Randy Houser: I’ve Got My Boots On

Randy Houser’s seen his share of tough times, but some life-changing songs and his own talent have him walking the path he was born to travel . . . and loving it.

Prior to the release of “Boots On,” the follow-up single to “Anything Goes,” Randy Houser’s title cut from his acclaimed debut CD, CW spent some time with the personable Mississippi native to chat about his life and his music. Here’s some of what Randy had to say. Watch Our Video Interview with Randy

For more on Randy Houser, check out the Feb. 23 issue of Country Weekly.

CW
What kind of kid were you back in Mississippi? Were you into sports or anything, or was it always music?
RH
It was always music. I did play high school football and baseball and was fair at both. I played baseball since I was a kid, and that was probably my second love. But music always took precedence over anything else.
CW
Do you recall a time as a kid when you realized you had something special in terms of your singing ability?
RH
It’s just been there. I never even really had to give it much thought. I was singin’, probably as soon as I could talk, or tryin’ to. And I was playin’ guitar. I never really even remember havin’ to learn how to play guitar. I remember my dad showin’ me the first couple chords when I was . . . 5 maybe. And I never looked back. It’s not like I got into playin’ or singin’ . . . for girls . . . or money. It was somethin’ that came completely natural to me. I remember thinkin’ how easy all of it was. Back to your question, I remember thinkin’ . . . “This comes natural.” Because I had friends who were tryin’ to do the same things . . . and it was so much harder for ‘em. The hard work for me came with, basically, goin’ around and doin’ it and workin’ my butt off. The easy part is gettin’ up there and playin’ and singin’. It’s the stuff that it takes to get there, and how much you have to do that. Travelin’ . . . luggin’ around my own PA, settin’ it up and tearin’ it down. I never really had anybody to do that.
CW
I know you sang some demos before you got your record deal. What did you learn from that time . . . how to identify a great song? How to be professional and give your best even when you didn’t feel like it?
RH
One thing I did learn was how few and far between great songs are. I sang a lot of demos and I remember a few of ‘em. It lets you know . . . a songwriter writes a lot of songs waitin’ to get to a really good idea, a really good song. And you have to demo ‘em all. It helped me as a writer to know that all the things I write aren’t gonna be great. I see all these great writers who write decent songs . .. waitin’ to get to their real good ones. It helped me with that. And definitely the work ethic thing. Whenever your voice is representin’ that guy’s song and you have to realize every time somebody hears your voice on a song, you need to be sellin’ that song, whether you think it’s great or not. You need to make sure that whatever you’re singin’ . . . whether it’s your song or not . . . you’ve gotta live it. You’ve gotta make it believable. That’s a great training ground for that.
And they’re payin’ you for it, and they should get their money’s worth. And it also can lead to other things . . . and it always did lead to other things for me. It was definitely a source of income for me when I first got here. And the excitement of bein’ about to go in and record in a real nice studio on a real good mic was always there, too. So it was always exciting. And you never knew what you were fixin’ to sing.
CW
Talk about something else you had to do . . . didn’t Letterman want you to repeat the second verse and chorus of “Anything Goes”? Are you pretty good at adapting to changes like that or does it throw a monkey wrench into the works?
RH
It was interesting to me. That was a nerve-wracking thing to go do that. Here I am, a brand new artist. I was expecting to go in there on autopilot and sing the song like I’d done it a thousand times, you know? And then he kinda found the biggest monkey wrench he could find and threw it at me. (chuckles) The fact is, all the years of playin’ clubs and different people getting’ up and doin’ songs different ways every time . . . it don’t really bother me. Those things don’t freak me out, ‘cause I didn’t grow up a karaoke singer. I grew up playin’ in bars. You never knew how a song was gonna go. You just go with it. So it didn’t freak me out. Not bad.
CW
Let’s talk about some of the other songs. ”Wild, Wild West” . . . what a great groove. Are you a cowboy at heart?
RH
Well I grew up doin’ high school rodeo, ropin’ and doin’ all that stuff. Team ropin’ was my favorite. I was a heeler. I never was great at any of it, but I loved it. And I always will.
CW
“Back to God” . . . what a great song. One of my favorite lines is “These darkest days you’re not afraid it’s too late.” Have you ever thought that we’re approaching it being too late? Is it ever too late, or can you always kinda pull things back from the edge?
RH
I think that line was meant to take people to that edge. When we wrote that line, it was to remind people . . . I don’t think there ever is an edge. I think the perception of the edge is always good to have in your mind. So you know when to pull back the reins a little and go . . . whoa.
CW
Are you somebody who went to church as a kid?
RH
For years and years, church in my family was Sunday afternoon’s, Mama cleanin’ house and puttin’ on Willie and Family and Gospel: Live. That was church. I did start goin’ to church at about 12 years old, my cousin took me to church. And I found God. For a long time, for about 4 years, I thought I was probably gonna be a preacher. And I really studied the Bible and I started talkin’ to all my friends about God, bringin’ all of them to church with me and teachin’ people what I had found. And that was really important to me. I actually took my whole family to church. But it was never something I grew up in.
CW
Did you chase any friends away with that?
RH
Probably. But I never was really overbearing with it. It’s kinda like what I do now. I’m not gonna put my finger in your face and say you’ve gotta do this. I just want to make people think. That’s like that song “Back to God.” It’s just meant to make people think about where we are. That song’s not meant to be a hugely religious song. It’s just about . . . let’s think about why things are messed up right now. Let’s just remember that God is good. Whoever your god is is your business . . . but he better be about good. Some of these crazy religions that people have . . . I don’t know, man. My God’s a god of love.
CW
“Paycheck” is another great tune. What are some non-musical jobs you’ve had?
RH
A bunch. Well, my folks put in chicken house equipment . . . all the feeders, the waterers and all the curtains that go on the sides of these big chicken farms. That’s probably the one I hated the most. I mean, just hated . . . period. I’ve never liked anything I did, other than play music.
Cleanin’ out feed bins down in the ground. You had to wear a gas mask and it’d be 140 in there. That was a lot of fun. I’ve done a lot of things. Laid carpet. I was playin’ at night and I did whatever I could to make it. I worked at the steel mill. I’ve done all kinds of stuff.
CW
Tell me about your first mailbox money (royalties from songwriting and/or performing).
RH
You know what? The first check I got off a song, I think was like $1.22. I’m trying to remember what song it was. But it was something I got cut a long while back when I first got here . . . by an independent artist. They actually had to pay me on it, and it cost ‘em more to mail the check than the check was worth. I think it was an American artist, but the airplay was from overseas. They’ve gotten bigger since then. The big checks, they were a lot more fun, but that first one meant a lot more. I think it’s in a brief case. Of course, I didn’t cash it.

Watch Our Video Interview with Randy

For more on Randy Houser, check out the Feb. 23 issue of Country Weekly.

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