Randy Houser had a pretty traditional Nashville career, rising from songwriter to solo artist with three No. 1 hits in the span of a decade—until he threw on the brakes. His fifth album, Magnolia, is the result of a two-year-long intensive focus on his songwriting, stripping back his sound in order to discover one that is authentically his own, something that displays his age and experience. “This was just about discovering the pieces of me that make me who I am now,” he says. “It wasn’t made to be like, ‘Here’s a big old commercial hit-record album.’” Here are the personal stories that inspired Magnolia, an album born of Houser’s Mississippi youth.
“No Stone Unturned” “One of my favorite songs on the record, one of my favorites to play live. It’s pretty simple—a song about a traveling man trying to find himself.”
“Our Hearts” “This was one of the first songs that I wrote for this record. It fueled the flame for me to start writing something different, outside of the ‘girl in the truck’ songs. That was definitely inspired by meeting my wife.”
“What Whiskey Does” “A big part of the way I am is I always have to jump over the fence and see what’s over there, or go in the unexpected places. And sometimes a little liquid bravery comes into play.”
“Whole Lotta Quit” “This is about all jobs I had when growing up. I hated every job that wasn’t making music. I put in equipment on chicken farms, I made, like, $30 a day. Any time any kind of clock or buzzer went off for me to get out of there, I went busting out with a vengeance. Work just sort of feels like a jail to me, and I think there’s a lot of people that feel like that.”
“No Good Place to Cry” “I wrote it with my friend Gary Nicholson almost 10 years ago. We’d been writing together for a couple years, and I’d gotten where I could confide in him about things that were going on in my life. I’d just gone through a breakup and was down in the dumps. I never felt like I was making the record that that song deserved to be on until now.”
“New Buzz” “This was a song idea I had, and [producer] Keith Gattis and [songwriter] Jeff Trott and I worked on it for a day and couldn’t quite get it. Gattis ended up going home and writing most of the song himself. He is an amazing producer and somebody I lean on whenever I’ve gotta get away from the commercial side of things. He’s always like, ‘Well, let’s go make some music, whatever it is, and just see what it is.’”
“Nothin’ on You” “It’s just a lot of fun. At the end, you find out it’s about more fun than you expected.”
“What Leaving Looks Like” “When you feel the end of a relationship coming and nobody wants to admit it to themselves—you know what’s coming, so just go ahead and get it over with.”
“High Time” “‘High Time,’ for me, is what downtime is. It’s just that time to kick back, take a puff, and kinda let the world go up in smoke. That’s a feeling I love—when you don’t have a place to be or a phone call to make or anybody expecting you to do anything.”
“Mamma Don’t Know” “I had been playing the riff at sound checks and started writing it on the road. My wife, who is considerably younger than me, was the inspiration—she doesn’t drink, she doesn’t smoke, all those things—just set against sort of a bad-girl vibe, which she’s not. Her mom gets a total kick out of that song.”
“Running Man” “This is the other side of ‘High Time’—I found myself in a place where I wasn’t making music exactly the way I wanted to, my show wasn’t exactly what I wanted it to be. I had to pull the plug on a lot of things and just reset. If you have people expecting you to create music and say things you don’t really feel, you end up feeling like a product rather than an artist.”
“Evangeline” “Growing up in Central Mississippi as young bucks, we would take off down to New Orleans. And that’s what the song was inspired by—those trips with a carload of girls and crazy dudes, and just having fun. And there were some romantic times and some wild times.”


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