Chris Stapleton makes an appearance on Randy Houser’s new Fired Up album. His fiancee does too, but her presence is felt, not heard. The “We Went” singer only wrote five of the 17 songs on this new behemoth of a country album, yet it’s still as personal as anything he’s ever shared with fans.

The most personal songs may still be on the horizon, however. Houser says he’s been writing like he’s dying and is anxious to return to the studio, but he’s not necessarily going to start work on his fifth studio album. Fans may not ever hear the music he’s writing currently, but it's been pouring out. It’s more in the vein of songs like "Route 3 Box 250D," a dark, biographical track from the How Country Feels album.

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Fired Up doesn’t including anything that personal, although “True” (written by Houser and Rob Hatch) is about Houser's love life. “It’s about my first days with Tatiana (Starzynski),” the star says of a mid-tempo love song that features this big chorus:

"I know, that I know / Just like you said I would / Just like I know I’m hooked / Yeah girl you’ve got me good / You’ve got me thanking the man in the moon / Every time I make a wish, you come true.”

Hatch and Houser team again for the inspired “Senior Year,” a slow-building ballad that’s most comparable to “Like a Cowboy.” It’s the crown jewel of Fired Up, the song you can’t wait to hear him hush a crowd with on tour with Dierks Bentley this summer. Much of the album tilts progressive — more progressive than he's ever done before. But thematically every song stays true to the cowboy narratives.

Houser — forever humble and understated in conversation, a dramatic contrast to his straight-forward and imposing sound on stage — says “Senior Year” tells his teenage story, but figures it will also be accessible for fans to add their own details. Producer Derek George needs some credit for helping the song swell into a storm of guitars, drums, emotions and vocals before it smooths out with Houser singing a final chorus over little more than acoustic.

The Travis Meadows-written “Hot Beer and Cold Women” is one of the 40-year-old’s favorite songs on the album. It’s a retrospective ballad written in the present, and one he’s lived. The Stapleton-penned “One Way” is another song that hit him early. Country music’s reigning Male Vocalist of the Year joins Houser on this song — one of the first he recorded for the album, creating a power duo that could sing their way through a prison wall.

“The line ‘Time is a river, it only runs one way’ just killed me,” Houser says, barely recognizing the power of the pairing.

With 17 songs, Fired Up requires a bathroom break to finish in one sitting. Houser says he recorded the songs, so why not included them? It's a matter-of-fact issue of commerce and giving fans what they want.

“It does cost our record label a little more, and it takes a little more time,” he says, “but people get their money’s worth.”

Radio should get their money's worth, as well. There's plenty of radio-friendly hits to be found on Fired Up, meaning Houser's streak of Top 5 hits (including three No. 1 singles) should last through this album cycle. Expect more dramatic music videos to accompany those songs. It's become his thing, and frankly, adding a plot is the only way it's any fun.

"Shooting music videos has usually been my least favorite part of this," Houser says. "It sucks. It's because it's like, 'Stand here and lip sync your song and the pretty people are gonna come through now and we're gonna put them in a truck.'"

"So what we've tried to do is turn it into something fun and adventurous. And we did."

Fired Up is at retailers as of March 11.

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