I recently had a chance to sit down with Neal Middleton, lead vocalist, and Taylor Richards, guitarist and backup vocalist, for the band Royal Bliss as they played the second show of their current tour in Keokuk, Iowa last month. Here are their thoughts on a wide-range of topics!
Fernetti: First of all, how the heck are you guys feeling? You were all the way up in North Dakota last night, correct?
Middleton: Phew, yeah man! Over a 1,000 miles overnight. Well, we didn’t do it. Our bus driver did it. Tough guy! But we had to make it.
Fernetti: I actually saw your bus pull in as I was making a snack run and I was like, “Oh, man! That was a long trip!’
Middleton: It was actually a very cool set-up last night. We were in the Badlands, outside of this ranch, in the middle of nowhere. And, it was just…phenomenal! The sunset was beautiful, there was a huge American flag hanging from a crane, blowing in the wind. It was really cool. A really different vibe than we are used to, but really cool!
Fernetti: You guys have been at this awhile now, since 1998, correct?
Middleton: Yeah, we actually know when our first practice was and that’ll be 20 years from this December. We’ve had some tremendous memories. We actually just today took Trystan (Grisham, local artist) who has opened for us several times to Wal-Mart. Well, he gave us a ride I should say. We made a Vodka run, truth be told. And, the lady asked me about him and I said, “Well, he’s my son.” And her response was, “Oh my, I didn’t think you were so old!” (laughs) I took that as a compliment! But anyway, I realized age-wise he actually could be my son! I would have had him when I was 21 or 22…first time something like that has happened to me where I’m like, “Damn, I am getting old!” (laughs again)
Fernetti: It is different! I mentioned an event to my class last school year and right after I said it, it dawned me: “Damn…these kids weren’t alive when that happened…”
Middleton: It’s different, man! We were shooting a music video just the other day, actually, and my nine year old son came in. We had a push button phone on the set, one of those with the real big buttons, and he was like ‘What is this?” He really didn’t know what it was! It’s a telephone!
Fernetti: I totally stole this from a meme, but I tell my students all the time that they’ll never experience one of the worst fears ever: calling the home of a girl you’re hitting on and hoping she answers and not her mom or dad!
Middleton: YEP! These kids today don’t have to worry about any of that shit!
Fernetti: You’ve been at this a long time, as we’ve talked about already. For lack of a better term, what is your band’s current motivation for continuing on? I mean, we just talked about it: You guys just spent almost literally a whole day travelling between shows…that’s got to wear on you after 20 years and who knows how many shows?
Middleton: Oh, yeah, man…I mean you have those days where you realize you’ve got to do some things different. We can’t be drinking bottles and bottles of whiskey every single night anymore. You know just getting hammered and what have you. It’s just one of things where you’ve got to adapt to your circle and take a little better care of yourself. Honestly, if we tried to do it the way we used to, we’d all be dead right now.
And, we still have our moments. We’re tired, we can’t get good sleep sometimes, haven’t had a good shower, clothes are getting dirty…and you’re living in a traveling hallway with 8 other dudes! It does get draining. But, the motivation? That would be when you get on stage and you look out at that crowd. You see…
Richards: The band, the music, the fans in general. You look out and you realize you are doing exactly what you should be doing. You’re doing what you actually get to do. The sitting in a vehicle, setting up, feeling sick, all of that goes with it. Just stuff you have to do.
Middleton: We try to find stuff to do, too, just to get us out of the bus for a bit. We’ll golf or frisbee golf if time allows or just anything to get out of bus. So, that helps. And, money honestly. The money is good here, the fans are always great here (Keokuk, Iowa), so we asked our driver if he could pull this off and he said, “Yeah, let’s do it!”
Fernetti: I’ve seen you guys several times in this area. I grew up right across the river in Nauvoo, IL. I saw you guys play the Grape Festival there both times. (Pause) I was going to say tonight will be the fourth or fifth time I’ve seen you, but hell, it might even be more than that now! (laughs) You guys always get an amazing reception in this area.
Middleton: Yeah, the fans are amazing. Hell, they bring us cookies and shit all the time! A ton of gifts, really. Great energy at the shows. Again, they’re amazing!
Fernetti: This is a go-to question for me and you can answer from the perspective of your band or the industry as a whole, but what has been the biggest change you guys have seen in your time together?
Middleton: Oh, wow…umm…The biggest change has been Spotify and the related services, I guess…
Richards. The whole internet radio thing.
