Randy Rogers Band won’t release their forthcoming album Hellbent until April 26, but that’s not stopping the Texas act from giving fans an early listen. Their eighth studio album borrows its title from Guy Clark’s “Hell Bent On a Heartache,” which the band covers on their upcoming project and Billboard premieres below.
A longtime fan of Clark, frontman Randy Rogers admits that he often got starstruck while around the singer-songwriter. “Hell Bent On a Heartache” was penned by Clark, Chris Stapleton and Morgane Stapleton, and appeared on Clark’s 2013 album My Favorite Picture of You.
“Guy Clark is one of my all-time heroes and if I could write one song as good as any of his, man,” Rogers tells Billboard following an album listening event at BMI in Nashville. “That’s how I’ve always felt about him, and I got to know him a little bit when he was with us and I’ve written songs with him. I’ve just always been a super fan. I couldn’t even talk to him when I was around him because I was so nervous.”
A fellow Texan, Rogers says he wanted the band’s new album to give a nod to the late Clark. “It’s very much in our fabric, being from Texas, Guy Clark and his songs and his songwriting. I wanted to showcase that,” he explains. “I just loved the song and I had an idea that we could turn it into a tempo.”
Clark’s original track is a slowed-down ballad with delicate guitar finger picking and soaring string accompaniment. Randy Rogers Band decided to transform “Hell Bent On a Heartache” into an anthem. An opening guitar lick on their version recalls Tom Petty while Rogers’ commanding vocals immediately grab the listener. As a result, it’s a song that will fit well into their energetic live show.
“It’s really easy to sing, it’s easy to play. There’s not a whole lot to that song other than the truth and that usually makes for a really good song,” Rogers notes. “That poor guy on that song, he’s just putting himself through torture.”
“Love’s a gamble/ Love’s a curse/ Love’s a bitch/ But it could be worse,” he croons.
Randy Rogers Band worked with Dave Cobb for their upcoming release. They recorded Hellbent at Nashville’s famed RCA Studio A and say the album has a more mature and thought-out sound. They credit Cobb for easing their nerves in the studio and for his efficient communication skills. Cobb, meanwhile, praises Randy Rogers Band’s family atmosphere and for the fact that they’ve been together nearly 20 years.
“The reason I wanted to work with them is because it’s like a family. These guys stuck together through thick and thin and that’s rare,” he says. “Usually people get together for six months, they get a record deal and they’ll disband. These guys are lifers and stay true to who they are.”
He adds, “They have a lot of years on the road and a lot of shows under their belt so it’s not hard to step into the studio and play. It wasn’t very calculated. It was trying to capture who they are in this moment in time and make it the best version of it.”
Together as a band for 18 years and about to release their eighth studio album, Randy Rogers Band are showing no signs of slowing down.
“I still believe I have something to say and that kind of embodies Hellbent, too,” Rogers says with a smile. “You can make fun of me for writing songs about ‘goodbye’ or ‘lonely’ or saying those two words too often, but guess what? This is country music and it ain’t changing and it ain’t going away and I’m just lucky to get to still do it.”