Randy Houser's "Like a Cowboy" lyrics have returned traditional country music to contemporary country radio.

The track is an unapologetic ode to country's roots, and according to songwriter Brice Long, who wrote the song with Houser, that was deliberate. The song goes back several years, after Houser departed his deal at Show Dog-Universal and before he struck his deal with Stoney Creek. Long and Houser had collaborated previously, and when they got together to work on material for a new project, Houser had something very specific in mind.

"He kept talking about how Garth [Brooks] always had songs about rodeos and cowboys on his records, and he said, 'Man, I wanna write something like that,'" Long tells Taste of Country. "'I want to somehow put together a song that is kinda like what he did.' He thought that rodeoing and the cowboy lifestyle kinda went hand-in-hand with country music. And as he talked about it, we kinda hashed out that idea. The title just kinda fell out, really, and Randy was driving that co-write that day with such a strong melody."

The "Like a Cowboy" lyrics draw a parallel between a cowboy and a traveling musician: "I'll ride in on a sunny day / Sing you a song, steal your heart away like a cowboy ... Well baby you know I can't stay long / You wake up, I'll be gone / Until then I'll hold on like a cowboy."

The song came together over several writing sessions.

"We didn't finish it that first day, but we got back together and put the finishing touches on it and kinda mapped it all out, and then Randy laid down a really cool work tape and sent it to Derek George," Long recalls.

George ultimately helmed the production of Houser's third album, How Country Feels, which Stoney Creek released in 2013. The album has scored a string of hits, including its title song, "Runnin' Outta Moonlight" and "Goodnight Kiss." "Like a Cowboy" is the fourth single from the project and its fourth straight Top 10 hit, reaching No. 3 on Billboard's Country Airplay chart.

We write the best songs we know how to write, and then let it fall where it's supposed to fall.

"The coolest part for me in writing with Randy is, we've always written for the sake of the song, not necessarily what we thought radio would or wouldn't play," Long says. "That's what I love so much about writing with him, is we write the best songs we know how to write, and then let it fall where it's supposed to fall. Randy was a big part of making sure this song got out to radio. I remember him telling me when we wrote it, 'Man, this is exactly what I want to say. This is me as an artist. This is who I am.' It gave him a great opportunity to let people really see what kind of a singer he is, and as far as radio goes, he didn't want to move on from that record until he got a chance to put it out as a single."

The song was a big risk for Houser in the current radio environment, and it's paid off in a big way. Along with a handful of other songs currently at country radio, it seems to point the way toward a changing tide in country music in 2015, with the pendulum swinging back toward a greater emphasis on traditional songcraft.

"I hope it helps radio and listeners know that there's room for all of it," Long says. "I have nothing against anybody writing trucks and tailgates and moonlight and all the stuff that they write, because country music is about getting out and having a good time. But country music is about life, too. Every day isn't shiny and beautiful, and songs that have something to say and speak to the heart of the country listener, that's what made me wanna do this. Songs that said something and made me feel something. Every day isn't sunshine and roses; life isn't that way, and I got into this business because of songs that made me cry at times, made me feel something, talked about other people hurting."

He's both proud of the song and grateful to have been a part of it.

"The good Lord gave us the words to put it all together, and I feel like Randy was a big driving part of that, and I'm glad he chose me to write the song with," Long reflects. "This song has meant a lot to me, and to Randy as well. You write these things, and you hope they're gonna find their way to radio and let people hear them, and this is one of those songs that got out there ... It's all come together in the right way, and hopefully it will open the doors for some other things like that to get back on our radio waves."

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Backstage With Randy Houser