Randall King Steps ‘Into The Neon’ And Returns To His Roots On New Album
“I think sticking to your roots is always the move,” King explains.
Randall King; Photo by Yve Assad
Randall King leads country music into a new sonic chapter with his sophomore major label album, Into The Neon. Co-produced by King alongside Jared Conrad, the 18-track project is available today (Jan. 26), via Warner Music Nashville.
In 2018, the rising country star released his self-titled album, giving the world a taste of his honky tonk allegiance and the serenity of his upbringing in the plains of West Texas. This was followed by his major label debut, Shot Glass, a collection of songs that he feels pulled away from his roots “just a little bit.”
With each new release, King has continued to hone in on his sound while performing under the neon lights of nearly 150 honky tonks each year. The journey of these lively experiences and humbling stories now make up his latest album, Into The Neon.
This collection of songs finds his early influences of Gary Allan and Dierks Bentley speaking louder than ever before as they blend with the timeless country twang of George Strait and Keith Whitley. As a result, the Texas native has painted a clear picture of his artistry with an extra dose of edge this time around.
Returning To His Roots
“I think sticking to your roots is always the move. I felt like with ‘Shotglass’ I pulled away from my roots just a little bit. Not a lot, just in the sense that we were trying to do the more commercialized side of country music,” King told Country Now. “I just want to get back to where I come from. My self-titled record reflects who I am the most and I wanted to make sure that this record does too.”
When King first brought the title track “Into the Neon” to his co-writers Ben Stennis and Matt Rogers, he remembered explaining the idea as such: “It was the concept of a drifter that was, instead of going, town to town, he was roaming bar to bar. Instead of riding off from the sunset, he was riding off into the neon, he was headed to the next bar, next watering hole, so to speak.”
He continued, “I just love that concept, because in my mind, the pendulum for country music is swinging back to traditional country and honestly, this couldn’t be a better time. Country music is here to stay, and we’re entering into the neon era of country music. It’s the traditional 1980s Irving Cowboy-type vibe, and to me, that’s what this record is, what the song is, what the whole record is.”
This song led the collection through an entirely new shift from King’s past projects. For Into The Neon, he changed engineers and acted as a co-producer alongside Jared Conrad, who also mixed it. With his team established, they got to work on making a project that stepped away from the “compressed, polished, cleaned up” look and leaned more towards raw sounds that were ingrained with more of a “natural element.”
“We absolutely accomplished that with this record, for sure,” King said proudly.
Watch The Album Trailer
Fans got an advanced listen to the project through songs like “When My Baby’s In Boots,” “Burns Like Her,” “The One You’re Waiting On,” “Hard To Be Humble,” “Hang of Hangin’ On,” “Silent Night” and his latest, “Coulda Been Love.”
With every song that dropped before the official release of the full project, King gave another snippet of just how diverse this record truly is. It celebrates everything from the traditions of classic barn burners all the way down to the gritty tones of rock and roll, with each song telling a different story of love, heartbreak, or simply celebrations of King’s roots.
He kicks things off with “One Night Dance” and ends with “I Don’t Drink Whiskey Anymore.” When deciding the track list with his bass player, King admitted he always knew “I Don’t Drink Whiskey Anymore” would be best suited as the final song on the project, and that decision ended up helping him choose the opening track as well.
“I sat down with him and we talked about flow. We talked about vibe and what song needs to go where…I knew ‘I Don’t Whiskey Anymore’ was gonna be the last song. I knew that out the gate. ‘I Don’t Whiskey Anymore’ ends with my voice, I end the record acapella. And I wanted to start out the record kind of soft and ease people in with just vibe, make it feel good,” he said, explaining the creative process. “Then I realized that ‘One Night Dance’ starts, again, with my vocal acapella, and I was like, that’s pretty cool that this record starts with my voice and ends with my voice. So that’s different. I don’t know how anybody’s ever done that.”
“Coulda Been Love” is another highlight track that sits near the middle of the album, laying its ground as the most honky tonk heartbreaker on the project. It’s got consistent toe-tapping beats that help narrate the story of someone who may have just let the love of his life walk out the door of a bar without getting her name or number.
A Dynamic Record
“This record’s dynamic. It’s very different. That song is just so fun. Lyrically, it’s not super deep. It’s not gonna make you go, ‘wow! It’s a thinker.’ It’s not a thinker. It’s a two-step song, it’s a feel-good song that isn’t supposed to have a lot of depth. It’s got some fun wordplay in there. We were really smart with changing up the back lines of the chorus to keep them different, keep you interested. But it’s just a fun burn it down song.”
As a whole, these songs create a unique listening experience designed for the country fans who crave the same feeling King had in the early 2000s when he first heard Dierks Bentley’s “Free And Easy (Down The Road I Go).”
“He was the honky tonk dive bar guy and I related to that,” King said of Bentley. “Everything he did, it was like he was a Roman drifter. I felt like he would get in the truck and just drive and think. You could hear that in his music. That’s the way I was and that’s the way I still am.”
With that energy in mind, King went on to describe the kind of setting that would allow the best listening experience for Into The Neon.
“I highly doubt that anybody would be able to go and do exactly what I’m about to say, but in my mind, the sonics of the sound of the visualization of this record, if you were to take the bar from like an old 1800’s saloon and you drop it in the middle of the Grand Canyon somewhere, just open western skies. Drop it out there. Sun sets down, and the stars all come out. Then you put this record on. Get your little smoky mezcal tequila and just kinda sip on that thing and listen to this record.”
As for a more feasible option, he also suggested taking a drive out to a calming, open space, staring off into the distance of the stars’ neon glow and letting the music flow through the speakers.
“Turn it on and sip on a cold beer underneath the stars and listen to the record. That’s about the next best thing to do,” he added.
Randall King is currently bringing his West Texas spirit on the road, with upcoming headlining shows in Springfield, MO; Baton Rouge, LA and more. For the full list of tour dates and more information, visit RandallKingMusic.com.
Madeleine O’Connell graduated from North Central College with a bachelors degree in Journalism and Broadcast Communications before deciding to pursue her studies further at DePaul University. There, she earned her masters degree in Digital Communication & Media Arts. O’Connell served as a freelance writer for over two years while also interning with the Academy of Country Music, SiriusXM and Circle Media and assisting with Amazon Music’s Country Heat Weekly podcast. In addition to Country Now, she has been published in American Songwriter, Music Mayhem, and Holler.Country. Madeleine O’Connell is a member of the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music.