On Tuesday, January 15, a lucky group of Nash FM 94.7 listeners and NYCountry Swag winners were invited to witness one of country music’s greatest vocalists, Randy Houser, live. Performing an acoustic set from the Hackensack Meridian Health Stage 17 as part of the station’s “Up Close and Country” series, Houser sang some of his biggest hits in addition to songs from his new album, Magnolia.
From the studio located high above Madison Square Garden, Houser launched his set with “How Country Feels,” which was the first song ever played on NASH FM 94.7 when it launched on January 21, 2013, and brought country music back to the Big Apple. Backed by a keyboardist and guitarist, Houser’s voice was on full display during the six-song set, which also included his first ever Top 5 hit, “Boots On,” which went to number 2. “There’s a big difference between number one and number two,” he laughed.
While Houser may have performed a few of his classics, the show was a really a celebration of Magnolia, released January 11th. For the singer-songwriter, the deeply-personal project was a “labor of love” that truly shows off a different side of the singer. “When I started this record, I had reached this point in my life where I wanted to make sure I was being able to flex my brain and my muscle,” Houser revealed. “I feel like a lot of times a lot of the music ends up staring to sound the same and like everyone else’s because everybody at a lot of record labels encourage people to copy the last thing that was working and whatever was the most popular thing last week. ‘Let’s make sure we do some of that.’ So for me, it was just like couldn’t do it. I grew a little bit tired of the same sound and I wanted to go create something that you could only get at Randy Houser’s house.”
In addition to the album, which Houser initially funded himself (“I thought I might get dropped,” he jokes of his record label.), the album is also the subject of a feature film, to be released at a later date. While the film was initially slated for release with the album, some large outlets and festivals have expressed interest, so the release is currently to be decided. According to Houser, the music serves as a backdrop for the film.
As for why he named the project Magnolia, Houser revealed that it all stemmed from a tree he discovered as a child that he’d get in trouble for climbing. “That’s partly the way I felt about this album. It was also something that was part of me climbing a tree and climbing up and ya know, using what I had to be me and to move up another level.” He felt like he was expected to “maintain the status quo” and make a lot of “different cars in that same color” because that was what was working and selling when it came to his music. “This album was sort of a return to myself, and what makes me, me…and the Magnolia trees I climbed.”
From the new album, Houser sang one of his favorite songs, “No Stone Unturned,” which he co-wrote with his brother-in-law Dallas Davidson about a “traveling man.” He also performed the ballad, “Our Hearts,” which was written about the start of his relationship with his wife, Tatiana. According to Houser, the song is “a really nice way of saying ‘Stay the heck out of my business’.”
Houser also performed “No Good Place to Cry,” a deeply personal track that was written nearly ten years ago during “a way crappier time” in his life. Of that track, he admitted that this was the first album the song had a home on saying, “I never felt like any of those albums deserved this song.” Houser also admitted that he wasn’t always super proud of the music he was releasing so he refrained from doing press. However, of Magnolia, he says, “This one I wanted to come back and brag on.”
Despite a fan request for one of his biggest hits, “Runnin’ Out of Moonlight,” to which Houser quipped “I never heard it,” he ended his set with his current single “What Whiskey Does”. With a voice as big as Madison Square Garden, Randy Houser charmed fans last night in the audience and on Facebook Live. If you didn’t have a chance to attend last night’s intimate show, you’re in luck because you can watch a replay of it below.
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