Neal Middleton – Lead Vocals
Taylor Richards – Lead Guitar
Jake Smith – Drums
Tommy Mortensen – Bass
Chris Harding – Guitar
I recently had the opportunity to chat with Royal Bliss vocalist/songwriter Neal Middleton. Neal was very gracious and during the course of our chat I found out that he’s also a native St. Louisan and was actually wearing a Real Rock Radio KSHE 95 t-shirt as we chatted!
NFTP: Congrats on your latest cd Life In-Between.
NM: Yeah, it’s doing great. A lot better than a lot of people expected, so we’re really excited. We’ve never done the numbers with what we’ve done before, so it’s exciting to us.
NFTP: “I Was Drunk” is a fun song and has become very popular.
NM: It just kind of ended up on the record. It wasn’t really planned and it was a song I wrote last minute and didn’t figure it was going to be a Royal Bliss song, but then when we started playing it and people were hearing it, then everyone was just like, “You’ve got to put that on your record! You got to have it!”, so sure enough, it ended up on there last song on the record. It’s an easy drunken song. It’s a basic simple song that’s fun to sing along with I guess.
NFTP: How would you describe Royal Bliss’s music to a new listener?
NM: Just good Ole’ rock and roll, man, just good ole American Rock n Roll. On the Life In Between record, we have good ole rocking, metal songs, then the next track is kind of a soft ballad, or acoustic song or drinking song or there’s mid-tempo stuff, so the record and our sound is pretty broad. We don’t focus on one style of music. We focus merely on songs themselves and the songwriting, so it’s like if there’s a song that we all love or our friends or people that listen to us a lot really love, then we’re going to play it. It’s going to end up on the record. Just because it doesn’t match the first three songs on the record it doesn’t really matter to us. It’s still us.
NFTP: What were your influences growing up and who influences you now?
NM: Growing up and continuing, a lot of the classic rock. Led Zeppelin, Jimmy Hendrix, The Doors, Pink Floyd…a lot of those bands we used to listen to a lot back in the day. Johnny Cash, Sublime. Sublime when we first started, Sublime and 311 were major influences on some of the other band members, including myself. I loved Brad Nowell and what he did as a vocalist and lyricist. So, when we first started off it was a mix between classic rock and a little bit of reggae and fusion in there. Just a little bit of everything. You know, we were 18-19 years of age and fresh out of high school. Rock and roll, drugs, drinking, girls were what our lives were about, so it’s what we sang about. As the years went on, we meshed into the whole rock and roll vibe and everybody has different influences. Our bass player is really big into jazz and blues. You feel that with the band. All the different influences that work together. The chemistry of the band really works amazing, and I think that’s what’s kept us together for twelve years. The fact that everyone’s different passion and different styles really meshed together well. Our drummer is a big fan of Dave Matthews’s drummer, and I’m a fan of Eddie Vedder and Freddie Mercury. Just amazing vocalists. Now I’m influenced by much more of a singer-songwriter’s style, whenever I’m playing by myself and writing music. I like a lot of the mellower stuff that’s based around a song and around vocalist like David Gray or Amos Lee, you know, kind of mellower music like that. I love 12 stones and I have Slipknot in my ipod as well. It’s a broad spectrum of music. You have Slipknot, then Tori Amos, then Pearl Jam, 12 Stones, then David Bowie, who I absolutely love as well. When it comes to music for me personally, it just comes down to the song, and I don’t care what format or style you would consider it, whether it’s rock, country, or pop or anything as long as it’s a good song, and you can tell someone put some thought into it, into the lyrics and into the music behind it. That’s what inspires me to write better songs and to write music and get up and play. Especially with bands that can actually perform live. I’m an advocate of, if you can’t do it live, then don’t do it on the record. So many bands cheat nowadays. You’ve got your itune and your beat detective that plays the drums for you or sings the songs for you. People hardly play their instruments and get away with it. It’s ridiculous. That’s why so many kids and so many people go out and see this band that they love, or they love the record, then they’re just devastated when they see the band live because they sound nothing like the record, and it’s just horrible. I think kids and people nowadays are looking right through that. They can see right through it, which is giving me hope because I was worried there for a while. *laughs*
NFTP: Through all the adversity that you’ve faced as individuals and as a band, what drove you to keep on with your music?
NM: The first practice we had, I was singing solo at a pizza parlor and a couple of guys from the band showed up to see me as a singer and were like, wow, you’re really good, let’s go to my house, we have band practice �tonight, and I grabbed the mic that night, and we wrote like three songs and the chemistry was just amazing.
The next day I went to college and dropped out and said, “I’m not coming anymore. I’m going to be a rock star.” Just because of that feeling that I got when I played with them. I think they had the same feeling too, and it was just everyday on stage, and it’s just magic for me playing with them, and I hope they have the same feeling. We all love music, we love being on stage, we love writing songs, and it’s our life. There’s nothing else in this world that I’d rather be doing than singing for a rock n roll band and singing for Royal Bliss. There’s nothing I’d rather do, and I think that’s the same mentality of everybody else in the band, where there’s no other option. It’s like, we have to make this happen. This is who we are, and what we’re going to do for the rest of our lives until we get old and our fingers fall off. All the hardships that we’ve been through, with my accident and possibly being paralyzed forever and Jake got his girlfriend pregnant that he wasn’t with anymore then he rolled his car five times leaving the studio, then Chris put a ski through his face, then Taylor broke his leg, then our manager sued us $40,000 which, was ridiculous. This all happened within a 2-3 month period for us, and literally it was like, are we going to keep doing this, is this a sign from the Gods to stop? Instead of it breaking us down, it just bonded us together, and they trusted me to get out of the wheelchair and get back out on stage. Once I did that, it was just like, all right, we’re going to do this, we’re going to pull it off. The whole year was just total chaos for us. Hence the name “After The Chaos” for the title of the record after we finished. After we came through, came out of the clouds, we were tighter than we’d ever been and even closer as a family, and I think all the petty things that tend to break up other bands, like the nonsense stuff, you know I hear other bands that argue about the dumbest things, and it’s like, if you guys only knew what we’ve been through. Spend a week in our shoes at that time and most bands wouldn’t make it. It makes you stronger. We plan on being around a long, long time.
Many thanks to Neal for taking the time to chat!
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