Robert Randolph credits a Mother’s Day church service with providing the impetus for “She Got Soul,” his new song premiered exclusively below, and one of the 12 tracks on Got Soul, the fifth studio album by the pedal steel virtuoso and his Family Band.
“I was sitting in a church service and one of the preachers actually started into this whole thing, like, ‘All the mothers in here, we love you, we appreciate you, and all of you just look like you’ve got an extra bit of soul in you today,’ ’cause everyone was extra dressed up and all that,” Randolph tells Billboard. “He started into this thing of kind of preaching about being thankful for women and mothers, and I got inspired from that.
We went into the studio and I said, ‘Man, something happened in church. I gotta make this a rock ‘n’ roll thing,’ almost like ‘Shout!,’ with the call and response and everything. We just made it happen from there.”
Nevertheless, Randolph notes, the song didn’t work for him as a singer, or for his cousin, bassist Ray Ray Randolph. So after a chance run-in, Randolph asked Anthony Hamilton, who enthusiastically joined the party. “We were just talking, and he said, ‘We gotta do something!’ and I said, ‘Yo, I just did something in the studio the other day. I need you to sing on it,’ so I sent it to him and he loved it,” Randolph recalls. “He got what I was after and really took it to church like I had in mind.”
Got Soul, produced by Matt Pierson, comes out Friday (Feb. 17), and is Randolph and company’s first new set since 2013’s Lickety Split. The album also features guest appearances by Darius Rucker (“Love Do What It Do”) and Snarky Puppy’s Cory Henry (Sam & Dave’s “I Thank You”) and was designed to hearken back to Randolph’s earliest days as a sacred steel player.
“I just wanted to embrace all of who I am,” Randolph explains. “I got accepted into this industry as being this inspirational guy that comes from a gospel background and church, but with a different blues, rock ‘n’ roll mentality, and mixing up all these things. I want it to feel like a rock ‘n’ roll church.” That goes for the message, too, which Randolph wanted as a kind of counterbalance to the angst of last year’s presidential election and the turmoil of the current climate.
“I was starting to write so many songs, looking at what’s going around in the world, but I wanted to stick to a theme of love and togetherness,” Randolph says. “It’s really something inspirational, something uplifting, without getting too political. I just wanted to write songs and make music that will take people’s minds off all the negativity that’s going on today. A lot of artists, especially a lot of black artists, we’ve kind of gotten away from really embracing our background. Most of us come from church and we came through hard times, and I think that gets lost and we need to move back that way.”
Got Soul is also the first Family Band album in a new deal with Sony Music Masterworks, which appears to be a good fit so far. “I’m just happy being on a great label that understands, ‘We’re gonna let the artist be an artist,’ and just wants you to make great music,” Randolph says. “Sometimes people can make suggestions, and what can happen is you wind up wasting so much time ’cause somebody may go, ‘Oh, you gotta [collaborate] with this person and that person…’Then you wind up getting with whoever those people are and it goes in some different direction and you waste a lot of time. We’re better off when we keep it tight, y’know?”
Randolph and the Family Band kick off a tour to promote Got Soul on march 9 in Boston, with dates booked so far into early April.