In a new series amid the coronavirus pandemic, Billboard is asking individuals from all sectors of the music business to share stories of how they work now, with much of the world quarantined at home and unable to take in-person meetings, attend conferences or even go into the office. Submissions for the series can be sent to HowWeWorkNow@Billboard.com. Read the full series here.
This installment is with Randy Rogers Band lead vocalist Randy Rogers, who is sheltering at home with his wife and three daughters in the Texas Hill Country city of New Braunfels.
Randy Rogers: We were planning on going on tour. We had been kind of everywhere — Colorado, Key West, Kansas City, Tulsa, Dallas, did three dates direct support for Miranda Lambert in February, went up the East Coast and then everything just crashed to a halt. My last gig was in Bossier City, Louisiana on March 6. We sold out the Ryman [Auditorium in Nashville] and were supposed to be there April 3, but now that date has been moved to August. Other dates have been moved and still no one knows. Everything is just in a wait and see. I call my agent every day, and it’s just up in the air.
This would be 20 years of the Randy Rogers Band in October. We were about to really celebrate that. And now we can’t, or at least not yet.
My wife, Chelsea, owns three boutique stores called River Rose that she had to close temporarily. She had to navigate the waters of the PPP loan for her businesses as well as for our businesses. Luckily, we were approved as a band and she was also approved.
I haven’t had to lay anyone off. Our band is structured a little bit differently where we all own it, the five of us that have been together for almost 20 years. My crew is kind of family to me. I mean, I’ve had the same bus driver for 15 years. I just felt like if the ship sinks, we’re all gonna sink together.
No one’s salaries have gone down and everybody’s guaranteed through the summer. After that, it’s going to be time to make some difficult decisions. The PPP loans provide quite a bit of this security. Between us all we have lots of children. When we started our band, we were all single, but now even our crew guys have children. And I view everybody as a big, huge family. And so luckily and thankfully there was some assistance to help us stay afloat.
We’ve always had a very strong bond and camaraderie with, you know, our people. We’ve gone through cancer, we’ve gone through divorce, we’ve gone through several things together as a big, huge unit. So I feel like this will make us even stronger.
Besides the band, I’ve also had to close my two live music venues, Cheatham Street Warehouse in San Marcus and the Chop Shop Live, which is north of Fort Worth. We are in a holding pattern, I guess you could say. [Between the band, venues and road crew, Rogers employs 65 people.]
As for keeping busy, I’ve been able to pick up a couple of side gigs. I was talking to my little brother’s wife last night and she works for a company that is not necessarily as fun and friendly, and she was telling me about these Zoom meetings of 150 employees staring at the computer, you know? And it’d be boring. And so I’ve actually been hired to jump on companies’ Zoom meetings, and literally tell a few stories and play a few songs and lighten the mood. A company in Austin hired me, a couple of different distilleries. And I’ve been able to make some money, like it’s a normal gig.
I started doing Cameo.com, which at first I was a little bit reluctant to do. I didn’t understand it, really. But I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from those, too. Some of it’s actually really funny. Like this poor bastard this morning, he was at the end of the rope with this girl and I had to tell her that he’s being honest to you, and he’s being sincere, but I’m like, “If you’re using me then you’re in hot water, buddy.”
But some are to cheer up someone battling cancer or a mother of three who is a school teacher who needs a pick-me-up. That is very fulfilling. And it’s a way to provide for my family. It’s a way for me to do what I do, which is entertaining people, but in a very personal setting. Three months ago, I would have never in my life thought I would be having this conversation about that platform.
I’ve kind of had to embrace social media during this break, and I think I’ve learned quite a bit over the last, you know, six weeks. With that being said, I also understand now the connection that it provides for your fan and for the person that cares what you’re working on and what you’re doing. I’ve also been handwriting lyrics for fans and donating some of the proceeds to a different charity each week. This week we did Hungry-Souls.org, we did the San Antonio Food bank and last week we did the women’s center of Tarrant County. I’ve also been writing personal letters to the people that have purchased the lyrics. And it’s it’s been uplifting, you know, to help people and also to give people a piece of your art as well.
I’ve also been having Zoom meetings with the band. We are working on a song with Jim and Brett Beavers. They came to me and needed a South Texas collaboration and I reached out to [Mexican Regional quintet] La Maquinaria Norteña and they have this great lead saxophonist Keith Nieto. We’re just looking for studio time in June when we’re going to create this crazy song. It’s going to be a lot of energy. When we’re back on the road, people are just going to die when they hear this.
Hold My Beer, Vol. 2 comes out May 8 and we decided not to move that record release because it had been a long time coming. We put a lot of love and hard work into this record and I kinda feel that right now everybody needs a laugh. The music video “Rodeo Clown” just came out and you’re going to watch that video and you’re going to giggle. Every song on the album has that moment where it makes you giggle and smile. And what better time to make people laugh than right now?
We’ve got two kids running around at home. My other little girl is with her mama. My three-year-old is a wild woman and my six-year-old is in kindergarten still doing school through the iPad. My wife’s mother lives nearby. We try to keep them entertained and have different themed dinners — fancy dinner, candlelight meals, Sinatra night, homemade pasta.
I’m just a worker bee. My wife has said to me several times what I lack in talent I make up for with tenacity. Yesterday I signed 1,400 pieces of merchandise for the Hold My Beer project. I wouldn’t stop once I started. That’s kind of the person that I am.