New Artist Spotlight: The Roys

Chosen as one of our new artists to watch in 2011, The Roys are a brother-sister duo bringing roosty acoustic music back to the people.  In this Exclusive interview, we discuss their new album, their new label deal, their favorite venues to play and much, much more.

Matt Bjorke: How would you describe your music to fans who may not have heard of the Roys before?

Lee Roy: I would say that you take traditional country, bluegrass, a little bit of gospel music and you squeeze it and the little drop that comes out is us.  The thing we love about our new label and this new album is that they let us un-break our chains a little bit and just record music we want to record.  They were like, just record what you want to record and we’ll worry about what to do with it after that.

Matt: What a concept…

Elaine Roy: I know, and for us it’s awesome because even though all of our music has come from our hearts, we’re really excited about this new album. 

Lee: This is us…

Matt: You’ve had quite a lot of success the past few years yet everything seems to have pointed to 2011 being the best yet.  How does it feel to have your hard work paying off?

Elaine: For us, we’ve always had one goal in mind and that was to get in front of the people and have our music heard. So with every new opportunity that has come along has been a success to us in our minds.  We don’t look at it as ‘we have to be doing this’ to be successful.  You have all those dreams but you have to enjoy the journey as you get there. So every day is a new exciting day for us.

Matt: You mentioned Rural Rhythm Records, how exciting is it for you to be on such an iconic roots music label?

Elaine: Oh, it’s very exciting.

Lee:  when we got the call that they were interested in this project, what we had done was we recorded a few songs and our Management shopped it around and they (the label) came back said, finish the record, we want it.  Just to talk to them like the very first time we went out to California to meet them,  Sam Passamano, JR came out (the label owner) and didn’t shake our hands but instead gave us a big group hug and said ‘welcome to the family.’ And that’s what we really feel like with this label, that we’re part of a family and we’re thrilled with what they’re doing for and with us.  It is great to see that there’s a label behind us that really, really believes in what we’re doing.

Matt: Your new record Lonesome Whistle was released this week, what can you tell us about it?

Elaine:  I love traditional country music and that’s what I fell in love with at a young age and that’s where my heart is and Lee loves traditional country and bluegrass and I think that’s truly the core of who The Roys are.  I think that for us, this is our ‘coming home’ kind of album.  It says, this is who we are, this is what we do.  Hopefully the fans will love it and I think they will because the music does come truly from our hearts.  I can’t wait for them to hear it.

Matt: How awesome is it to get to have somebody like Ricky Skaggs grace your album with his presence?

Lee: First and foremost, to be able to record at that studio, I look at it like we’re starting at the top there. You don’t get better than that band with Randy Kohrs and that whole bunch; they’re such a great, great eclectic group of guys.  Then to have Ricky and the Whites come in and sing on a song and then have Ricky tell me, around the time we were at the ICM Awards with my Dad there – we had gone there early to leave some tickets at will call for friends - he told him ‘your kids music is the kind of music that can change things, it moves people, it touches your soul.’ So to have something liket hat happen, and said by somebody who has been there and done just that, it kinda gives you you’re a pat on the back, and we’ve always believed in ourselves, and it makes you feel like you’re on the right track,

Matt: You mentioned some of the ‘em but what musicians did you work with on the project?

Elaine: We had Andy Leftwich who co-produced the album with us and cody kilby

Lee: Mark Fain

Elaine: Justin Moses

Lee: Randy Kohrs and Steve Brewster

Elaine: Yeah, Steve Brewster did some percussion for us on a few tracks.

Matt: “Coal Minin’ Man” recently charted on the bluegrass charts. How rewarding is it to see your song on those charts?

Elaine:  When they told us it debuted on “Bluegrass Music Profiles,” it surprised us.  We thought it would take months to get there because we are new to bluegrass. It really did surprise us and we see it as yet another blessing in our life.  We don’t take anything for granted, anything that comes our way, be it a story or something like this, we appreciate it so much. Because it has been a long road for us with ups and downs and we’ve been knocked down and had to get back up so to be accepted by the bluegrass community, it’s just an incredible blessing for us.

