Randall King takes to the stage at Glasgow’s Oran Mor tomorrow night (Monday) in the first gig of a three-stop return to the UK as part of a European tour. Following hot on those cowboy heels will be Manchester on Tuesday and London on Wednesday and if you don’t have a ticket…you’ll be missing out!
It’s safe to say that the ‘traditional’ country music lovin’ cowboy made himself plenty of fans at his C2C appearances in March (his first visit to the UK) and he can’t wait to make many more. Six Shooter Country’s Alison Dewar caught up with him as stopped off in London en route to his Gstaad gigs.
For starters, I asked how much he’s enjoying being back in the (thankfully sunny) UK and what he’s looking forward to most.
“I love the city, I love the culture. I’m excited to go explore, it’ll be fun. We’re going to hit amongst the pubs…I don’t know the correct term for it…oh, a pub crawl, is that what it is? It was real funny the last time we played here, I was like ‘we’re gonna go pubbing’, it was like clubbing but it’s pubbing and I’m dubbing it,” he says.
Talking to Randall, the conversation is peppered with laughter and anecdotes from his travels, this is an artist you can have a genuine conversation with and make it fun.
He’s clear that is very much a profile-building work trip. With two concerts down already in Gstaad, he moves from the UK to Germany where three venues had to be upgraded due to ticket demands and an extra date added. He finishes in Liechtenstein on September 21 and 23.
“Originally this was going to be an acoustic tour, but then we had to upgrade to bigger venues so that was a big positive and we were like, we’re gonna come full band now,” he says.
Talking of UK audiences and the feedback from C2C, he continues: “Man, it’s incredible to come over here and see just a whole different personality of fans. These fans, they just listen, I’m not used to a quiet crowd – I’m used to the crowds that they’re loud, they talk over you, they sling the beer bottles…they just get rowdy.
“This was a very listening crowd, they are listening to every word, taking it in. And just watching intently. The fact that they kept their eyes on me the entire time, I didn’t have to do a whole lot. It really spoke volumes to the type of fans that are out here.
“As Americans, our attention spans are very small, so you gotta work hard to keep peoples’ attention. Coming over here, it makes it easy.”
Last month, Randall released two new songs – The One You’re Waiting On and Hard To Be Humble. The former was originally released by Alan Jackson – he together with other country greats like Keith Whitley and George Strait were the traditional country music influences on which Randall was raised – and the cover came about after one of his many road trips.
He explains more about his connection with the track: “That song is on Alan Jackson’s Angels and Alcohol album, which came out in 2015. In 2016, I was on the road a lot. I was trying to break into the industry, and I was doing a small market radio tour in Texas to get my feet on the ground, so I was travelling constantly. It’s a big state and that’s a lot of drive time, so I got to listen to a lot of different music and came across that record.
“It was like man, I didn’t know he (Alan) had a new record out. I heard that song and I went ‘this song should have been a number one’. I fell in love with it and I love singing it. When we were looking for songs to cut, we were looking at bringing in older ones, like something from the 70s or 80s, something real honky tonk. I somehow stumbled back across to this song and I was like ‘man, I’m gonna pitch this to Warner and see what they think’.
“As soon as Cris Lacy at Warner heard it, she goes ‘you could cut that tomorrow, where has this song been?’ Maybe it should have been a number one for him, but they put it out at a time where radio really weren’t taking any more Alan Jackson songs, it was a new era, but that song, if he’d put it out five years before, it would have been number one. So it’s gonna be number one for us.”
He makes an interesting point about timing for different genres of country music and I put it to Randall that he, together with the likes of Cody Johnson, Kameron Marlowe and Drake Milligan (amongst others) are part of a new wave of more traditional country singer songwriters – guys with guitars and less bells and whistles. I also asked if he had ever felt pressure to change his style.
“I’m a firm believer that as a songwriter, you should be able to strip it down to you and your acoustic. If you can write it and play it, that’s where the originality comes from,” he says.
“For me, there were offers from other labels that wanted control of the music side of it but I didn’t need that. I don’t need somebody to tell me who I am, I know who I am. I’ve known who I am since I was seven-years-old.
“I think growing up, especially way early on before I put out my Another Bullet EP, you face through things and you find out what you’re not. I went back to my roots in 2015, that was the turning point where everything started rolling for me because I became I figured out who I am.”
I asked him about that moment. “Back in 2014, I was doing the Americana red dirt thing with a band that I wasn’t truly being me. I was writing towards the band instead of writing from the depths of who I am.
“And there was a show where I got on the stage and I played the show and it was so uncomfortable because everything I was singing and everything I was doing, did not feel right, did not feel like me.
“And I went, ‘you know what, I’m done with this’, I’m gonna do my thing, I’m gonna be me and it’s gonna be under my name, my brand, my music. And if I don’t believe in it then I’m not taking to that stage, because I can’t get on stage and sing something I don’t believe in. That’s not real and people will see right through an act.
“You’ve got to be who you are, be genuine and other people will believe in you too. They’ll never believe if you don’t believe.”
