The Roys Make Some Noise With Their ‘Lonesome Whistle’
Brother and sister duo the Roys are back on the scene with their latest album, 'Lonesome Whistle.' The collection of 11 bluegrass tunes includes 10 tracks of which the siblings took part in writing. The album hit stores at the end of March, and since has spawned its first single, 'Coal Minin' Man.'
Throughout their career, Elaine and Lee Roy have toured with the likes of Chris Young, Alan Jackson, Sara Evans, George Jones, Collin Raye, Phil Vassar, Neal McCoy and the Oak Ridge Boys, among others. They are currently headlining their own dates to support the release of 'Lonesome Whistle.' Taste of Country was able to snag a few minutes with the Roys, where we talked about the new music and life as a talented bluegrass duo.
Tell us about the music on 'Lonesome Whistle' and what your fans can expect on this project.
Lee Roy: The music that is on this project is what we were raised on. It's just down to earth, true music, so we're really excited about it!
Elaine Roy: This one is a little bit different because we're on Rural Rhythm Records, who we're so excited to be with. That came about really quick. We started recording this new music, and we shopped around a few songs. They were the ones who really jumped on it. We had a couple other offers, but this one really suited us best. Once they heard the rest of the record, they were really excited. We signed with them at the end of November, and it's been a whirlwind ever since. It's been non-stop!
Compare the time spent working on this new album to the previous times you've been in the studio.
Lee: It was different going in and knowing there was a label waiting for the project. It definitely puts the heat on it a little bit ... makes you think about it a bit more, making sure you cross your T's and dot your I's on the music and making sure it's exactly the way it should be. There's so much dynamics in bluegrass music, where as a country project you can get away with a little bit more because there is so much going on, so much stuff you are hearing. But bluegrass music really focuses on the lead instrument at hand. So if it's the vocals they are featured, and in-between the vocals are the other instruments [like] fiddles and mandolins, it definitely makes for a different type of project. It was for me anyway.
How long did you spend in the studio working on the album?
Lee: From start to finish, we did the whole thing in three months. That was a totally different process for us. We're used to starting in January and turning it in in November. We've always taken a long time to do projects. With this project we didn't have that kind of luxury. I think because of that we got the project we got. I've said before, if we had to do it all over again and they gave us six months, I don't think we would've had as good of a project. I think the fact that we were under the gun just made us be a little bit more on our toes and less thoughtful about what is right or wrong, and just let the music do what it needs to do. I really think that's why we got this project.
What are the advantages or disadvantages of working with your sibling?
Lee: I think we push each other.
Elaine: Yeah, when the heat is on, it's time to just go to work. It was a good heat. We had limited time to get it done. We kind of knew the formation of the songs when we went into the studio, and the musicians went in and did their magic. Then it was our turn to go in and put our imprint on there. Some of these songs we've been singing for a while, so we've lived with them and have known what we wanted to do with them. I think when you go into the studio, you put those headphones on and the music starts, you just let your creative juices take over. For us, the process was so much more fun because we just let the songs speak for themselves. We didn't overcriticize ourselves, and I think as far as the reviews have been, people really love it. I think that's because we let our heart and soul come off on every song. I think and hope it's coming through. We had a ball doing it.
The first single, 'Coal Minin' Man,' is a song that Lee co-wrote. Can you tell us the inspiration behind the song?
Lee: I wrote that song with a friend of ours named Matt Rogers who is a staff writer at Better Angels. We got into the room to write, and he had the idea for 'Coal Miner Man.' He wanted to write an uptempo song for the coal miners. He's from eastern Pennsylvania where there are a lot of coal miners, and we debated on which way to go with it. There are multiple ways. The thing about coal mining is the only time it seems to come to the forefront of the media is when something bad happens, and we didn't want to go there with this song. We wanted to make it about the everyday life of a coal miner. We had a lot of fun writing it. When we were finished everyone who heard it really liked the song. I did a demo session on that song a while back, probably about six month before we cut the record, to actually pitch it to Dierks Bentley for his bluegrass project.
When it got time to do this project, the first thing [our producer] Andy Leftwich said was, 'Are you going to cut 'Coal Minin' Man?'' I told him we were thinking about it, and that was one of the first songs that we tracked and sent off to Rural Rhythm and a few other labels. It was kind of unfinished, but was just a sample of what we were working on. That was the one song that they really came back with and said, "If you can give us a record with this kind of stuff, then you've got a record deal!" We didn't look back. We started plugging away at that point and the rest is history. It became a really cool first single for us because it's touched a lot of people in the coal mining industry, and we got to film a video for it. It's just been a really, really cool song for us. It has opened a lot of doors.
Watch the Roys' 'Coal Minin' Man' Video