Randy Rogers & Wade Bowen: Texas Country’s Greatest Bromance

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Whatever you want to say about Texas country music, one thing has always been true: ours is a tight-knit scene full of artists who are constantly cheering each other on. Outside of the camaraderie, though, these relationships also produce some of the genre’s finest collaborations. Instead of slicked-up studio albums, these collaborations generally happen onstage at a Texas music festival after everyone’s had a little too much beer.

The key exception, of course, is the enduring bromance between Wade Bowen and Randy Rogers. In addition to plenty of those drunken nights on shared stages, Bowen and Rogers released
Hold My Beer Vol. 1 last year to a great deal of critical acclaim. Following its success, the duo went toured across the country on the "Hold My Beer And Watch This" tour, and released a live album recorded on the road earlier this month.

Rogers and Bowen go all the way back to 2001 or 2002; neither one can really remember quite when. Both were starting up their bands and beginning to play Texas’ honky-tonk scene. Bowen and Rogers lived hours apart, and became fast friends despite the distance. “Wade came through San Marcos to play a show, and I invited him out to my steel guitar player’s house to hang out and play music after,” says Rogers. “We got a keg of beer and just stayed up and played music all night. Wade listened to the songs I was working on and we just immediately became buddies right then.”

As both their popularity begin to rise a few years later, Bowen began playing more outside of his home base in Lubbock, and Rogers began to play more outside of San Marcos. “We started comparing notes on venues, club owners, and the deals we got or didn’t get,” says Rogers. “We decided that we’d start a little friendly competition and share information about the different venues in Texas.”

Sharing trade secrets likely kept both artists, at least a few times, from getting the shaft from less-than-scrupulous club owners. “We promised ourselves years ago that we would be open and honest about money and crowds and everything about this business so that we don’t get screwed over,” says Bowen. “We talk about sponsorships and how many tickets we’re selling and everything so that we can make sure the numbers are right. It’s been nice to have someone to constantly bounce this stuff off of.”

By 2004, The Randy Rogers Band was starting to attract attention outside of Texas with the release of Rollercoaster. The single from that album, “Tonight’s Not the Night,” peaked at No. 43 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, and marked Rogers’ first real mainstream country success. “I watched Randy start to rise first. I’d been doing it just a little longer, I think, and he started to take off with that album,” says Bowen. “I don’t know that I’ve ever asked him, but I’m sure he knows that I was supportive. I was a fan rooting him on. I was so proud of him and proud for him instead of being jealous or frustrated myself.”

A few years later, the duo started actively booking acoustic shows together and a unique chemistry revealed itself onstage. “We ask ourselves the same thing. We both play with other artists and write with other songwriters, but there’s some kind of chemistry we have,” says Bowen. “I’m not sure anybody can put a finger on it. People say it’s just fun to watch the two of us up on stage. More than anything, there’s a mutual respect for each other’s lives and we’re both fans of each other. When you respect each other, it makes it really fun.”

But in this relationship, it ain’t always sunshine and roses. Both Rogers and Bowen describe themselves as passionate people, which sometimes can lead to tension – and getting into trouble. “There’s been fistfights, there’s been trouble spots we’ve gotten ourselves into throughout the years that took some magic to get out of,” says Rogers. “He’s always calling me and saying ‘I’m hanging out with Troy Aikman.’ He goes to all these golf tournaments and hangs out with celebrities and it pisses me off.”

In fact, Bowen and Rogers’ reputation for spats – serious or all in good fun – has inspired an inside joke between the two. “Randy and I really do give each other so much hell and heckle each other and fight and disagree on so many things,” says Bowen. “We have a joke where we text each other ‘are you mad at me?’ because we were always worried early on in our friendship that the other one was pissed off. Brotherly love is all that it is – I’ve got two boys and they fight like cats and dogs, but they love each other more than anything. Randy’s the closest I’ve ever had to a brother.”

Outside of the constant ribbing, though, their relationship runs deep on a personal level. When Rogers’ newborn daughter died suddenly last year, Bowen flew from Mexico to Texas to be with the Rogers family. The two also faced a grueling touring schedule. In addition to the "Hold My Beer And Watch This" tour, each were out on the road promoting their individual work. “It was really hard on both of us and our bands, it was just a really busy time,” says Bowen. “This year we’re not playing quite as many shows on the tour, going back and doing it acoustic. Just grabbing our guitars and going and making fun of each other.”

As far as writing is concerned, it’s almost impossible for the two to pin down a time to write together. Outside of the fact that they’re both constantly on the road, songwriting sessions generally turn out to be beer drinking sessions. “Sometimes we try to write, and we end up going to the bar or whatever,” says Rogers. “We actually wrote at home instead of on the road for this album simply because the road is just not conducive to being very creative - lot of moving parts, lots of people around moving constantly. The good songs we’ve written have been away from the road."

After the success of Hold My Beer Vol. 1, Rogers and Bowen are just beginning to work on its followup. “This last album just fell out of the sky, we were just going to go in the studio and have some fun and the next thing you know we have an album,” says Bowen. “We’ve written some songs already, and we’re talking to our buddies to get some cool songs.” At present, there is no timeline for completion of the record.

In the meantime, they’ll continue to write and tour and fight together. Whatever comes next for both Randy Rogers and Wade Bowen, whether it’s mainstream success or continued dominance of the Texas Country scene, they both find comfort in the fact that they’ve got each others’ backs. “There’s a level of friendship that goes deeper than what’s happening going on stage,” says Rogers. “We know a lot about each others’ personal lives. Music isn’t the only important thing in the world. It’s nice to have someone there that’s got your back, someone you can lean on a bit.”

The Randy Rogers Band performs Friday, June 17 at Mo's Place, 21940 Kingsland Blvd., Katy. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. Wade Bowen appears (minus Randy Rogers) at 93Q's "A Day In the Country" festival Saturday, June 25 at Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, 2005 Lake Robbins Dr., The Woodlands. Gates open at 1 p.m.

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