From her adopted hometown Vernon, British Columbia, ROYAL is a singer and songwriter who uniquely blends a variety of sounds through her music, from dreamy pop to romantic folk. Dynamic and emotive, her melodies and lyrics empower listeners across Canada and soon enough, across the globe.
Influenced by music at a young age, ROYAL has grown in her musical talent over the years, learning both bass and guitar in high school while often performing at local open mic nights and venues. Her raw talent was soon discovered by a well-known music producer, and from there she continued to craft her skills in a studio setting.
With the release of her new album “Heart of Shadows,” we had the chance to interview her and hear more about her latest endeavors and developments, influences and hopes for the future.
Tell us about your journey as a musician. How did you get started?
ROYAL: Music has always been a big part of my life. I was encouraged by my family and friends to perform at a local open mic night in my hometown when I was in my mid-teens, and from there I continued to play live at family reunions and small venues around the town. It wasn’t until I was discovered at one of these reunions by music producer and composer Jack Lenz that I even considered making a career out of music. He helped me record my first album, and since then I have continued to work as an independent musician touring across Canada, recording music, collaborating with artists around the world, gaining film, television and commercial placement and along the way, making some incredible memories.
Can you tell us about your songwriting process? Where do you find inspiration from?
ROYAL: Classic black and white films are my favorites. I love drawing inspiration the dramatic aspects of the stories and cinematography. I’m also quite often inspired while on the road. There’s something about being in constant motion that triggers my creativity. However, I gain the most inspiration from the experiences in my life. Music has always been my way of communicating and exploring my emotions. When I’m feeling overwhelmed by a relationship or something that provokes a surge of emotion, the music just flows out of me. I have even had a few songs come to me in my dreams. It is the strangest, but most incredible thing.
How would you describe your sound to someone who has yet to listen to your music?
ROYAL: I would describe my sound as moody, romantic, dark and cinematic. I draw inspiration from the timeless sounds of Billie Holiday, the dark and tragically beautiful tones of Lana Del Rey, and the innovative and dramatic Lorde. If you were to combine those three artists, you would hear different elements of my music.
How, if at all, has your music changed over the years?
ROYAL: My music has changed drastically over the years in comparison of the early stages to the present. I began my career in the realm of folk and pop. I’ve progressively made moves into a new indie-pop, dream pop, baroque pop style.
When I started out, the first few songs I wrote were highly influenced by early Missy Higgins. Through listening to and playing her music, I discovered my own writing style, and how to tap in to my deepest emotions and plant them in to a song. I still carry that same writing approach now, but have discovered other ways in which to extend and elevate a song’s emotional quality through instrumental elements. I am no longer just a girl and her guitar.
It wasn’t until more recently that I discovered my passion for string arrangements and saturated vocal harmonies. Now it’s all I hear in my head as melodies often drift in and out throughout the day. Once in a while, I still go back to my folk roots for a song or two at home or if so requested at a show, but my creative vision is clear and rich with passion.
And, what or who would say has been your biggest influence over the years?
ROYAL: My influences have varied over the years along with my personal style, however there have been a few constants. I grew up listening to Bob Dylan, Annie Lennox and Billie Holiday regularly and those have remained true. It is a family tradition to listen to the Elvis Christmas album every year. My family and I are very good Elvis dancers – it’s all in the hips! I’m not always a big fan of Christmas music, but Elvis can do no wrong.
Your new album Heart of Shadows is out now. Can you tell us the story behind this album and the process behind creating it?
Heart of Shadows is an incredibly personal album to me. The songs reflect different seasons of my life – experiences I’ve endured and gained strength from that touch on romantic nostalgia. My producer Luca Fogale and I began working on the early stages of the album and rough demos over two years ago now. I had originally planned to bring the project to another producer to complete the album, as Luca and I had not made any plans to continue working on it together. But after all of the time and energy Luca and I had spent on it, I realized this album was just as much his as it was mine. And so, we finished it together, bringing in our own team members and adding a much more personal touch to the overall aesthetic.
What song, if any, is your favorite on this new album and why?
To be honest, I go back and forth on this all the time. Now that the songs have been with me for some time, I look at each of them with a certain kind of appreciation.
I love that we were able to capture the essence of the demo in “Kings and Queens”. Luca’s innovative piano recording added an enchanting element to the second verse. I wanted to somehow be able to capture the natural elements of the room. Luca, has the ability to transcribe my creative thoughts when I am unable to fully describe them. My creative process is more like that of John Lennon’s, whereas Luca is a McCartney. So you can see how the pairing works. When I wanted to “feel the room” within the piano take, Luca knew exactly how to execute it. He set up the microphone across the room from the piano where it would pick up the gentle creaks of the house and clicks of the piano pedals. I was blown away by the sound and feeling he was able to capture, and it was the perfect piece for the song.
And what song, if any, is your favorite to perform live and why?
ROYAL: My favourite song to perform is “The Hunter”. The reason behind this is because I sing this song quite differently than the recorded version. I gradually build the song with dynamics until the bridge where I sing at the top of my lungs with as much power as I can stomach. It’s physically exhausting harnessing my breath for that song, but incredibly powerful. It’s as if I am finally able to unleash, and I let it all out. Then my band comes in and we drive it at that level to the end. I completely lose myself within the song. It’s an amazing experience for me.
If you could choose to collaborate with any other artist, who would you choose?
ROYAL: Paul McCartney is one of the best songwriters of all time. To collaborate on a song with him would be the experience of a lifetime and monumental opportunity for my career. Although I think I would be too starstruck to be productive in that writing session! Instead I would most likely just cry the entire time. I would be just like every other girl from the ‘60s/’70s, minus the screaming.
What is next for you after this album release?
I look forward to touring this album to further promote the release. I am in the midst of planning a tour for the spring of 2019. As well, there will be a music video released in the new year, and who knows, maybe more music before you know it! I’m going to do my best to complete some cover songs I’ve been working on, and I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed for more film, television and commercial placements!
In the meantime, check me out at RoyalOfficial.com or @IAmRoyalMusic on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter and follow me on Spotify! You’ll find “Vessel” – one of the singles from my album – on the Spotify-curated playlist “Indie Pop Chillout”!
Be sure to check out more of ROYAL’s music on SoundCloud here! Heart of Shadows is the perfect, romantic album to binge listen this autumn.
Feature image courtesy of Liz Rosa Photography
Leigh is a native Texan gone temporary New Yorker and now proud Austinite. Passions include but are not limited to music (both as a spectator and dabbler), traveling & cultural adventures, film & television, true crime, design (of the fashion, interior, and graphic sorts), and photographing & writing about all the aforementioned. Self-acclaimed coffee connoisseur & wino, cat aficionado, book worm, and nature junkie.