Alumni Profiles: Randy Rogers

Rand Rogers

Photo from randyrogersband.com

by Malerie Eeds
It’s a typical Wednesday night in San Marcos. About 20 people gather around in Cheatham Street Warehouse to get their chance in the Songwriter’s Circle. But there’s a different air in the room tonight. One songwriter gets on stage and delivers a song so heartfelt and poetic it leaves the whole room in awe and has owner Kent Finlay silently cheering inside for the future of the man on the stage. The song was called “Lost and Found” and alumnus Randy Rogers performed it for the first time over a decade ago while still in school. He exemplifies the idea that talent, drive and a good heart can take you places you never imagined.

“Randy has this song called ‘Lost and Found,’ and that was the song that really did it for me –that’s the one that made me call him aside,” said Finlay. “We went to lunch and I told him that I was really impressed with his writing and his sincerity when he was singing. I didn’t know if he had an interest in music as a career, but I thought if he did then it would be something I could help him with. So, I told him just to think about it and he called me back about two or three hours later and said ‘I’ve already got a guitar player.’ He was ready to go. He’s a great guy, really talented and a decent person. We’re ten years down the road now, and Randy is doing tremendous things.”

The Randy Rogers Band is composed of Rogers (lead vocalist), Geoffrey Hill (guitar), Jon Richardson (bass guitar), Brady Black (fiddle) and Les Lawless (drums). They met when Rogers was finishing college and since then have released five studio albums and two live albums. Their recent release “Burning the Day” peaked at number two on the U.S. Billboard Country Albums chart, and they have recently been nominated for the Academy of Country Music (AMC) Top Vocal Group award.

A good student

As a boy, Rogers dreamed of being a musician while singing in the choir of his father’s church. However, as an adult, he decided to put his focus on something else — his education, a decision he certainly does not regret.

“I graduated in 2001 with a degree in mass communications with an emphasis in public relations and a minor in business,” said Rogers. “My first gig with the Randy Rogers Band wasn’t until Oct. 3, 2000, and I graduated in May 2001. I did that on purpose so I could finish school. Getting my degree was really important to me.”

Randy Rogers

Photo from randyrogersband.com

Receiving his education at what was then Southwest Texas State was an experience that impacted the direction of Rogers’ future endeavors.

“If I would have gone to school anywhere else, I don’t think I would have had the opportunities I was afforded in San Marcos,” said Rogers. “It was a very credible outlet for my music that I’m very grateful for, especially Cheatham Street Warehouse and Kent Finlay.”

After Rogers got his band together Finlay gave him his own night. They played every Tuesday night and Rogers says that the rest is history. Still, Rogers continued to excel in his academics and found encouragement through a professor.

“Dr. Fred Blevens went out of his way to help me,” said Rogers. “He helped me juggle being in a band and going to school. He was a great mentor to me. They say from kinder to college there is always one professor that sticks out, and for me, that is Dr. Blevens. I made a friend in him, and I’m really grateful for that. He didn’t take it easy on me; he was really hard, and he pushed me to be the best that I can be.”

Blevens, who now teaches at Florida International University, said Rogers had a drive and determination he seldom sees.

“He was very smart, and could write extremely well,” said Blevens. “Most of all, though, he was not afraid to discuss issues and speak up in class. I always thought Randy would make a great journalist. He could connect dots and make sense of things. Though he wanted so much to make a career in music, he knew he had to finish his degree. It was not hard to invest in Randy because he knew the value in chasing a dream without ever worrying about catching it. He was a natural learner.” Blevens said that what’s special about Texas State is that students seemed very comfortable in school and in their relationships with faculty and staff. He said, despite inadequate resources in the past, students and faculty made wonderful things happen.

“The university environment nurtured that duality because many of us believed that chasing those dreams outside the school made better students in the classroom,” said Blevens. “Randy is a very good example of that.” Rogers said the staff was very liberal and gave him the opportunity to chase his dreams and finish college simultaneously. He said Texas State University is an amazing place to get a degree, and he is proud to visit and stay connected.

Getting to the top

Even though Rogers had a foot in the door, it was still a climb to the top for him. He said the transition after graduation was not easy. He didn’t want a real job; he wanted to play music. He ended up working at Mail Boxes Etc. (bought out by UPS) for $7 an hour with a college degree and living on friends’ couches for a while.

“You have to grow up and make your own way,” said Rogers. “It was a big day when I could afford my own apartment by playing music, and I paid off all of my student loans by playing gigs.”

He found a way to push through with some helpful advice from his mentors. After Rogers’ first band fell apart he began talking about his next career, but Blevens convinced him to persist with music.

“I told him that he was far too young to worry about the next career and that he should keep playing until someone kicks him off the stage,” said Blevens. “I’m not sure he’d say that was important, but it sure seemed important at the time.” Finlay said Rogers adopted his slogan “The harder I work, the luckier I get” as well. Though Rogers said he got the best advice from Finlay when he advised Rogers to have thick skin and to always believe in himself, he took all of the advice and ran with it.

“We have been on ‘The Tonight Show’ with Jay Leno, Conan O’Brien and Letterman,” said Rogers. Those are extremes that I thought would never come true. Seeing your dreams come true is pretty remarkable.” After all of his success, Rogers remains humble.

“Our goal has been to write songs and make records and play live; that’s what keeps us going,” said Rogers. “I think we’ll all be happy if we can continue to do that.”

“I never thought I’d make it this far, let’s face it.”

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