Kevin Fowler talks about his country music career and his upcoming performance at Cowboys & Indians’ NFR Best of the West Ball.
C&I’s joined forces again with the Silverton Casino Hotel and radio station 102.7 the Coyote to offer free nightly rodeo viewing parties at Wrangler National Finals Rodeo this December. Not only will guests see all the NFR action on the big screen; they’ll also enjoy food and drink specials from Twin Creeks Steakhouse.
And after the rodeo ends, the live music begins. It’s all to celebrate one of the biggest events in pro rodeo and the 25th-anniversary year of the magazine.
Along with Ned Ledoux, Chris Heers, and Randy Brown, this year’s C&I Silverton entertainment lineup includes a special performance on December 13 featuring Texas country singer-songwriter Kevin Fowler.
We recently caught up with Fowler to talk about his 20-year career, the Texas red-dirt country music scene, and leaving it on the stage at the NFR after-party.
Cowboys & Indians: You’ve been in the business for about 20 years and have so many accomplishments. What have been some of the standout moments for you?
Kevin Fowler: This year, 2018, marks the 20th anniversary of the band. We’re kind of doing a lot of stuff. We’re touring a lot, but we change up the show a lot to play a lot of the older stuff. … Twenty years and it’s been 18 years, this year, since “Beer, Bait, & Ammo” came out, which just seems like the other day, which is crazy to think about that — it’s been 18 years. Yeah, it’s pretty wild. We’re touring a lot and picking that up and just are playing a lot of old stuff to celebrate the fact that we’re even still alive after 20 years, much less on the road still tearing it up.
It’s a really good run and I can’t complain at all. If it all ended tomorrow, I still won the lottery, you know? Not many people in the music business have a 20-year career where they’re still out there, tearing it up. We got a new record coming out later this year, probably going to be after the first of the year. … We have a new single about to come out called “Country Song to Sing,” and the new record — the whole record, should be out, I’m guessing, January – February, because I don’t think we can get it in stores by the holidays now. We took too long. Just keep on keepin’ on. That’s the motto in the Kevin Fowler camp.
C&I: Since your debut, how do you think you’ve evolved as an artist?
Fowler: I think my songwriting has matured some and I try not to just write songs about drinking beer and rednecks and pickup trucks and all that stuff, and Gruene Hall, bluebonnets, and all the Texas-themed stuff. But it’s kind of hard. “Beer, Bait & Ammo” is such a huge record. People always just kind of expect you just to do that same thing over and over. It’s hard to figure songwriting and everything, to mature and try to get better [while] at the same time you don’t want to alienate your fans. People expect you to keep doing what you were doing originally, but you can’t do the same thing all the time. You want to grow as an artist, so it’s kind of a catch-22 there.
C&I: What have been some of the highlights of your journey?
Fowler: When you look back over the 20 years, all the cool stuff we’ve got to do — from doing duets with George Jones and Willie Nelson and Mark Chesnutt, you know, tons of people. Montgomery Gentry cutting songs and Chesnutt’s cut songs I’ve written. George Jones recorded one. I mean, we had just a ton of people recording a bunch of songs and the duets. … I always try to make the next project big, but sometimes I look back and go, “Hey, man, we got to do some really cool stuff.” We’ve been all over the planet, all over Europe, and we’ve been to Kuwait and Iraq, playing for the troops, and just all the stuff we get to do with musicians. Sometimes we take it for granted but you look back and go, “Wow, that was really cool.”
C&I: You’re performing at C&I’s NFR after-party on December 13. What does the magazine mean to you?
Fowler: You can’t really be a Western and horse enthusiast and not love Cowboys & Indians magazine. It’s kind of the — I’m trying to think of the right word — but it’s the go-to publication for people that are into our lifestyle.
C&I: Can you tell me a little bit more about what you have planned for the event?
Fowler: NFR is the only time of the year I like to go to Vegas. I’m a huge gambler, but it’s such a fun time to be in town, all the excitement. I’ll know 40, 50, 60 people in town that week. All of my buddies are already out there for it. The whole thing is the experience of being out there and it’s the time to be there. For me, it’s a lot of fun and we try to play out there every year because it’s just such a great crowd. It’s our core demographic. My people are there. It’s a great couple weeks to be in Vegas.
C&I: Can we expect anything really special for the performance?
