Life, loss, love, hardship, and faith – these best encapsulate Shot Glass, the major label debut album of rising country artist, Randall King. King may be a newcomer to Music City, but he’s no greenhorn in the music business. For years, he’s played venues of every size across the United States, sold out his own headlining shows, and opened for hitmakers like Cody Johnson, Tracy Lawrence, and Clay Walker.
Growing up in West Texas, a deep reverence for country music’s forefather was ingrained in his DNA. King’s influences include Keith Whitley, Alan Jackson, Eric Church, Jason Aldean, John Anderson, and of course the king himself, George Strait. He picked up the guitar when he was just a kid, learned it, and started writing and performing songs not long after. After graduating from South Plains College and years of perfecting the craft, King and his band toured across the country, playing any venue big or small that would have them. After years of grinding it out independently, the singer was offered three recording contracts and eventually inked signed with Warner Music Nashville in 2019.
Shot Glass serves as King’s first release with a record label. The 11-song collection masterfully stays true to country music’s age-old tradition of authentic storytelling. “Hard Way to Make it Rain” ruminates on some bad decisions made as a traveling musician, “Record High” celebrates the carefree euphoria of life, “Roger Miller Lite” ponders on the country icon’s decisions in a break-up, and closer “I’ll Fly Away” is King’s stirring tribute to his late sister, Leanna.
Zoom-ing in from Waco, Texas, King spoke to Sounds Like Nashville about his upbringing, musical journey, Shot Glass, and what he hopes fans take away from the record.
Introducing the next promising newcomer you have to “get to know”: Randall King
How did you get into music? Did you always dream of singing for a living one day?
For me, singing was something I was born to do. I was singing so much that my Dad looked to my mom and said, “I tell you what. If that boy don’t shut up, we ought to just get him a guitar.” So he got me a guitar at seven, I learned to play [it], fell in love with the guitar and playing and singing, and started figuring out. I’ve been writing songs since I was little. It’s been something I’ve always wanted to do. I took the time to invest in myself. I went to South Plains College and learned how to produce records, lived in Lubbock, Texas, which had such a strong, independent music scene. The Blue Light Bar is my home bar there and it’s a big part of getting young guys started in the industry. I started playing around Lubbock, and I started branching out to Texas, around the country, and then France, Mexico, and we’re aiming for Canada next. We’re shooting worldwide! For me and my team and everybody involved, it’s a long process but we’re still the young guys on the scene.
Who would you cite as your musical influences?
My dad’s a big old-school country fan. I learned about country music from the passenger’s seat of a Freightliner on the road. I grew up on guys like Merle Haggard, Keith Whitley, and George Jones. For me, Keith Whitley is my biggest influence, and then Alan Jackson, George Strait, and Dierk’s Bentley’s first two records. I wore them out when I was 16 or 17 years old. Those first two records were so stonecold country to me. It was a big part of my sound, too. Massive influence for sure.
When did you start hitting the ground running with shows as an independent artist?
I really started hitting it hard independently in 2015. I was never Texas Country. I was always traditional country. For me, we wanted to shoot nationally. I’m proud to be from Texas. It’s my home state. But for me, it’s always been about a national goal and playing true, traditional country. For several years when I started, the pendulum wasn’t swinging back to country. We were in there when country wasn’t country! [laughs]
You signed with Warner Music Nashville in 2019 after years of playing small and big venues and building your fan base. Was this because of, as you mentioned, your goal of getting heard on a national scale?
Absolutely man! I signed on Warner because they let me be me. Nothing was going to change the songwriting or songs we chose. The biggest thing when I signed was that I had a final say in all of those things. They’re not going to dictate who I am. They don’t want to. That’s not artistry. That’s a machine. You come from the independent side of the world where they tell you, “Oh, don’t let the label change you, don’t let Nashville change you!” Hell, that’s not going to change. Will there be growth? Absolutely! Everybody grows. I’m not going to all of a sudden be pop. I’m going to be me.
With several other offers on the table, how did you land on signing with Warner?