Another Bullet was his debut EP under his own brand, followed up two years later in 2018 with his self-titled and self-produced EP that he credits with putting him on the map, describing it as the time he got his feet wet in the industry and helped him build a fanbase.
While my personal favourite from that EP is Mirror, Mirror, Randall says his is When He Knows Me, a song he wrote for his grandpa who passed away from Alzheimer’s in 2017.
“That was my song to him and that record was a self-titled record because it showed off the first true pieces of Randall King…this is who he is,” says the singer.
“There wasn’t just one song that I was going to go ‘this is where everything started’ because they are all so different. It gave me a very strong foothold in the industry to go ‘this is who I am’, we’re climbing…and then we started looking for a team to work with in Nashville to push the brand further and Warner was pitched to me from my management.
“Cris Lacy was coming out to shows in Texas, she came to one at Hank’s (Texas Grill) in McKinney, Texas, I think it’s like a 600 maybe 800 cap room and we were putting 300 maybe 400 people in there, then she came to one other and to the Ryman, where I opened for Cody Johnson. And that was the show that Warner officially put in the offer for me.”
The rest is history and Randall made his major label debut for Warner with Shot Glass, released in March 2022. An 11-song collection, it rocketed him skyward, making lists such as Whiskey Riff’s top 40 Country Albums of 2022 and gaining accolades including 2022 Pandora and Country Now Country Artist to Watch.
Given the success of that album, we were thrilled to hear that a new album is slated for mid-late January and he promises that it’s going to be a biggie in more ways than one. I asked him what he meant – is it the writing, the production, the band…to which his answer was ‘all of the above’.
“This record is different in the sense that it’s the next level up from what I’ve done,” he says. “This is a big record, 18 songs, maybe more. It’s a lot of the same band members that were on Shot Glass, but the biggest difference is we switched producers and went with Jared Conrad, a new young guy in Nashville. We tried out four songs with him as demos and as soon as we heard ‘em it was like ‘this is it, this is the sound we’ve been looking for.’
“I think my vocals have dramatically changed over the course of the last five years and I think this is the best my voice has ever sounded.
“It’s a big sound, there’s like a Gary Allan/early Dierks Bentley vibe I’ve been looking for on my records that we’ve found. It’s been something to me that was missing more than we know.
“It’s a different sonics, it’s still flat-out country but this is something that I don’t know if I’ve ever heard in music.”
Another change is that, unlike his previous albums that have mainly been co-written tracks, this time he’s turned to outside songs with less than half having had input from his own hand.
“You tend to get in the wheelhouse when you write, a lot of things sound the same, so taking in outside songs…those guys in Nashville, they write every day, they’re pros, so why would you not listen to what they got,” he says.
“Dan Smalley got one on here with me, a song called Tonk Til I Die, we’ve been playing it live and it’s a honky tonk song, which is typical of what me and Dan write. Matt Rogers is on a couple of songs, he wrote You In A Honky Tonk on Shot Glass.
“Surprisingly, there’s guys that I hadn’t really worked with before. Brett Sheroky, he’s on there with a couple of songs, there’s a couple of Jordan Walker songs, and then Brice Long, he’s one of my mainstay guys. It’s different!”
The good news is, with new music to promote early next year, Randall promises that there will be a new tour on the horizon, including a trip to the UK – I wonder if that means even a return to C2C?
“Here’s the thing, I never stop touring. Over here, yeah, we’ll do another tour. But I never stop touring, I’m a road warrior, we’re doing around 135 shows a year. I bet I get maybe five weekends a year off, otherwise we’re on the road, we’re building it.”
Before we let him go, I ask quickly about Randall’s KingFest, the festival he launched back in 2021 and which includes a songwriter competition to win a spot on the acoustic stage – after all, doesn’t everyone have their own music festival?
“I like this conversation,” he laughs. “I’ve always dreamed about doing my own festival. It’s something that, watching all these festivals, being from Texas there’s one called Larry Joe Taylor Fest, which is like the Woodstock of Texas, straight debauchery, it’s insane and an absolute blast.
“I’ve never seen anybody go and just do a straight honky tonk festival. A lot of the new guys that get overlooked, that are up-and-coming, they need a platform and so we do it at Luckenbach, Texas. The first year we had us, Josh Ward, Triston Marez and Clay Hollis, it was one of the mainstays in Texas (Josh Ward) and a couple of the young guys.
“Fast forward 2022, we did an older mainstay with Trent Willmon, who was like the early days of the Texas scene, and a young girl called Kylie Frey. This year (November) we’re bringing like Braxton Keith and Jon Stork, a lot of these younger guys that are coming in and keeping the scene fresh and alive. Kingfest is very much honky tonk, upbeat, high energy …it’s awesome.”
With enthusiasm and excitement like that, I feel the need to jump online to book tickets to Texas in November. But then again…we’ve got gigs this week. Hold that thought…
For more on Randall King, visit https://www.randallkingmusic.com/