Randy Houser is a man refreshed. "I don't know how it happened, but everything in my life has started lining up," says the Lake, Mississippi native. "I must have done somebody right in the past."
Houser's own past contains no shortage of achievement, including multiple nominations for ACM and CMA Awards, a #2 single in the form of "Boots On," and songwriting credits for major names such as Trace Adkins, Justin Moore and Chris Young. In 2008—mere months after the release of his debut single, "Anything Goes"—Houser was even asked by David Letterman himself to appear on the Late Show. The singer's first full-length, Anything Goes, came out later that year, followed in 2010 by They Call Me Cadillac.
And yet despite this early success, Houser now admits that he wasn't truly happy. "It seemed like professionally things weren't as great as they could be, and that was part of it," he says. "But the biggest thing was not having a homebase. I needed an anchor." He found one last year when he married his wife, Jessa. "All of a sudden it was like I had this piece that had been missing," he says with audible gratitude. Another piece—son West Yantz Houser—arrived this past spring, as did a crisp new look and a pact with Stoney Creek Records.
"Everybody there feels like part of my family," Houser says of the independent imprint, where he happily signed following a long stretch of intensive touring. (How intensive? Think 150 shows a year.) "You walk in the door and everybody seems really happy with their job; there's no strife in the air. That's really important for me to have right now. It's comforting."
Those positive vibes ripple through "How Country Feels," the sparkling first single from Houser's upcoming Stoney Creek debut, which he's currently cutting with producer Derek George, a fellow Mississippian Houser's been wanting to work with for a decade. "It was the obvious choice for a leadoff," Houser says of "How Country Feels." "It caught my ear the first time I heard it—like, 'I wanna hear that again.'"
Other new tracks echo the single's sunny self-assurance, including "We're Just Growing Younger" and "Along for the Ride," which Houser co-wrote with Zac Brown. "We were playing a festival and I just had this song rolling around in my head," Houser remembers of the latter. "I stayed up till about 5 in the morning but then got stuck. So I called up Zac and we went on his bus and knocked it out of the park."
There is contemplation, too: "Like a Cowboy" is about "me coming home for a few days, then having to leave again," Houser says, while "Route 3 Box 250D" provides an intimate snapshot of the singer's upbringing. "That one's kind of hard to listen to," he admits. "It hits almost too close to home."
As for the album's sound, Houser says it's shaping up as his most expansive outing yet, with more bells and whistles than he's used in the past; it also showcases the remarkable voice that led Vince Gill to call Houser "one of the best in the new crop of country singer-songwriters" and caused his pal Jamey Johnson to say, "I watched a blind man jump to his feet and drop his crutches the first time he heard Randy Houser sing."
Still, the heart of the album—of Houser's entire outlook right now—remains the story of a man who's moved through darkness into light. "I feel like I've reached such a special moment," he says, and it's a true pleasure to hear him inside it.