As a young musician straight out of Texas, Radney Foster spent the lengthy drives in between tour stops reading the likes of John Steinbeck, Larry McMurtry and Harper Lee.
More than 30 years of songwriting later, he himself is an established storyteller. Whether it’s navigating the ever-changing music industry or battling a sudden, terrifying illness, Foster has a story to tell.
On Friday, Feb. 9, Foster will bring his literate country music to The Palms Playhouse for a solo CD release show celebrating his 11th album and first book, both called “For You to See the Stars.” The show will start at 8 p.m.
Since the 1980s, Foster has thrived as a songwriter, recording artist, live performer and producer. His songs — recorded solo, with Foster & Lloyd, and by other artists — have topped the country, Americana and AAA (adult album alternative) charts alike. He’s earned the respect of his peers and a devoted audience as intent on listening as they are eager to dance.
Considered an elder statesman of Texas singer-songwriters, Foster has been a friend and mentor to many younger artists on the Texas scene. He’s written and produced songs for Randy Rogers, Jack Ingram, Kacey Musgraves, Wade Bowen, Josh Abbott, Pat Green, Cory Morrow and many others.
His songs are regularly mined by superstar acts like Keith Urban (“Raining on Sunday,” “I’m In,”), Sara Evans (“Real Fine Place,” “Revival”) and the Dixie Chicks (“Godspeed”).
Foster has written eight No. 1 hit singles, including his own “Nobody Wins,” and “Crazy Over You” with duo Foster & Lloyd. His discography contains countless cuts by artists, including Urban, The Dixie Chicks, Luke Bryan, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Marc Broussard, Hootie & The Blowfish, Kenny Loggins and Los Lonely Boys.
In late fall 2015, Foster got the diagnosis every musician fears: a severe case of pneumonia and laryngitis. However, for someone who’s been producing songs for almost 40 years, the desire to write doesn’t fade along with the voice.
During a grueling six-week period of vocal constraint, Foster’s creative side emerged in the form of a short story inspired by the song, titled “Sycamore Creek,” and the idea for Foster’s newest endeavor was born.
“For You to See the Stars” is a project with two parts — a book and a CD. The book is a collection of short stories published by Working Title Farm. Though the stories are fiction, they are informed by Foster’s upbringing on the Mexican border in Del Rio, Texas.
The story “Bridge Club” is a humorous and poignant retelling of the song “Greatest Show on Earth,” a recollection of playing music with family and friends on the back porch on a Saturday night.
While it’s evident that Texas has always been an inspiration for his music, in “For You to See the Stars” Foster explores various landscapes, both physical and emotional, from the story of a retired spy in New Orleans, to the tale of a Dallas lawyer wandering the Rocky Mountains in search of redemption, to a post-apocalyptic parable of a world in endless war.
The beauty of this CD/book combo lives within Foster’s extensive imagery, which both expands the meaning behind Foster’s songs and gives readers a look at the thought process behind his songwriting.
“For me, the goal of writing is always to touch that one person so much that they wonder how I got a peek into their living room — how I understood exactly what they felt,” Foster wrote. “More than just rhyming or having a pretty melody, I try to express a part of the human condition that can make someone want to laugh, cry, make love, or all of the above.”
Although the literature can be enjoyed independently, each story is coupled with a song. The 10-track album, also titled “For You to See the Stars,” features nine new songs and a special re-recording of “Raining on Sunday,” the song Foster co-wrote with Darrell Brown, which became one of Urban’s top Billboard singles.
The album was recorded at the historic Nashville studio Sound Emporium and was produced by award-winning Will Kimbrough, who also plays multiple instruments and sings on the record.
Although highly recognized and accomplished in the music world, Foster is a true Renaissance man. In addition to “For You to See the Stars” being his first book, Foster recently starred in the world premiere of “Troubadour,” at Atlanta’s Tony Award-winning Alliance Theatre. He also appears in the 2017 feature film, “Beauty Mark.”
Tickets are $20 and are available online via The Palms’ website, at Pacific Ace Hardware in Winters, Armadillo Music in Davis, Davids’ Broken Note in Woodland and at the door if the show is not sold out.
For more information, visit palmsplayhouse.com and radneyfoster.com.