Back in 2011, Kevin Fowler released his sixth studio album, Chippin’ Away. An ode to the slow but steady ascension Fowler has experienced on the charts since he began performing Texas country in the late ’90s, Chippin’ Away was the most successful album to date for the honky tonk troubadour, peaking at No. 8 in the U.S. Indie chart.
“It’s been a long time coming,” says Fowler, who calls Austin home. “It’s always been a slow grow thing; I never had that year that just blew me away. But I try to be like the Energizer bunny, and I just feel lucky every year that I still have a job.”
“The fans and I are one in the same,” Fowler says. “We like pickup trucks and beer, and we work hard during the week.”
These days Fowler is touring tirelessly throughout the Midwest and South as he plans to release his seventh album, How Country Are Ya?, on November 12. His tour (he plays Lakefest in Grapevine October 5) takes him from Kansas to Georgia back to Texas in the span of three weeks.
Although Fowler loves seeing the Texas state line every time he returns from a gig, he’s more in love with the fact that there are people as far away as Chicago clamoring for Texas and red dirt country shows to play in their towns.
“If you go back to 2000,” he says, “there wasn’t this huge scene. It was me, Pat Green, Roger Creager and Cory Morrow all playing the same spots. It’s a cool ride to see what it is now and how supportive it is throughout the country.”
For How Country Are Ya?, Fowler decided to return to his roots and produce the album under his own label. He invited his friends, including Texas country artists Josh Abbott and Cody Johnson, out to his property in Wimberley to help him write and hang out and drink beer.
Fowler recorded the album in Austin and is releasing the title track as the first single on September 9. “It’s a throwback to where I used to make records before business got involved,” he says. “If this one sucks, there’s only one guy to blame.”
The method may be a throwback for this next album, but Fowler says that fans can expect a growing musical style.
“Any album is a snapshot in time, where you are musically at that point,” he says. “I don’t want to be writing the same thing over and over. I can only write ‘Beer, Bait & Ammo’ so many times. This album is a lot of introspection of who I am and of growing up as a poor panhandle kid.”
Fowler says that even as his music has grown and changed, he hasn’t had to worry about alienating his fans, because he writes the kinds of songs he wants to hear.
“The fans and I are one in the same,” he says. “We like pickup trucks and beer, and we work hard during the week. Knock on wood, these songs connect with the fans.”
Although he’s known for sticking around after shows, giving autographs to everyone who asks, his fan appreciation is about to go to the next level, as he’s currently part of a contest for a week-long African safari with one fan.
The all-inclusive trip was put together by one of Fowler’s hunting friends, who owns a bumper and brush guard company called Tough Country. The contest, which ends October 31, will feature Fowler and the Tough Country crew flying to South Africa with the winner to hunt blesbok and wildebeest.
“I didn’t have to do much except agree to do it,” Fowler says, “but me and one fan will get to travel halfway around the world and see some things we’ve never seen before.”