In the six years and change since Johnny Cash donned his last black coat and boarded that evening train to the sky, some would argue that outlaw-lauding, hell-raising country music caught the caboose with him. But though the singular Man in Black and most of his road dog compañeros have left the building, singers and pickers like Randy Houser fight to keep their paths blazing.
Born and raised in Lake, Miss., Houser inherited music from his father, “Papa” Houser. Houser the senior played in and around Jackson, where Randy Houser was born, and also cut his teeth as a “first-call” studio sideman around the Delta. After a divorce when Houser was only seven, he spent summers learning the craft from his dad.
“I started writing songs right away, at 15 and 16 years old,” Houser stated in a press release. “I was already starting because I hated playing the ‘covers’ of the hits.”
“I knew that if I was ever going to do anything in music, I was going to have to learn to express myself,” Houser stated. “Otherwise, it was going to be the same-old, same-old.”
When he was just 21, Houser’s father passed away. The decision to keep him off artificial life support had already been made, but Houser regardless had to “pull the plug.” This heartbreaking experience lead him to write “I’ll Sleep.”
“It’s a piece of time from my life and one of those songs that still almost makes me weep when I hear it,” Houser said. “Can’t listen to it much. I have only played it a few times.”
Following his father’s death, Houser moved to Nashville to pursue his career in music. He says the decision came after an emotional encounter with Tammy Cochran’s hit “Life Happened.”
“I was sitting at home one day and thinking, ‘God, what am I doing?’” Houser said. “I’d been waiting around for so long and hadn’t gone and done what I always said I was going to do. And then that song came on the radio, and I just started bawling. And right then, I made the decision. I was gone.”
That was early 2003. From his earliest days in Nashville, Houser and some fellow newcomers found success in music publishing. Almost seven years later, Houser and frequent collaborator Jamey Johnson have moved past their early success with the Trace Adkins-sung “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk” and into careers which allow them to sing their own songs for growing audiences. As his success grows, Houser claims he remains unfazed.
“I just want people to know that I’m not in this for pure fame or money,” Houser said. “I just absolutely love what I do, always have and will be playing music and writing songs as long as I’m breathing.”
Houser’s life and story form the base of his sound and lyrics and never seems far away from the surface. Recently a friend told him that “the most soulful singers in history all grew up poor.”
“This really rang true for me,” Houser said. “That’s part of the reason I sound the way that I do.”
Randy Houser will play Cotton Eyed Joe’s in west Knoxville Thursday at 10 p.m. The show is 18 and up, with admission at $10 in advance and $15 at the door.
Songwriter moves on from ‘Badonkadonk’
Published: Thu Mar 04, 2010