Lee: yeah and when you have guys like Dailey and Vincent, I’ve been talking with Jamie Dailey and to get the encouragement that he’s given us on our music and to – so to speak – take us under their wings and be accepted is pretty cool.

Matt: Yeah, and that’s one thing that separates country and bluegrass genres from the pop world, it’s more friendly and less competitive in terms of personal relationships…

Lee: Yeah, it’s certainly much more like a family.

Matt: You won the ICMA Award for Duo of the year in 2010, for the second time. What does it mean to you to get awards like this?

Elaine: For us, the first year we won it, we were shocked.  We were thankful to just be nominated but when we won we were like “this is so cool.”  Then the second time it happened we were still shocked and thought it was cool. Especially because it was voted on by our peers. It gives you that encouragement to keep going and that you’re on the right path and that you can keep going and let God do the rest.

Matt: How would you describe your songwriting process?

Lee: Whenever we get together with writers, we kind of throw down ideas on the table, with a Steve Dean or Matthew Rodgers or somebody like that, so we don’t pigeon hole it to specifics because then somebody might not throw out an idea because it doesn’t fit you.  But if you just talk about how you’re feeling or what you’re thinking, it might end up being a great song and even if we write a song that’s not for us, that’s ok.  We don’t try to force it, because if it’s forced it ends up sounding like that.

Matt: What are some of your favorite venues that you’ve had the opportunity to play?

Lee: The Ford Theater at the Country Music Hall of Fame is pretty cool.

Elaine: I think every place we get to play is cool to us because we get to meet new fans, so to me every place we go is like a new experience. And I love, love getting to meet the fans.

Lee: It keeps it fresh, getting to go to new places. I think if you took our 2010 schedule and xeroxed it and said “this is your tour this year,” I mean you wanna be on the road and play those places, but when you find out you’re going to places you haven’t been and stuff like that, it keeps it fresh, new and fun and exciting.

Elaine: If we had to pick out some that really stood out, I’d say Fenway Park…

Matt: Particularly as a Red Sox fan…

Elaine: Yes, getting to sing the national anthem.  And Andrews Air Force base…

Lee: For President Bush, that was pretty cool. But even other places, like we recently played a rodeo in Dallas in a little tent.  All of that stuff is fun and an opportunity for us to share our gift with people.  I always say no stage is too little or small for us, if we can fit on it, we’ll play on it..

Matt: So how are the fans reacting to the new music?

Elaine: It’s been really positive and great…

Lee: I think with the fans we’ve built over the years, I don’t think they think it’s a far stretch from what we did before because any covers we did before were Merle Haggard and Dolly Parton and what we did on this project, it could’ve been recorded by any of those people…

Matt: It’s just more acoustic then…

Elaine: Exactly because if you added the electric instruments and the drums and it’d be the same stuff we did before. 

Matt: Are there any ones they’re reacting too more than others?

Lee:  A Lot of ears are being piqued on “Give A Ride To The Devil”  and then there’s “Trailblazer,” which people are really saying some great things about. I hope that people, when they listen to this record will continue to come up to us and talk about the songs on the record, after we do ‘em live.

Matt: How has social media helped you keep in touch with fans new and old?

Elaine: I think it’s so important now. It keeps the connection whereas before Twitter and Facebook came along, you didn’t really know what was going on and now you can upload a video and they feel like, wow, that just happened. So it’s been really helpful.

Lee: Yeah and you can get a tweet from a friend or co-writer about a show they’re playing and without it, I wouldn’t have known without it.  There are so many options nowadays that the old option with a website with tour dates have been eclipsed by this, especially for people with day to day stuff where you haven’t planned to far in ahead.

Matt: Right or like a group of friends decides to go out after seeing a tweet about it…

Lee: And we get that a lot of the time, with people who friend us and I’ll send a quick thank you and they’ll respond with ‘hey, my friend told us about you, or ‘we heard about you through radio station,’ etc. One other real way it’s helped is with contests.  In the old days you had to do contests through radio stations spending a boatload of money to promote it.  Now it’s at your leisure on how you want to run it. 

Matt: What’s funny is that it’s also bringing back the old-fashioned word-of-mouth, in a much quicker form…

Lee: Absolutely. It’s human interaction that can be thousands of miles away or right next to you. It’s all about that interaction.