Middleton: Digital media and really how the whole thing has adapted…the…umm…whatever it was called…
Middleton: Yeah, Napster! (laughs)
Richards: I remember thinking, “Yes! We’re on Napster!” (laughs)
Middleton: Yeah, it was cool. Just the way fans get music now and how many bands are out there now and so many ways to get noticed. The catch is, it’s extremely hard to stick out now. In a way it’s harder to make money, but at the same time, there are more outlets to make money, if that makes sense. You have to look at it a different way.
And, we’ve seen a ton of changes in our genre, rock ‘n roll. It’s been more melodic at times. Then you had the whole 90s thing where rock bands became a lot heavier, almost metal at times. And then you have country, which has become almost more rock over the years. I was talking to Trystan earlier about this too. What’s awesome is bands are becoming multi-genre. We are a multi-genre band. We can play the heavy. We can rock out with the best of them. And, we can throw down with a country or a pop band if we want to.
Richards: Today’s pop is hip-hop, really. There’s a lot of changes there too. A lot of bands now have a singer and a rapper, so to speak. It’s definitely not the bubble gum, Britney Spears so to speak of the ‘90s. Everything has changed. But, like Neal said, the biggest has to be how people get the music nowadays. I don’t quite go back to the vinyl record days, but…
Fernetti: The first Tuesday of the month was huge! That’s when CD stores got the new music! I remember counting down to when the first Foo Fighters CD came out. There used to be a CD store here in town, literally just a few blocks down the road. It was. It was counting down to that first Tuesday and getting to the store.
Middleton: It was, getting that new music. I do think that’s one thing that’s missing now: those independent music stores. Those places where kids could just hang out and there was always a so-called cool, older kid or man that could let them listen to some music. Hell, now it’s Gamestop! But, all of that, if you can wrap all of that into one thing, is the biggest difference.
Fernetti: What you guys were talking about with the genres and different genres leads perfectly into my next question. I was listening to the new album today, if you still want to call it new as it’s been out a year, and that’s when I noticed a lot of places have the album classified as a country album. Is that intentional on your guys’ part? Is it more just a natural evolution of your guys’s sound?
Richards: It was intentional in that it could be called a country album. It’s not really country but it could be called it. At the time, CMT wanted the song “Living the Dream.” And, someone who listened to our new music was like, ‘This could go country.’ We had never thought of it that way. We are inside of our own musical box so to speak. We just thought, ‘Yeah, let’s open up this door and see what happens.’
Middleton: Rock-Country isn’t really a genre.
Richards: Maybe it is country, maybe it is rock. Maybe it is both. It could fit multiple genres.
Fernetti: That is true of you guys in general. A lot of people in this area know that I listen to you guys a lot, so they always ask me what you sound like. Well, I always say you’re a hard rock band, so then they ask me for comparisons. And you guys have a unique sound. I can never say , “Yes, they sound like them!” to any band they list when they want a comparison.
Middleton: We’re Royal Bliss. That’s all you can say at the end of the day. We write Royal Bliss music.
Royal Bliss truly is a multi-genre band! For an example of this, please check out below two of their hits: “Save Me” which is off their 2008 album Life In-Between and “Living the Dread” which is off their 2016 album The Truth as well as listings of concert dates as the band is very busy these next two months.
August 4th at The Royal in Salt Lake City, UT
August 7th at Full Throttle Saloon in Sturgis, SD
August 8th at Full Throttle Saloon (with Molly Hatchet) in Sturgis, SD
August 10th at Rockin the Rivers in Three Forks, MT
August 13th at Edgefest in Jerome, ID
August 18th at The Pin in Spokane, WA
August 19th at Bayern Brewing 30th Anniversary Celebration in Missoula, MT
August 20th at Venture Inn in Filer, ID (acoustic show)
August 25th at Saddie Light Saloon in Rock Springs, WY
August 26th at The Amphitheater at Studio/Ranch in Grantsville, UT
September 8th at Cactus Pete’s in Jackpot, NV
September 9th at Cactus Pete’s in Jackpot NV
September 14th at KC’s Cabin in Spring Grove, IL
September 15th at Mississippi Moon Bar in Dubuque, IA
September 16th at POPS Club in Hannibal, MO
September 22nd at Fruita Fall Festival in Fruita, CO
September 29th at Oktoberfest Grounds in La Crosse, WI
September 30th at Q and Z Expo Center in Ringle, WI
And, finally, you can check out Royal Bliss at the following social media outlets: