You know it when you hear it - a song or sound that strikes a rare balance between brilliantly fresh and disarmingly familiar.
That instant of discovery - "Where did this come from?" - is what every music fan craves. And while country duo The Roys are turning heads with their music, those bolt-from-the-blue reactions are the product of a hard-earned education and a lifetime of musical devotion.
Ten years ago, promising recording artists like Lee and Elaine Roy would have been signed to a major label and the idea of releasing an album independently would have been ridiculed. Of course, some odd years ago The Roys were signed to a major label. And today, nobody's laughing about independent country music. Not anymore.
Born in Fitchburg, Massachusetts to French-Canadian parents, Elaine and Lee showed an early affinity for music, a natural pull that only intensified when the family moved to New Brunswick, Canada.
"We lived in a little town called Coal Branch," Elaine says. "If you blink, you miss it. Our maternal grandparents, aunts and uncles were very musical. They'd play guitar and fiddle and step dance. We were always so excited about family gatherings. We were always around Country Music." While Elaine took guitar lessons, Lee taught himself to play drums on barrels and buckets, eventually adding bass, guitar, mandolin and keys to his repertoire. "I remember saying, 'I don't feel good,' and as soon as the school bus passed I was banging away on the drum kit," Lee says. "Mom would throw me in the car and take me to school."
The family eventually moved back to Fitchburg, forcing Lee to give up the bluegrass band he'd formed. Without their musical support system, the siblings turned to each other, forming a virtual four-piece with a drum machine and bass tracks. That pairing eventually led to another move. "I remember being five years old and knowing that I wanted to be in Nashville singing," Elaine says. "I didn't even know what Nashville was. I'd hear Dolly Parton on the radio and think she was somewhere in a room singing, and that's what was coming over the radio."
Long before they moved to Nashville, The Roys had a pretty good grasp of where...and what...Music City was. Their first run in town seemed to be a clear path to all their dreams - they were young prodigies signed to one of Music Row's powerhouse labels and working with one of country music's marquee producers. However, their label was scared off by a potential legal entanglement, and The Roys were dropped.
Still, they continued writing songs, meeting with labels and plying their craft as much as Nashville allowed. Says Lee, "It was always about playing music, but there's so much talent in Nashville, it's hard to make a living there as a performing musician unless you're on the road. So we said, 'You know what? We can go home and make money playing music.'"
And that's just what they did, returning to Fitchburg and recharging themselves on the pure joy of creating and performing. "For the first time in a while we could sing what we wanted and be who we are," Elaine says.
"We went back to our local clubs and started building that fan base. But one day Elaine called and said, 'I love this, but I feel like we're meant to do this on a different level.' I prayed about it. Either I'm meant to do this or God needed to take this out of my heart and soul. End it for me." Instead, doors began opening. Not always the right ones, but opening nonetheless. "Every time it seemed like a door was closing, we'd get a call," Lee explains. One significant door was the one producer Kenny Royster walked through. They recorded an independent CD with him which yielded two top 40 singles and one top 30 on the Music Row Chart. Another chance meeting was at the ACM's in Las Vegas with hit songwriters Brian White and Steve Dean. That meeting lead to Lee co-writing with them. "They are such great people who love music and don't care if you're on a major label or not. They wrote a ton of hits, including "Watching You" with Rodney Atkins" says Lee. " We co-produced our new album with Steve Dean and writing with him and being in the studio has been amazing." adds Elaine.
Returning to Nashville, The Roys are focused intently on their opportunity. And they're able to apply years of experience. "Music is my addiction," Lee says. "We gave up good jobs to come back here and take another run at it. Six figure jobs."
They centered their efforts on creating their own music their way. So The Roys formed Pedestal Records to be able to deliver their style of country music to the fans. In the wake of independent successes by Emerson Drive, Taylor Swift and Tracy Lawrence, the playing field is suddenly swinging in favor of the indie. And The Roys aim to take advantage.
Their first and most important leg up is in the music. "From the first song we recorded on our previous CD, to the material on the new CD , we stand behind our music 100 percent," Lee says. "This represents us, from the bluegrass sound to traditional country to more contemporary sounds."
Finally, The Roys are in a position to do what they've spent their entire lives preparing to do. "Everybody has a calling in life," Elaine says. "Ours was inevitable from a very young age."
Lee adds, "We're just your typical 15-year overnight sensation."