Wade Bowen and Randy Rogers Talk New Duets Album, ‘Hold My Beer: Vol. 1′
Titled Hold My Beer: Vol.1, the project adheres very adamantly to traditional country music, both in song structures and in the instrumental arrangements and production elements. Produced by Lloyd Maines, it's an album that fans of traditional country music will surely love, and one that has earned glowing early reviews from a number of media outlets.
The idea for the project grew out of a joint tour the two longtime friends undertake each year, which they bill as Hold My Beer and Watch This. The album retains the informal, fun attitude of those acoustic shows, but the duo are backed by a full band for a feel that's different than anything either one of them has released on his own.
Taste of Country caught up with Rogers and Bowen recently to talk about the project, their longstanding friendship and why it's more important to them to have standards than hits.
This project has been a long time coming. What made this the right time to do a duet album?
Randy Rogers: We have been playing our acoustic tour for years — probably eight years or so officially, and 14 or so longer than that [Laughs]. We just got business savvy about eight years ago and decided to name it and brand it. Hold My Beer and Watch This is what we came up with, and so we have a bunch of acoustic shows recorded, dating back to 2008, so we decided we were gonna make a live acoustic record to represent what we've been doing, and we were gonna put a few bonus tracks at the end.
We got in the studio and ended up having so much fun, we said, 'Man, this is just so good, let's go ahead and record a whole record and see what happens.' So here we are.
How far back did you start the recording process?
Randy Rogers: It was actually recent. I think we went in in October, is when we finished it up. As far as the studio stuff, we just knocked it out pretty quick. We were having so much fun that we just knocked out 10 songs as quick as possible.
We got in the studio and ended up having so much fun, we said, 'Man, this is just so good, let's go ahead and record a whole record and see what happens.'
How is the process different in collaborating vs. the process of going in and working on a record for either one of you separately?
Wade Bowen: Honestly, I think we kinda see eye to eye. We didn't have too many disputes or arguments about the song choices or the musicianship. Lloyd Maines produced this record and did just a phenomenal job of reigning our ideas in, so it was a pretty easy process. I don't recall one problem.
Randy Rogers: We get along so well. We've been doing our tour every single year, and that tour usually lasts for a month and a half straight, doing seven days a week together. We do get along really well as friends. I think that's the strength of us going on tour, and the strength of this record. I think you hear that. Everything does come pretty easily and natural to us both.
On the occasions that you do see things differently, how do you settle it?
Randy Rogers: Some of the songs were Wade's, some of the song we had written together, and then some of the songs I had written. So the ideas I had on my songs, we used, and the ideas he had on his songs, we used. And then Lloyd had some great ideas. The other thing is, we used our bands, like half of Wade's band and half of my band. We trust those guys and what they come up with in their parts and stuff.
Wade Bowen: It was a real collaborative effort on the part of all the musicians.
Randy Rogers: And if it really got crazy, we would just paper rock scissors for it like we always do, and that solves everything.
The album is called Hold My Beer, which derives from the name of the tours you've done. How did you come up with that in the first place?
Wade Bowen: I don't remember how we came up with that actual idea, although the tour has always been a fun thing for us. At some point we had a bar onstage [Laughs]. We've always just wanted to keep it a little lighthearted. A lot of the songs we write on our own are pretty serious love songs or whatever, and presenting them in a not-so-serious light, I think is our goal. That was kinda the goal with this record, too, is just have it a little more lighthearted and uptempo and fun. That's kinda what the tour embodies. A lot of jokes, and probably a lot of crass things get said onstage, just throwing each other under the bus a little bit about life in general. We just wanted to carry that over.
This is called Vol. 1. Does that automatically mean there's going to be more?
Randy Rogers: Yeah. [Laughs]. For sure. We had so much fun doing it, we just said, 'Hey, man, let's just call it Vol. 1, and put the pressure on ourselves to make sure we do more of these.' You know, we can both get so busy with our normal schedules and our normal calendar, just the Randy Rogers Band calendar and the Wade Bowen calendar, that the Hold My Beer calendar can get crazy and hectic and get lost if we don't push ourselves to make sure stuff happens.
So it's gonna be the same with the next record — how are we gonna find time? How are we gonna schedule it? This one just fell out of the sky. It wasn't planned at all. We didn't know what the heck we were doing or when we were gonna deliver it. So I think calling it Vol. 1 has it in the back of our heads now of making a Vol. 2, or whatever. Vol. 10, maybe. Who knows?
Are there any songs that were left over from this that might find their way onto the next project?
Wade Bowen: There were several, actually. A lot of these songs we had written years ago, and they just finally felt like we were making an album they belonged on. I think as a couple more years go by, those songs may come back, and we'll be writing in between now and then, too. This album is as country as it can get, and it's a lot of fun to try to write those kinds of songs. That's kind of been lost in translation through the years in country music, and kinda taking it back to those roots — our roots — is a lot of fun.
A lot of these songs we had written years ago, and they just finally felt like we were making an album they belonged on.
This is obviously a really, really rootsy record, with all of those classic influences and produced in that style. A lot of people say traditional country music is dead. That's not really true, but it's somewhat true in terms of commercial radio. Where does that put you in terms of promoting this project? Does it make your life harder, or does it even impact you?
