Randy Houser Hid a Message in His New ‘Magnolia’ Film
Randy Houser says the "gut-wrenching" visual accompaniment to his Magnolia album was difficult for him to sit through because so much of the action mirrors his own life. While he didn't write the script, the "No Stone Unturned" singer was executive director and a creative force behind the narrative. He called the shots, or at least hired the people who called shots for him.
For that reason, Houser couldn't watch the short movie until many months after it was finished. In fact, the first time he saw Magnolia (released digitally on Tuesday Aug. 20) was one month before he spoke to Taste of Country about the process.
"Honestly, insecurity," he says when asked why. "I was like, ‘My name is on this thing and I’ve never done this before.’”
“My dad was never abusive at all ... That wasn’t always the case with, you know, who my mother was with, you know what I mean?”
“I didn’t want to make something that people would laugh at.”
The film Magnolia was former BMG/BBR executive Zach Katz's idea in response to Houser's reluctance to film traditional music videos. Videos for "Like a Cowboy" and "We Went" were fun to make, the Mississippi raised singer says, so he rightly figured this movie would be, too, even if he wouldn't be a part of the day-to-day shoot (Houser plays a bartender and only appears a few times). The movie follows Noah (actor Danny Boaz), an oil rig worker who breaks down in small town Mississippi and falls for Ana (Lauren Richards), a local mechanic. It's a white-hot love story that is soon interrupted by their individual backstories, and eventually by the cold reality of the traveling ways of an oil rig worker.
Having grown up in Mississippi, Houser knows those people — so while he never worked a rig himself, he felt comfortable telling their story. While "Noah" isn't a carbon copy of him by any measure, his heartbreak weighed heavy on the singer's mind. Then there's the leading male's relationship with his dying dad, an abusive old curmudgeon played by David Reynolds who is every bit the movie's villain.
“My dad was never abusive at all. He was encouraging," Houser says. "That wasn’t always the case with, you know, who my mother was with you know what I mean?”
Randolph Mac Houser died in 1997. They got along, but after his parents divorced his father wasn't around for more than a couple weeks out of the year. Still, he changed his name from Shawn Randolph Houser in honor of his dad after he died. "Randy" isn't a stage name. It's family.
As the film opens and the lovers introduce themselves, the viewer is filled with a sense of dread that the interracial nature of their union (she is black, he is white and this is the deep, rural south) will mean their demise. The Romeo & Juliet narrative never really plays out, however. In short, it doesn't matter. That's refreshing and, Houser says, the point.
“That was something I wanted in there," the 43-year-old father of two says. "Just in the fact that I don't mind normalizing interracial relationships. I think if two people love each other I don’t care their gender, I don’t care their races … if they find something inside of them that draw one another, then what’s inside those two people matters a whole lot more than what body suit they’re wearing."
Songs from the Magnolia album lead and trail the action. Director Justin Nolan Key was in charge of the movie, available now through Amazon and iTunes and soon on CMT. Now that it's finished, Houser says he's proud of what he created.
“I like it," he says. "Well, I’m relieved. Let’s put it that way.”
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