From Friday’s Weekend Look section of The Oklahoman.
Roger Creager continues his musical adventures
The Texas country music star recently released his new album “Surrender,” notched a No. 1 hit with “Turn It Up” and is playing Friday (tonight) at Oklahoma City’s Wormy Dog Saloon.
According to his biography, his exploits include climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa, surfing off Costa Rica and skiing in the Rockies, and the singer/songwriter/musician promises that’s just a partial list of his thrill-seeking activities. Plus, he spends about 180 days a year making music live.
“I’m pretty into touring, and when we’re off, I’m somewhere cool or somewhere hot or somewhere fun or whatever. I’m usually gone,” he said by phone from Houston Monday, where he was spending the rare day in the place he calls home.
“But we tour all over the place. We do all the way from New York City to everywhere in the Midwest to all down into Florida and then to the west.”
The Corpus Christi, Texas, native will play Friday night (tonight) at the Wormy Dog Saloon, a familiar venue for him.
“We’ve been playing Oklahoma, I mean, forever. That was the first state we ever ventured (to) out of Texas … and it was great, I mean, right off the bat. And we never looked back. We still love playing Oklahoma,” he said.
“It’s cool after play in a place for awhile, you recognize a lot of the same faces. And that is a very good feeling. It makes it feel like home.”
Creager, 40, lets his adventurous spirit mingle with that homey feeling during his live shows, which are known as high-energy, fun-loving affairs.
“We’re kind of a cross between Robert Earl Keen, George Strait and Jimmy Buffett,” he said with a laugh. “We’re extremely wide-ranging, and we do that on purpose. We do it that way to keep ourselves entertained, and in the meantime, I think fans appreciate it too. I play everything from piano to trumpet to accordion to guitar to harmonica on stage.
“We just went No. 1 with this song, and that puts everybody in a good mood,” he added. “So we’re gonna have some fun for sure.”
The boot-stomping road ode “Turn It Up,” the opening cut from his new album “Surrender,” hit the top of the Texas Music Chart this week. It became his sixth straight single to ascend to the chart’s No. 1 spot, and it was a particularly gratifying achievement for Creager, who penned the song with Trent Willmon
“I won’t say any names, but we sent that to a couple of big record labels in Nashville to see if some of their big stars wanted first crack at it — you know, it’d be easier for some big star to make that a hit — and they said it was too outlaw … for modern country. And I can’t tell you how I cussed them for being wimps,” he said. “I said, ‘Fine. I’ll do it my way and I’ll do it myself.’ And we put it out and lo and behold, it went No. 1 in Texas. Maybe Texas is outlaw — but so is Oklahoma and so are a bunch of other states that don’t have to just swallow pretty, silly country.”
Released in January, “Surrender” is Creager’s sixth album since his 1998 debut “Having Fun All Wrong,” which has become a Texas country classic. For his first album since 2008’s “Here It Is,” which he made in part in Nashville, Tenn., he not only co-wrote 10 of the 11 tracks, but also made a concerted effort to get back to the roots of his style and sound.
“It’s how I started: “I just called Lloyd Maines and went to Austin and used Austin musicians and let Lloyd have a heavy hand in producing it,” he said. “(I wanted to) not worry about trying to play any political games in Nashville, just making music the way I want to make it. And that’s how I started out, so yeah it is a return to basics.”
Since he has grown as a songsmith, his recording process this time involved “not worrying as much about making it sound like what we think it’s supposed to sound like, as opposed to making it sound like what the song’s supposed to be.”
“It makes sense that like everything else in the world in that the more you do it, the better you get at it. Certainly I think it’s true of songwriting and performing,” he said.
Of course, “basic” might not be the best word to describe the Texas country standout’s choice to cover the late, great Bob Marley’s always-relevant “Redemption Song.”
“I felt like I was going out on a limb there big time. I don’t know if there’s any sense in me to ever try to out-reggae Bob Marley. That’s a losing battle. But I don’t. … It really sounds, I think, more like Johnny Cash than Bob Marley, although at the end I do give it kind of a gospel feeling,” he said.
“And maybe that song always applies, but it certainly feels like it does these days.”
As far as his globe-trotting adventures, Creager said he started with buying a fishing boat and snorkeling with dolphins off the Gulf of Mexico and steadily began exploring other non-musical sidelines. But the road keeps bringing him back to music.
“I remember reading somewhere that when Jimmy Buffett got his first big check, he went and bought a boat. And I did pretty much the same thing; I went and bought a catamaran. I live in Houston, which is about 45 minutes from the Gulf of Mexico, and my boat’s in the marina down there and we go there are dolphins everywhere,” he said.
“Sometimes I wanna just get on a boat and go to the Caribbean and spend the rest of my life drinking rum and fishing on the beach all day. And then I would go and do that for three or four days and then I wanna come back. I’m ready to get back on the bus and smell diesel fumes and hit 150 cities in a year. … So it’s work hard, play hard.”
With: Bri Bagwell.
When: 9:30 p.m. Friday. Doors open at 6 p.m.
Where: Wormy Dog Saloon, 311 E Sheridan.