If you come to Nashville to “be a star” or even a successful songwriter, some will tell you this is a “five-year town.” Sadly, those five years to “make it one day” stretch on and on for some folks. But every now and then, someone hits really close to that mark – and up, up they go.
Such is the case with country’s newest star, Randy Houser. Houser moved to Nashville and began writing and co-writing songs in 2002. By 2005, he had one of his songs, “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk” (co-written with Jamey Johnson and Dallas Davidson) recorded and released by Trace Adkins. That song quickly became a Top 5 single.
Shortly after the success of that record, Houser decided to focus on his own performing. He was signed briefly with MCA Records but with no releases. However, Houser was signed again in 2008 to Universal South Records, and his first single, “Anything Goes” (co-written by Brice Long and John Wiggins) was released in the spring of that year. David Letterman liked the song so well after hearing it that he personally invited Houser to perform the song on his late-night talk show.
Houser released a second album on Universal South titled They Call Me Cadillac, which released multiple singles, but none made a great showing on the charts. Houser left label, now Show-Dog Universal, in 2011 and joined the roster of Stoney Creek Records, which is a sister-label to Broken Bow Records. According to Houser, “Everybody at Stoney Creek feels like family.”
On May 7, 2012, Houser released “How Country Feels,” his first single on Stoney Creek off the same-titled album. On February 2, 2013, the song became Houser’s first number one on the Country Airplay charts by Billboard.
Performing has proven to be a great choice for Houser, as his latest two chart-topping singles can attest. Both “How Country Feels” and “Runnin’ Outta Moonlight” have been #1 on the Country Airplay charts – meaning they’ve received the most radio play.
Adding to his chart success, Houser has also had some excellent opportunities to perform for some great causes with some phenomenal artists – case in point, his appearance with LeAnn Rimes at the Academy of Country Music’s (ACM) USO concert held at Nellis Air Force Base in 2010.
How does a country boy from Lake, Mississippi make his journey to the top of these charts?
It started when Houser was very young. His dad was a musician, and Houser claims that he knew, even when he was only 5 or 6 years old, that he wanted to be a songwriter and an entertainer. At the age of 13, Houser started his own band, and he continued to perform in self-made bands throughout his college years. When Houser was 21, his father passed away. That was a turning point for Houser, and he made his decision to move to Nashville. Doing so proved to be a form of rescue for him. “Any time I’ve gotten down, music would rescue me – or I’d write myself out of it. So I’ve always known this was my path,” confided Houser.
Making the move to Nashville in 2002 has not only been great for his songwriting career, but Houser also has a great recording career now and is one of America’s favorite artists. Not surprisingly, he’s also been nominated for multiple ACM and Country Music Association (CMA) awards over the past few years.
Who was it that started the Houser flame of fame?
According to the man himself, Houser relates, “So many people helped me on my way from Mississippi to working as a songwriter in Nashville to where I am now. A man named Ken Rainey who worked in Mississippi radio for decades has been a huge support all along the way. What’s amazing about Nashville is the community of people that just want to help each other and root for each other. Derek George, who produced How Country Feels and is also a Mississippi native, was one of the first people helping make introductions in Nashville, and now we are working together again, so that is really cool.”
And what has fanned the flame?
According to Houser, finding his way to Nashville and being part of the Nashville community has helped him find support in his career…at each of its stages.
“Nashville is a community of people collaborating and helping each other reach their dreams. Everybody is amazingly supportive. That is special. I don’t know anywhere else that has that sense of community. And I think that extends beyond music and the arts – it’s just the culture of the town.”
Further, Houser credits both music and songwriting as hosts along his journey. “I love writing music and playing music. It’s just part of who I am and something I need to be doing. On a creative level, I need that writing outlet. On the other hand, there is nothing like the feeling of hitting the stage for a live show. When I sing a song, I can’t do it quietly. I want you to get it, so I get on it. And I worked my butt off so I could get lucky. That’s what it’s about – working it until you get where you want to be. But songwriting and performing are both important to me.”
As touring goes, not too many get the opportunity to go on tour with their childhood heroes. But such is not the case for Houser. Even though touring is a large part of his career, sharing the stage with Willie Nelson during the Country Throwdown Tour was of great significance to Houser.
“I got selected to do the Country Throwdown Tour with Willie Nelson, and that really helped me. I learned a lot from Willie Nelson – including patience. The first time I was on stage with him was surreal, and every time after that was, too. I’ve listened to Willie for as long as I can remember. His music was always playing in my house when I was a kid, so that was a dream come true.”
In addition to Willie Nelson, Houser’s other influences include Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, George Jones and Merle Haggard. Those same influences seem to have woven their way into his current music, adding that unique edge to his performances.
So what could be missing from a guy’s life when he seems to be sitting on top of the world?
From 2002 to 2011, Houser had made great strides along his journey, both in songwriting and performing. He’d written hit songs, recorded multiple albums, and received multiple award nominations from the ACM, the CMA and Country Music Television (CMT).
Still, Houser felt something was missing. “I didn’t really feel like I had an anchor.”
But back in 2011, Houser married Jessa Lee Yantz and admits, “Jessa is a real blessing to me. She makes me a better person – and makes me want to be a better person. In 2012, we had our son West, and he’s just awesome. Things are really lining up for me. I must’ve done something right somewhere along the line.”
Has having a family changed Houser’s approach to his music?
“With a family, there is no question that I definitely think differently about the statement I’m making in songs. I think being a dad makes you think different in general. So the message you want to share is affected.”
Houser continues, “There are a lot of people out there doing what I’m doing. I’m just blessed that I get to be one of them. The fans are great and keep me going on the road, and now I have a family to come home to – I have an anchor.”
Houser has had a truly remarkable journey, and it seems to keep getting better and better. His career is moving along the right path, he has a family he loves, and all is well.
In summing up his hopes for the future of his singing-songwriting career, Houser concludes, “Songwriting and performing are both important to me and always have been. I hope to be doing it for a long, long time.”