Randy Rogers Band’s ‘Hellbent': How Touring Life Influenced Their New Album
On Friday (April 26), Randy Rogers Band return with their first release in three years. Produced with the magic touch of studio ace Dave Cobb in Nashville's historic RCA Studio A, Hellbent is the is the Texas-based group's eighth release.
Rogers and company took their time with this one, too, writing and recording for more than two and a half years. They've been at it as a band for almost two decades, but have reached a place of refinement, both in sound and skill, on Hellbent.
"I believe in this record. I believe in these guys. I think we’re in our prime, and we’ve been doing this for so long. We needed a really great record," Rogers said at a press event at BMI in Nashville. "That’s why this record took us a while to make. I wanted to have the right thing to say."
Rogers and his crew drew influences from the likes of Tom Petty, truly honing in on their crossover sound and making a collection of songs that are just as great heard live as they are on the record. The band's cover of Guy Clark's "Hell Bent on a Heartache," which led to the album's name, sits amongst the collection of originals and co-writes.
However, when Randy Rogers Band were all ready to dig in, not everyone was always on the same page. Landing on an 11-song tracklist proved difficult at times.
"It’s interesting, being in a group, because I would write a song and think it’s great, and they didn’t like it at all," Rogers says. "It’s tough. Songs are like little children, and if someone doesn’t like your kid, that sucks. You just have to move on.
"I’ve fought for songs and fought for songs. We didn’t cut ‘em. They were No. 1s in six months," he continues. "I just go back to those moments in life and think, ‘Man, I let the guys talk me into not cutting that thing.’"
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Touring, though, is bread and butter for the band: Rogers, Brady Black, Geoffrey Hill, Les Lawless, Johnny Richardson and Todd Stewart. They knew they needed songs that would fit well into that mold, and that they needed to create something to which fans could relate.
"I wanted this to prop us up for a few more years, keep us out there," Rogers says. "We need material because we needed to change our set. Because fans would come out -- they don’t wanna see the same show. So we needed songs we could actually take with us on the road and use and play live and change the set. I’m super excited about having new music for that reason."
Randy Rogers Band recently kicked off a tour in support of Hellbent that will run through August, making stops everywhere from Arkansas to Montana. They're veterans of the road, having built their career on touring, and are known for their infectious live shows.
"We call it the never-ending tour. We never stop working," Rogers says. "Our career is based upon touring, and that’s the way we make our living. You can expect more shows throughout the rest of the year, and we never really stop."
Their hard work ethic can be heard in their music, and it's evident in their dedication to playing despite the obstacles that doing so may cause. While it's tough, it's all they know, and it's how they've gotten to where they want to be.
"It’s crazy. It’s tough on our families," Rogers admits. "People don’t really understand that what we do is, we are a touring entity, and we are on the road 130 days right now, probably, with acoustic shows and everything, 170. It’s non-stop for me."
There's an ode to that touring life in Hellbent's album cover, which features a former silent partner of the band: their 1988 Suburban named Peaches. She was their first band van, back ahen all the RRB's members decided to leave their other projects and commit fully to the group.
"Peaches was our transportation. She broke down on us all the time. We wouldn’t have been able to get up there in the world and do what we did without that vehicle," Rogers says. "So it’s central to our success and it’s central to the beginnings of this group of guys being crazy enough to do this.
"She died on Highway 35 at some point," he adds. "That was a sad day."
While they're now a far ways away from broken-down transportation and gigs making $4 apiece, the rough-and-tough spirit is as alive as ever on the raucous, rock 'n' roll-tinted Hellbent. It harnesses the power of good storytelling with just enough emotion to get the point across. It's music you can raise a glass to, a coat of polish over the sound that Randy Rogers Band mastered years ago.
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