Randy Houser wasn't quite expecting a return invitation to be part of this year's Jagermeister Presents Tour.
"I'm surprised that they had me back," says the country singer and songwriter, " 'cause the first Jaeger tour I did in about '08 was with Pat Green, and we really put a big dent in the Jager supply.
"But, y'know, I can't consume as much as I used to. it's a little more moderate these days, so maybe I'm a safer bet now."
Houser says that with a laugh, but the truth is he's indeed a winning wager as a headline act. After writing big hits for artists such as Trace Adkins ("Honky Tonk Badonkadonk"), Justin Moore and Jessie James, Houser has released a pair of successful albums of his own, notching six country chart singles along the way. His third album, "How Country Feels," is coming Jan. 22, riding the momentum of another Top 10 hit in the title track.
"As far as my career, I don't have anything to complain about," notes Houser, 37, a Mississippi native and son of a professional musician who moved to Nashville in 2002. "I think everything happens for a reason, and you end up in the place you're gonna get the support you need. And that's what's happened for me.
"It's just awesome, really good."
"How Country Feels," which follows 2010's "They Call Me Cadillac" and 2008's "Anything Goes," came out of a maelstrom of period in Houser's personal life -- though it was all good. He got married in September of 2011, and his wife, Jessa Lee, gave birth to son West last March. Fatherhood, Houser says, is "my new favorite thing in the world," and the pulls of his personal life had a marked impact on the new album.
"This year has been a really crazy year for me," Houser explains. "I got married, had a baby, trying to figure out how to be a dad. Normally I've written most of the things I've recorded, but I didn't have as much time to write as normal.
"So I just didn't put nearly as much pressure on myself this time. I wrote as much as I could in the time that I had, and then I sort of went looking for songs where I didn't think I had the bases covered and just didn't stress over it. This time I really welcomed any help that I could find, and I really think it may be the best album I've ever made.
"I mean, I'm sure it's the best album I've ever made, and it came with a lot less stress than the others, which I liked."
Houser did manage to co-write seven of the stylistically broad 15 tracks on "How Country Feels," including the dusky "Along For the Ride" with Zac Brown and Levi Lowery. But the title track is one of those outside contributions, coming from the team of Neil Thrasher, Wendell Mobley and Vicky McGehee and presented to Houser by Benny Brown, the head of Houser's label, Stoney Creek Records.
"He had been listening to songs for this album, and he's got good ears," Houser recalls. "He played it for me, and I immediately knew I wanted to record it. I felt like, 'That's a smash!' It was a really, really special thing for me to get to find that song."
Its success -- and a forthcoming follow-up single, "Runnin' Outta Moonlight" -- has also given Houser confidence to record more outside material in the future.
"In the past I'd never listened to that many (outside) songs because I was writing so much of the time," he explains. "But with me traveling on the road all the time and coming home and being a daddy, I'm gonna definitely be leaning on my songwriter buddies. And I have to say, it seems to be working."
Houser has more road work ahead of him this year to promote "How Country Feels." After the Jagermeister tour wraps up he'll be supporting Miranda Lambert and Dierks Bentley, as well as "a lot of fairs and festivals coming up in the summer."
"We're just going to go out there and continue to build our live show and play the clubs and things like that," Houser says. "And then we'll just continue to learn new music and play new music and just have a good time. Things are feeling really, really good right now."
Randy Houser and Joey Vee perform Friday, Jan. 11, at the Royal Oak Music Theatre, 318 W. Fourth St. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $9.95 general admission advance, $15 day of show, and $30 reserved. Call 248-399-2980 or visit www.royaloakmusictheatre.com.
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