There were three labels that had offers on us. One was Garth’s label Pearl Records, the other was Broken Bow, and the other was Warner. For us, Warner made the most sense with what they were offering and the platforms that were available to us. Mostly, it was the fact that my A&R rep, Cris Lacy, came out to several shows and we had a lot of personal one-to-one conversations. It was always, “We love what you do. We aren’t here to change here. We’re here to put it on a bigger platform.” That was my key point in going with Warner.
You recently performed at your label’s showcase at Country Radio Seminar in Nashville. What was it like taking that storied industry stage for the very first time?
I don’t think I’ve ever got nervous playing in front of a crowd! I remember the very first time I played in front of 6,000 people, I got nervous. I don’t really get nervous, but when you step back and look out and it’s nothing but major record labels and industry people, the nerves can get to you a little bit. But you go through it and make the most of it! You got to go in and make the most impact you can make.
Let’s talk about the title track of your album, Shot Glass. What is it about, and what made you name the entire record after it?
“Shot Glass” is about somebody sitting in a bar, they take a shot, and get hit with all these memories and visions of their life, what they’ve been through, and things they have forgotten. That’s when they sit back and wonder, “How did all of that fit into a shot glass?” So we took that concept [and incorporated it into the record]. There are 11 songs on this record, and 10 are going to tie back to “Shot Glass.” When you go top to bottom on this record, you’re going to go, “Man! How did all that fit into a shot glass?” All 11 songs are a reflection of who I am, where I’ve been over the last four years, and my personal growth.
You wrote the rollicking “Hard Way To Make It Rain” with Dan Smalley. It’s one of my favorites on the record. It’s just a good ol’ honky tonkin’ tune about life! Would you talk about writing this one?
It’s the truth! I love what I do. It’s the story of my career and how hard of a road it’s been to get to where we are now. Over the last couple of years, we’ve been really blessed and sold out a couple of stages nationwide. We’ve got fans all over the country that we love and have gotten the chance to connect with. My songs have made an impact on them, which is everything. My fans are literally the only reason I have what I got. So this song is letting them know the story of the road I had to take to get here. […] It’s a story about how hard it’s been building what we’ve got. The truth of it is it’s a good way to make a living, I love what I do! But it’s a hard way to make it rain, son.
“Around Forever” is such a well-written country song about life, spotlighting the importance of taking stock of the simpler things. What inspired this one?
“Around Forever” is one that I wrote right on the tail-end of 2019, I believe. And then in April 2020, after the world had shut down for a month, I lost my sister Leanna. The night she passed, I was sitting in her jeep – which is my jeep now – and looking at the West Texas stars. That’s when everything came together and hit me. “Around Forever” is one of the most impactful songs that I think I’ve ever cut. It’s just a story of the realization of time and how much you really get. It’s a slap on the forehead going, “Hey, wake up! You got loved ones still here. You got time. Take advantage of the moments with the people you love. Heed the words of the song. They ain’t gonna be around forever.” I learned that first hand in 2020 when I lost my sister.
You played the Grand Ole Opry for the first time just three days before your album dropped. How special was that?
I set a goal in my life, and one of the goals was actually to play the Opry. Three days before the CD comes out, on March 15, I get to play the Opry and get to one of those goals. The Opry is everybody’s dream! If you don’t know what the Opry is, I’m sorry but you don’t really belong in country music. You want to be in country music? Know your history. Study it. I grew up on Hank Williams, Hank Jr., Hank Thompson, Hank Snow, Merle Haggard, Gene Watson – I grew up on old school country music. For me, to stand in that circle, that’s so many people’s goal! I’m blessed to be able to do it.
Finally, what do you hope fans take away as they listen to your album, Shot Glass?
Honestly, I hope that they see and hear my growth as a man through the last four years. I just hope that they feel it. I treat every tracklisting like a setlist. It’s an emotional roller-coaster ride, and I hope they feel every song and enjoy the ride.
Purchase or stream Randall King’s Shot Glass here.