November 15, 2008 / 5:49 AM / 10 years ago

David Letterman gives boost to country singer

NASHVILLE (Billboard) - While no one is calling new country artist Randy Houser an overnight success — at least not yet — things are definitely going his way. After all, how often does an artist, new or otherwise, get called to make a command performance for David Letterman?

Talk show host David Letterman reads a tribute to Johnny Carson at the 57th annual Primetime Emmy Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles in this file photo from September 18, 2005. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith GMH/DH

The CBS late-night host heard Houser’s soulful single “Anything Goes” on Sirius Satellite Radio and asked his booker to track him down.

“He didn’t want to wait — he wanted to be the guy that put him on first,” said Fletcher Foster, senior VP/GM at Universal Records South. “It really gave us some momentum in having people look at him differently.”

The traditional song, which includes the lyrics “Anything goes when everything’s gone,” struck a chord with Letterman, who proclaimed after Houser’s early-September appearance that it was “the story of my life.” The single is currently No. 19 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart; it serves as the title cut to Houser’s debut, due in stores on Tuesday.

The son of a musician who made his living playing blues, R&B, soul and other music of the Mississippi Delta, Houser knew early on the path he would follow. “The first time I saw my dad get onstage and play guitar, I was done,” Houser said. “I knew what I wanted to do.”

Houser soon made a name for himself both fronting a band and as a solo performer. When he moved to Nashville about five years ago, he quickly found work as a demo singer and soon after signed a publishing deal.

“Things happened really fast,” he said. “I busted my butt doing everything you can think of down in Mississippi and I planned on coming here to do the same thing, but I was just really lucky getting to work at what I loved to do pretty quickly.”

After a short stint on MCA Nashville — Houser jokingly refers to it as the “quickest record deal in history” — a staff producer at sister label Universal South successfully lobbied the company to sign him.

While Houser co-wrote eight of the album’s tracks, he didn’t write the single. “It’s important as an artist to cut other people’s songs, especially when they’re better than mine,” said Houser, who co-wrote Trace Adkins’ “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk” with Jamey Johnson and Dallas Davidson. “I wouldn’t be here now if somebody hadn’t cut my songs.”

Foster said a conscious decision was made to release a ballad rather than an uptempo track, which is the preferred vehicle for new artists. “This stood out as a song of the year-type of song,” Foster said. “If we were going to lose, at least we’d have some respect doing it. And we would have made a statement about who he is as a vocalist and how he can deliver a song.”

Because the single is still climbing the country airplay chart and isn’t expected to peak until early 2009, Universal South will stagger its marketing push for the album. The label is focusing on markets like Atlanta, Dallas, Denver and Austin, among others, where the record is performing well at radio.

After the first of the year, the label will focus more on media and Internet initiatives. “We’re trying to get to the core country consumer on the release of this record,” Foster said, “and then focus on the masses later.”


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