Randy Rogers and Wade Bowen have never been ones to overthink things when they get together. These are two guys who named their freewheeling acoustic shows the Hold My Beer and Watch This Tour, after all. This summer, they staged another Hold My Beer Tour to commemorate its 10th anniversary and will wrap up a spin-off of sorts – the Tall Tales & the Truth Tour – with special guest Kip Moore Thursday night in New York.
“It all started with just Randy and I and our guitars telling stories and having fun. We were just doing shows together. We were too young and ignorant to brand it,” says Bowen. He first started playing acoustic gigs with Rogers 15 years ago, before they’d come up with the Hold My Beer name. “Bringing other people in is something brand new to this thing and I love the idea. We can take our friendship and expand it.”
Fittingly, the idea to include Moore came over a beer on Rogers’ tour bus at one of Bowen’s annual benefit concerts in Texas. And Rogers and Moore have known each other since they were labelmates at MCA Nashville. “He played my charity event back in June out of the goodness of his heart. He was dog tired, got an hour of sleep, played his show and had to fly out the next morning for Nashville,” says Bowen of the Slowheart singer-songwriter, who has written with Moore. “Part of the idea was to get together once a year and not only play shows but knock around new stuff.”
Neither Rogers nor Bowen shy away from their admiration for some of country’s most famous buddy albums, like Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson’s Waylon & Willie or George Jones and Johnny Paycheck’s Double Trouble. “If you look at guys like Robert Earl [Keen] and Lyle Lovett, they’re old buddies since college and they do these kind of shows and they do them in these huge theaters and unbelievably nice places,” says Bowen. “I think that’s the goal for Randy and I as we get older. But for now, I love that we can go pretty much anywhere we want to go with this show and people pay attention and listen.”
Having already spawned one studio album together, 2015’s Hold My Beer Vol. 1, the pair appreciate the benefits of such collaborations. “It allows us to write things we wouldn’t necessarily write for own projects,” says Rogers. “Duets have been going on in country music for a long time and it’s fun to carry the tradition on. But it’s also an exercise of the brain. Trying to write a duet for two guys is pretty tough. There’s only a select few things you can talk about. It’s almost comedy.”
Since Hold My Beer Vol. 1, Rogers and Bowen released their first live album, Watch This — “We could release live recordings forever. We’ve recorded a ton of stuff,” says Bowen — and intended to return to the studio this year but put those plans on hold while they each focused on new solo records. Bowen will release Solid Ground in February; Rogers is eyeing the spring for his still untitled project.
Meanwhile, the success of their collaborative Vol. 1 has encouraged the guys to dip their toes into the business world: they secured the trademark to the phrase “hold my beer and watch this.”
“We were very surprised no one owned that,” says Rogers, pointing specifically to merchandising options outside of future recordings. “We took all the necessary steps to protect ourselves with the brand and now we can move forward with bigger and better plans.
“Wade and I are just more grown up than we were in our 20s,” he continues. “We figured we’d search it out, and if we’re going to invest the time and money, then we need to ensure we had our asses covered.”
If that seems like a 180 from the pair’s more informal origins, it’s only partially correct: covering their asses has always been one of their shared goals. “The whole reason Wade and I got into this and became friends was to have each other’s backs. [We] just had honesty in all our business dealings. If I got offered a deal, I’d show it to Wade. If a club owner screwed me over, I’d let Wade know,” says Rogers. “Like the song says, ‘All you need is one good friend.’ You gotta find yours.”