By F. Daniel Kent
Read part 1 here.
Bluegrass music is a unique art form that is as much about feel and instinct as it is technique. Blending proficiency and passion into a musically intoxicating package, The Roys make their debut with Lonesome Whistle, a spirited set that showcases the siblings’ stellar vocals, taut musicianship and enviable songwriting skills.
Even as their career has taken off, siblings Lee and Elaine have found time to dedicate to helping those less fortunate. They took part in Montgomery Gentry’s annual Harley Ride in conjunction with the Academy of Country Music Awards and Little Big Town’s annual Ride for a Cure, benefiting the T.J. Martell Foundation. This past August, The Roys traveled to Bogota, Columbia with Compassion International where they spent four days in the impoverished country. Now, Elaine and Lee are each sponsoring a child, as well as serving as CI spokesmen. I caught up with Lee & Elaine in Nashville at Bongo Java coffee house for a chat about their work.
The two of you have worked in the industry for years. How have the changes in the industry over the past decade or so changed how you work your craft?
Elaine: Things like Facebook and Twitter make it easier to connect with the fans. It is really amazing how we can be seen in our tour bus and an hour later we have a message from the person who saw us. Aps on smartphones and marketing is amazing. That’s why independent music is doing so well.
Lee: Bluegrass is so popular now I think because people are really craving a personal relationship with artists. That’s really lost now with these humongous concerts. With Bluegrass, especially at the Ryman or something there is this intimacy you won’t get at an arena. You didn’t really see Bluegrass in prominent venues much ten years ago and now they are selling out really nice places they never would have then. It’s really becoming America’s Music. It’s not just the black sheep of country music any more.
What is it about your work that stands out from other bluegrass musicians?
Elaine: It’s hard to pinpoint. For us making this album was just making a collection of songs that were real for us. We just hoped we would connect with the fans and we really have. This album has made more noise for the Roys than ever before. I think it’s about the songs. If I were gonna by a record what would I want to hear? That’s what we did. We did the album we would want to buy.
Lee: We knew we were going into a format deep in tradition but we wanted to give our voice instead of the millionth version of “Blue Moon of Kentucky”. What we have found that people love what we do because it grows the format and it fits just as well as traditional music. Bluegrass. Newgrass. Whatever. As long as it’s good music it’s good music.