Randy Woody and The Southbound Band have been signed to 419 Records for less than a week, but there already are big plans on the horizon for the Monroe County-based traditional country outfit.
The band, which has been a fixture around these parts for almost 15 years, inked its latest deal last weekend at The Anchor bar and restaurant at Louisville Landing Marina. The label is owned and was founded by Mark and Jenn Keith, Oregon residents who launched the venture last year on the strength of their hemp farm and hemp products, Farm 419.
In the spring, Woody’s manager, Bryan Wayne Perry — who incidentally helped Southbound land its first recording deal back in 2007, with Cat Daddy Empire Records, and has been along for the ride ever since — tagged the Keiths into a livestream performance by Woody and his Southbound bandmates, and they were impressed by what they heard. From there, the relationship deepened until Woody — surrounded by friends, family members, loved ones and a whole lot of fans last Friday night — put his John Hancock on the dotted line.
“The deal they gave me, you can’t find this in Nashville anywhere,” Woody told The Daily Times this week. “The first time me and Mark were ever on the phone, he asked me, ‘What do you want from a record label?’ And I said, ‘Look, we don’t look at making it big or on awards shows. We just want to go out and work. We just need the tools to go out and make a living and touch people with our music.
“The deal they gave me was very generous and beyond anything I ever thought was possible. Between that and meeting them, the sincerity they have and being around them, I know they say they’re going to do what they’re going to do.”
It’s a trait Woody appreciates, because he’s never shied away from his roots: loud, brash, opinionated and a dedicated craftsman to country music as it was handed down from the mountaintop by gods like Waylon Jennings, Hank Williams, Merle Haggard and Johnny Cash. Randy Woody and The Southbound Band might have had the brass ring by now, if the boys had been willing to compromise, but gym sculpting dad bods, buying $200 designer jeans and churning out pablum about cornfield parties, girls in cut-off jean shorts and drunk driving down dirt roads was never their style.
Woody — along with long-time guitarist Jason Harris, keyboardist Derek Jones, bassist Jeff Gantt and drummer Mark Barnhart — requires something more from the songs he writes. They have to move him, to make him feel something, whether it’s heartache for love lost or adrenaline for a Friday night throwdown in a roadside honky-tonk somewhere out in rural Monroe County. His refusal to kowtow to mainstream trends no doubt cost him some opportunities along the way, but it’s also made him realize that he still can hold onto principles and embrace the opportunities that come to him now.
“I think I’ve grown in the business,” he said. “Before, I don’t know if I was just (a jerk) or what, but I wasn’t patient with people. Some of that was warranted, and some of it wasn’t. But I’ve realized I’m not going to get too many more shots, and if I get a good deal I’ve got to take it, and I can’t be afraid.
“With 419 Records, it’s more of a trust thing. This business is our baby, and we’ve had it so long doing everything ourselves, it was a scary thing turning it over. But I still get to keep all the creativity aspects, the booking, and do what I want to do. They’ve just given us the tools to make money.”
Those tools include more merchandise, for starters: Randy Woody and The Southbound Band soon will have shirts and more manufactured by the same company that produces swag for artists like Luke Combs, Morgan Wallen and Kenny Chesney, Woody said. The label also will provide a booking team that’s looking to get the band back on the road as soon as COVID-19 allows for touring again, and the label’s distribution outlets will help the guys return to Nashville and record a proper follow-up album to 2015’s “Sing Me Back to Dixie.”
“And everything is backed by Farm 419,” Woody said. “If people have heard anything about hemp and CBD oil and what it can do, we’re about to bring that to East Tennessee as well. The biggest thing is that we’ve finally got this band rolling in the right direction, and we’ll be coming soon to a town near everyone.”
For the time being, however, the guys will keep doing what they do — including playing the last-weekend-of-the-month show at Two Doors Down in downtown Maryville. And that, Woody said, will never change.
“Without Two Doors, and without (now closed Blount venue) Big Daddy’s back in the day, there would be no Southbound,” he said. “Whenever they wanted a printout of my schedule, I told them I play Two Doors on the last Saturday of every month, so whatever else we do, we’ve got to schedule around that.”