Roger Creager: "I Think of Texas Country as a Flower Bed"
Houston native Roger Creager has been a mainstay of the Texas-centric festivals and college-town honky-tonks that make up the Texas country circuit. Over the course of six full-length albums and 14 years, Creager's become known more for his rambunctious live shows than he has his relatively small catalog of recorded output. These days, viewers can catch behind-the-scenes glimpses of him on the syndicated show Troubadour, TX.
When Creager swings through, he typically plays rooms far larger than Hank's Texas Grill in McKinney, but rare chances such as this Friday are always great for rabble-rousing of the highest order. We spoke to Creager as he nursed a hangover after watching his hometown Houston Texans lose to the New England Patriots earlier this week.
On the show Troubadour, TX, the segments which feature you are entitled "Living the Dream." Are you living your dream? Is this as good as it gets for you?
Man, I don't know. Sometimes you laugh and say, "I'm living the dream!" But that's really not the case. I still feel like I'm trying to get more, and trying to get where I really want to be in life. I'm never happy with where I'm at; I want bigger and better things for my career beyond what I have going on now.
The term "Texas country" can be confusing. Is your music Texas country or just plain old country?
I'm definitely different than what's on the radio these days. I think what primarily gets played on the radio is terrible, and I don't want to be a part of that. To some level, I'm proud that my sound is more unique to this part of the world, but at the same time, I'd love to have fans in Delaware and other places.
What do you see as the key difference in your sound when compared to the stuff on Top 40 radio?
I'm a different type of writer. Everyone should have their own style. I'm not writing for a specific demographic, or maybe I am, now that I think about it. I want to make music that my small-town buddies will listen to in their deer lease and that has to be something different than what's on the radio now.
A recent episode of Troubadour, TX showed clips from a concert where legendary writers Paul Overstreet and Allen Shamblin joined you for your birthday gig at Gruene Hall. Are you friends with them, or was that a one-off type of thing?
Paul and Allen are heavy hitters and I'm pleased to be good friends with them and I admire their God-gifted talent. Having them come down to play on my birthday at Gruene Hall was great. That was actually scheduled before the television show decided to film there. Just the fact those guys like hanging out with me makes me happy and feel a bit more legitimate, that's for sure.
How did you get to know them?
Believe it or not, Paul was running around Lubbock with [late, legendary University of Texas Football coach] Darrell Royal and they came to see my show that night and I got to meet them before the show. That was years ago, and Paul and I've been friends ever since. With Allen, I was a big fan of his, and I was in Nashville, so I called in some big favors to meet up with him and shoot the breeze. We hit it off and have stayed friends.
Back when you began in the late '90s, there did seem to be an actual "scene," or at least a pretty tight-knit group of performers playing a well-known circuit of venues. Currently, that scene seems to have morphed into a giant industry. What's your take on the growth of the regional country environment?
It's true that there used to be a handful of us that had this camaraderie where we wanted to set the world on fire, and it worked, to some extent, and it has grown into this Texas music industry. There wasn't an industry or a major scene when we started. Guys like Pat Green, Cory Morrow, Dub Miller, Owen Temple and myself were all out there trying to create it. We weren't reinventing the wheel, it's just that there wasn't much of a structure behind it all at the time. There were obviously guys before us, like Robert Earl Keen, Shake Russell, Jerry Jeff Walker and even Jack Ingram, who was doing it before many of us were. My manager jokes around and says that me and the people I just mentioned went into the jungle with a machete, blazed the trails and then poured concrete behind us so it's now easier for the younger guys. There's so many people who are part of the Texas scene now, but there really wasn't such a thing when I started. We were just playing and creating it as we went along.
You mentioned the younger acts that have come along since you started. There's a lot of bad music coming from the most popular acts the newest generation of artists in the Texas country scene has to offer.
I think of Texas country as a flower bed. There's Jack Ingram, Cory Morrow, Reckless Kelly, myself, Robert Earl Keen and a few others in there that are really nice flowers. Over the past decade, that flower bed has been overrun with weeds. Some are just awful, and I won't call anyone specific out, but it's a different animal now, compared to what it as when I began.