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A&E >  Music

Randy Rogers Band stays true to country

The Randy Rogers Band will headline a show Saturday night at the Knitting Factory in Spokane. (Chris McCoy)
The Randy Rogers Band will headline a show Saturday night at the Knitting Factory in Spokane. (Chris McCoy)
By L. Kent Wolgamott For The Spokesman-Review

In 16 years, the Randy Rogers Band has played more than 2,000 shows, first in Texas, then branching out across the country.

That means the veteran band is prepared for anything every time it takes the stage.

“There’s not much you can throw at us that we haven’t seen,” Rogers said. “Power outages, lightning strikes, fights, getting hit by a beer can, nobody at the show, too many people at the show. There’s not much that fazes the band or our crew.”

And it also means that the band continues to enjoy what it’s doing each time the guitars are picked up and the drums pounded.

“We’ve kept it fun,” Rogers said. “We still have fun on stage. It’s kind of cliche to say that, but it’s true. If it’s not fun, what’s the point?”

The music Rogers plays has been tagged many ways. But he’s got a single word for it – country – as in true country, not pop country, bro country, Red Dirt country or any other kind of country.

“I’ve realized it’s an ongoing battle,” Rogers said of his claim to country. “We’re happy to be part of it. People call us Texas country and other things. I’d really be proud to just be called country music and back that up.”

Embracing true country puts Rogers in league with the likes of fellow Texan Aaron Watson and Nashville’s newest sensation, Chris Stapleton.

“I wouldn’t begin to compare myself to Chris, that’s impossible, but we have the same interest,” Rogers said. “People can tell the difference between (B.S.) and not (B.S.). I’ll second the motion to say there shouldn’t be rap in country music. But I will go on the record saying I like Kendrick Lamar. I like my rap. But when I think of country music, I think of Merle Haggard.

“That’s been the music from day one with this band,” he said. “We grew up on fiddle and steel in Texas. We learned to play guitar from Willie Nelson records. It’s part of the fabric of who we were. You can’t take that out.” That said, Rogers admits that not all of the band’s songs have been country, pointing to “You Could Change My Mind” from 2006’s “Just a Matter of Time” and some cuts from 2002’s “Rollercoaster.” That’s not the case with the latest Randy Rogers Band album, “Nothing Shines Like Neon.”

“We’ve made records before where there were country songs on the record, but this one, the songs are as country as anything we’ve made,” Rogers said. “They’re straight country. I say that with respect. George Strait is my biggest hero.”

Strait has held that special spot for Rogers since he was a musically inclined kid growing up in Cleburne, Texas. – “In the sixth grade, I had the black hat and the shirt and we’d go around playing all the Oprys in Texas,” he said.

By we, Rogers means not only himself, but the long-serving Randy Rogers Band, which played its first shows in 2000 and has had the same members since 2002. So how does a band stay together for that long?

“We split everything,” Rogers said. “We’re a big family. We’ve done it since the beginning. Everybody has a say in the record. Everybody gets the same pay. When we started, everybody was single. Now everyone’s married and we’ve got like 10 kids on the ground and we just keep going.”

The Randy Rogers Band released its first album in 2002, and after “Rollercoaster” got signed to Universal Records, a Nashville major label. After nearly a decade, the band left Universal following the release of 2013’s “Trouble.”

“We had a great run at Universal,” Rogers said. “We made four records there. We lasted a long time there. I learned so much about the business, the radio. We get to play all over the country now because we got pockets on the radio that we wouldn’t have if we hadn’t been on that label. We really did win in that situation.”

Specifically, Rogers said, going independent gives him more control over his career, letting him make key decisions, like the timing of album releases – “When you’re making money, selling merchandise and hard tickets, that’s key,” Rogers said.

That also means Rogers has to do things like a radio promotion tour for “Nothing Shines Like Neon.”

“This is the music business part of it – going out and sharing your music with people who haven’t heard it, going around trying to get radio stations to come on board and then playing the shows,” Rogers said.

The rest of the business largely amounts to playing shows, where the Randy Rogers Band makes most of its money.

“That’s how we’ve always been,” he said. “We won’t wait for something to happen. You get in the truck and make something happen. It used to be a Suburban. Now it’s a bus. But it’s the same thing. It’ll probably be 150 nights this year.

“It takes some time doing it this way, without the big country hit,” Rogers said. “That’s something we’re still working on. But we’re not going to wait around. We’re get out there. To be honest, when we get back home, we get a little stir crazy and, before long, our families want us out of there.”

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