Randy Rogers: I think we've both been up against that at radio from the beginning. Maybe not necessarily sounding like what was quote-unquote working well at radio, or what tested well at radio. So I don't think that's anything new for us. If anything, we dialed it all the way, with this record, and basically tempting radio to see if it works.
Our goal's always been, as artists, to have commercial success at radio, but unfortunately, in the time that we've been making records over the last 16 years, a sound that we enjoy — albeit, Wade's records sound different than Randy Rogers Band records — but still, it hasn't exactly been played to the masses on country radio. So yeah, I think this record was an obvious attempt on our part to do something as traditional as possible and as rootsy as possible, just to kinda showcase that fact.
A lot of people have turned to the internet over the last few years as an alternative way to market themselves. Have you found that's more of a positive or more of a negative in terms of getting yourself out there, vs. the possibility of piracy?
Wade Bowen: I think the piracy thing, I kinda quit worrying about years ago, because I think the internet is a huge asset to us. It's what's made our careers. We haven't had much radio success at all, and so word of mouth, and fans just spreading the word ... how easy it is to do that these days is good for artists. Years and years ago I just embraced it, and tried to utilize every aspect of that.
You can't fight it. I know there's a lot of people fighting for the songwriter, and I think [piracy] has hurt the songwriter more than the artist. The songwriter, I do think we need to find a way to figure out how to help the American songwriter try to make a better living than what's going on now. But there's really smart people in Nashville really fighting for that, trying to help the songwriter. But as far as the artist's aspect of that, I think it's a huge asset for us. You can't really fight the internet. [Laughs]. You have to use it to help your career.
Randy Rogers: You have to think also, the way that we've made our living, and the way we pay for our kids' food, is touring, and selling T-shirts and being in public playing four or five shows a week. Generating revenue by live performances and appearances. I think that's always been our business model, so any way to spread your name and the fact that you're coming to a new town and playing a show is definitely a positive thing, if you're looking at it from that standpoint.
Wade Bowen: That's the beauty of it. We were talking about this the other day, Randy said the biggest compliment anyone can give you when you write a song is to have them sing it back to you at a show. I think any artist would agree that's an absolute blast. That's why we do this. That's where this record came from, is our touring side.
We wanted to ask about a few specific songs. The first one is "In the Next Life." What inspired that?
Wade Bowen: I was actually driving near home, and Randy had been somewhere. He was being some bigshot somewhere, doing something really amazing and awesome. He was telling me about it, and I said, 'Man, that's really cool. In my next life, I wanna be you.' And he said, 'Yeah, buddy ... in my next life I wanna be me, too.' [Laughs]. I said, 'That's the song we need to write, right there.' So we took that idea and just wrote it about our story, our friendship, how we met and how we've been through everything as buddies, up and down, back and forth — we've carried each other through all of it, and that song really sums it up.
We play a bunch of shows, and we pack them out, and people dance all night and have a great time.
Another one is "Til It Does." What was the thought process behind that?
Wade Bowen: That was a song I wrote a while back, and I always wanted to put it on a record, and every time I made a record, it was either too country for my records at that time, or it was being considered by another artist. As songs tend to do, they find their way onto the record in their own time. That one is one I've always loved. I actually played it years ago on the acoustic for Randy, and he just loved it. He actually was almost shocked that I wrote that [Laughs]. He's always told me that it was one of his favorites that I've written, so he kind of pushed me to put that song on this record.
"Good Luck With That" has a really unique feel to it.
Randy Rogers: That, for us, was like the — I don't know if it was the hardest song to write, but when you're writing a song for two males to sing, your topics are kinda limited, so without being too over-the-top cheesy, you kind of have to try the best you can to be clever. A friend of ours had brought that idea to the table, and we had all the different scenarios, like jumping off a cliff, or taking your final exam. You hear people say, 'Good luck with that.' I hear it a lot more now than I've ever heard it, just because I'm paying attention.
We just wanted to create these scenarios where this idiot thinks he knows it all, and his buddies are just gonna tell him, 'Good luck with that.' I think it's kind of a universal language that we all use in our everyday life, telling your boss to take this job and shove it, or telling your old lady that you're gonna stay out late at the bars, and don't wait up for you. That usually doesn't work! And that's the whole point of the song.
"Standards" is just a cool idea. Was it inspired by a real-life incident?
Randy Rogers: I wrote that song about five years ago. At the time, I was on Universal. That's not a true story. No one ever asked me to cut a song with a dirt road in it. But at the time every other song that was on the radio was about a dirt road or something. And I'll be honest, it was disheartening, because I felt like Wade and I and other artists were writing songs with meaning, that had a little bit more integrity. I got pitched songs that were not in my wheelhouse, but ended up being big hits at radio, and I passed on them, and didn't cut those songs. And I don't regret it, looking back.
It just wasn't me to do that. I'm not saying it's wrong for other people to do that, it's just not what I wanted my career to look like in the end, when it's all said and done. We've never had a hit, big-time, at radio. Wade's biggest hit was No. 39, and mine was No. 38, and so it's kinda poking fun at ourselves. We play a bunch of shows, and we pack them out, and people dance all night and have a great time. And we're really lucky that we get to do that. So the song is really about our life in general, going out and touring. "Standards" obviously is a play on the word itself, a standard being a traditional country song that everyone dances to or puts a quarter in a jukebox to listen to. So hopefully we have a lot more standards to come.
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