far?
That all came about because me and Colt Ford are good buddies ... It’s worked out great. They’re the only label I’ve found that really gets what I do, you know which is about the fan base and live shows and hard tickets, and people coming to shows and merch. They really get the one-on-one, the artist development thing. None of the other labels really did.
We’re gonna have the first national single coming out in a couple of weeks. The first one we’ll work that’ll be a radio song is called ‘That Girl.’
Why did you choose that song?
This record would originally be the one that was gonna come on Lyric Street, so it’s been done for a year. So we were out doing radio tours for a song called ‘Pound Sign.’ We were playing the record for people and all the radio people were like, "Dude, give me that song." It’s just one of those things that’s got an undeniable hook, upbeat, catchy.
The video for 'Hell Yeah, I Like Beer,' is full of famous musicians and celebrities (Colt Ford, Dierks Bentley, Eli Young Band, Sunny Sweeney). What does it take to get people like that involved?
I just pulled out my iPhone and went through it, all my buddies. Rodney Carrington, called him up. And Josh Beckett, pitcher for the Red Sox, he and I are best buds. And Dierks Bentley is cool. A little begging goes a long way.
Do you ever sit back and think, "Holy crap! I’ve got so-and-so’s cell phone number?"
[Laughs] Maybe. I’ve been doing this so long. I’ve had a few of those moments, like Willie Nelson, early on he kind of took me under his wing, me and Pat Green. And put us on his show and I asked him to do a song on my record, he said, "Sure." So he came down and cut it and I was sitting in the control room looking out there and Willie’s got trigger out there, his guitar, playing a song I wrote driving around in my pick-up truck and I’m going, "How cool is that?"
What kind of things does one learn from Willie Nelson?
I tell you what I learned from Willie. Every night he goes up and signs autographs every night until the last person’s gone. I went and saw him in Austin, he’s standing out in the street next to his bus signing autographs for at least an hour-and-a-half, non-stop.
How difficult is it to break out of the Texas music scene to the national music scene?
I think it just takes the right song, you know. Down here it’s not all about radio, it’s more about fan base and live shows and networking and the underground thing. And when you get to the national scene it’s more about radio and the exposure like that.
There seems to be a wall built at the Red River, between us and Oklahoma. You know to try to break out of Texas sometimes can be tricky, it can be hard. You have to be careful not to alienate your fan base because as a Texas artist you can have great fame down here. You can stay down here, do this thing, make a great living and never leave. But as an artist you want to spread your music to as many people as you can and at the same time you don’t want to alienate your fan base.
Texans are a very proud lot. Ford has their own brand of Texas trucks if you wanna buy a truck in Texas. So does Chevy, so does Dodge. Budweiser makes their Bud bottles all have Texas on ‘em. Texans are weird, I’m telling ya -- I’m one. We’re a weird people, we think we’re our own country and everybody here wants their own music, their own trucks, their own beer. Everything.
What was the last concert you attended as a fan?
You know, I just bought tickets to see Judas Priest. They have their farewell tour coming up and I was always an '80s headbanger at heart, you know. I don’t go to a lot of country shows. Usually if I go to a show it’s a rock 'n' roll show. A lot of country artists, man, I think they put on boring shows.
I want to see a show. If I wanted to listen to the CD I could do that at home. And so many Nashville cats, man, they just stand up there and they just play the song exactly like the record, no energy. First time I saw Chris LeDoux, I love that guy. That guy had it figured out.
Watch the Kevin Fowler 'Hell Yeah, I Like Beer' Video