Fowler: I’m trying to think what-all we’ll change up. We’re going to be playing a lot of stuff off the new record and all the old songs all the way back to ’99, ’98 time. Like I said, this whole year, we’re just out celebrating the 20th anniversary of the band, and in the set, we’re celebrating those 20 years and trying to go back and play everything chronologically from day one all the way through the latest stuff. NFR falls right in the middle of Christmas time. We do a tour every year called Deck the Dancehalls, where … we try to hit all the dancehalls throughout the state that we miss throughout the year. We started out cutting our teeth in dancehalls; [they] were our mainstay for a long time. And now we’re busy playing a lot of fairs and festivals and rodeos. So in December, when it kind of slows down, we go back and try to hit all those dancehalls. Vegas will fall right in the middle of that, so you never know. We may have to get out the Santa songs. … And take out my Santa suit. Look out.
C&I: What do you hope your fans will take away from the performance?
Fowler: They’ll see all the Texas folks that come out there and have a good time in Vegas. They’re all there already and I think we’re kind of throwing a party there at the Silverton [that] they will all enjoy, that’s for sure.
C&I: What’s it like to be part of an event as large and as well-known as the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo?
Fowler: Before my career took off, I always wanted to go to the NFR. Never could afford to, never could get out there. And now getting to go out every year, it’s such a cool … — something to look forward to every year. It’s an honor just to be out there and be amongst the rodeo royalty. It’s pretty wild, you know: You can go out at night and all the big stars are roaming the streets. It’s just really cool. Looking back, I used to want to go out there so bad and never could and now I’m there every year and getting to play music. Life is good. No complaints.
C&I: You’re one of the founders of the Texas red-dirt music scene. Can you tell me a little bit more about that?
Fowler: It’s been really cool to be a little spoke on that wheel and be along for the ride. We were just lucky enough to be there when the whole thing kind of came about and how, organically, the whole scene started. Initially it was just a bunch of guys playing in bars. I was playing more the honky-tonks and Pat Green and Roger Creager and Cory Morrow and all them were doing more the college thing and just kind of this swell and it’s one big scene, you know? Then Cross Canadian Ragweed came down and Jason Boland came down from Oklahoma; then those two scenes just kind of merged together. … Now you don’t have to call it Texas red dirt because the two genres kind of morphed into one. It’s cool that it’s still growing and growing. I think people just accidentally started back in ’99 and 2000. To see it still growing and still turning out all these great new artists: Dakota Johnson to your young kids like Parker McCollum and William Clark Green and all these young kids coming up. …
One time, me and Pat and Creager and all of us, we were the young kids on the block. Now we’re the grandpas of the scene, the elder statesmen. It just keeps growing. Now my kids even have their Texas country artists that they’re into. It’s just neat seeing how it’s kind of becoming multigenerational. I guess it is, if you look all the way back to the outlaw movement in the ’70s with Waylon and Willie and all those guys, then later on in the ’90s, you had Robert Earl Keen and all those guys. It’s cool to look back [on all that]. Even just being a page in the Texas country history books is pretty cool.
C&I: Who are some of your influences and what made you want to become a musician?
Fowler: I was just always around music growing up. All the other boys were out playing football and playing sports and my mom pushed me into piano lessons. I hated her for it, but now I thank her for it. She was smarter than I thought. I just was always a band geek, playing in the high school and junior high band and, in college, playing in cover bands. Then I went to music school out in California for a while. I was always around music and was involved in music and it slowly just took over my life. Originally I thought I was going to be an accountant or something. The power of music kind of took control and led me in a different direction.
Speed Round With Kevin Fowler
Favorite place in the West: “Denver’s always fun and pretty.”
First song you look for on the jukebox: Merle Haggard, “That’s the Way Love Goes.”
Favorite Western movie: Lonesome Dove.
Favorite Western food: “All the Western Mexican food, all the green chile Mexican food you get in the Western states that you don’t really get outside of that area.”
Go-to bar drink: “I’m always up for a cold beer. Always.”
Wardrobe staple: Hat and boots. “Right now I’m wearing a lot of Twisted X and Resistol. They take good care of me — they keep me looking pretty.”
Other artists to recommend: Josh Ward, Randall King, and Cody Johnson.
For more information on Kevin Fowler and his upcoming tour dates, visit his website.
For more information on Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, visit their website.