I adore Hallmark movies, and one of the best things about these sweet, romantic films is their expert use of music. Sometimes we hear established favorites from contemporary artists, which always puts me in the mood for singing along (yes, I admit, I’ve done that. Come on now, haven’t you??) On the other hand, Hallmark also uses promising musicians like ROYAL, who boast a fresh, new sound. Although fairly well-known in Canadian circles, Hallmark fans will be able to hear her in Saturday’s movie premiere, The Perfect Bride. In spite of her busy schedule, ROYAL took some time out to answer a few questions about how she got started as a musician, her first album, and her highly anticipated second studio album.
RH: What were your earliest musical influences, and how did that help shape your style of music?
R: My life has always been heavily saturated with a wide variety of music thanks to my parents. I don’t remember a time when the radio or record player wasn’t on, playing everything from Elvis to Bob Dylan. I’ve been a shy, artistic introvert my entire life. My parents recognized my unique nature at a young age and wanted to help me find a way to express myself. And so they filled my days with music, visual artist lessons, reading and writing. I became influenced by so many incredible artists that I have still never felt I fall within one genre. I began my music career as a folk pop singer-songwriter, but have since evolved into a more cinematic and dynamic pop world.
While music was a part of your life growing up, how did you ultimately decide to pursue a career in music?
Music has always been a large part of my life, but I had never considered pursuing a career as a musician until the opportunity came out of the blue. I was jamming with my family on stage at a family reunion in a small town in Saskatchewan, when a producer happened to hear my voice. At this time I was debating pursuing a career as a visual artist, but the gentleman offered me an opportunity I could not turn down. He invited me to Toronto to record an album with a professional team. Once I got there and we had completed the album, I decided I had better promote this creation, and thus began my career as an independent musician.
What was it like recording your first album? How did the public receive it?
Recording my first album Seasons in 2009 was like a dream. I worked with a group of incredibly talented individuals who were all very patient and supportive of my creative process. Everything I learned from the launch of Seasons paved the way for later releases including my 2010 holiday single, Christmas With You, which received national radio play and reached #33 on the Canadian Hot AC Top 40. The release of Seasons also led to numerous film and television placements, which is how I got my start in film, and eventually led to this year’s Hallmark placement for The Perfect Bride.
Please tell us about 2014 Peak Performance Project BC and how that helped enhance your career and sound.
I am forever grateful for being selected to participate in the 2014 Peak Performance Project. The competition and development program inspired and provided me with some unforgettable experiences. I was given the opportunity to showcase in front of panels of well-respected industry professionals including label and radio personnel and musicians. Also, I was paired with a band by the name of 36? to write an original piece, recorded by esteemed producer Warne Livesey (Midnight Oil, Matthew Good Band), which came second place in that competition and later received television placement. I wrote my two last singles during the competition; City Lights with electronica artist Conro, which now has over three million streams on Spotify through Monstercat Records; and Wild, which was released last fall and has inspired the sound of the upcoming album, Heart of Shadows. Overall The Peak Performance Project was an incredible experience which I am forever grateful for.
As you prepare to release your second album, how would you describe your sound/style now as opposed to your first album? What has changed and what has stayed the same?
The two are completely opposite by nature. I would describe my first album, Seasons, as “day”, and my upcoming album, Heart of Shadows, as “night”. I first began songwriting when I was in my early teens. Since then, I have gained over ten years of life experiences and wisdom, so the two are completely different creatures. I will, however, say that my general character has remained the same. I have always strived for elegance and honesty personally and professionally, and I believe that reflects on my songwriting and sound.
Please tell us about your adopted stage name and how that came about?
The decision to change my stage name has been a longtime contemplation. I decided however to change my name to something that reflected my sound and brand. I wanted to evoke something that was timeless, elegant and bold, and the name ROYAL possesses each of those qualities.
How did your song Seasons get chosen by Hallmark to appear in The Perfect Bride premiering this upcoming weekend in the U.S.?
I was selected to perform a showcase at the Whistler Film Festival, where I met music supervisor Natasha Duprey from Silent Joe. I provided her with some of my music before my performance and she later got in touch with me to have the song placed in The Perfect Bride. I have had numerous film and television placements before, but I am especially excited about this as I am a big fan of the Hallmark films and look forward to hearing one of my songs in one. It is quite the honour.
Were you able to visit the set at all? If not, is this something you hope to do for future projects?
I was not able to visit the set this time; however, I look forward to the opportunity to do so one day!
Many singers have aspirations to be involved in TV/film in acting, not just music. Is this something you may consider in the future?
The music I am creating today is highly influenced by classic films like Roman Holiday and Singin’ in the Rain. My sound is very dynamic, cinematic and emotional and I believe it is well-suited to film and television, so I hope to see more opportunities arise for me with this upcoming album. I’m not sure I see myself getting in to acting beyond being an extra on set. My sister Hannah Pederson takes the cake for this role in my family, and she has been in numerous Hallmark productions as well as other film and television roles.
As a musician who is on the road performing so much, how do you preserve your voice so that you don’t strain it as some singers do?
Vocal health is incredibly important to sustain a healthy voice. I hold myself to a restricted diet that eliminates dairy, wheat, sugar, chocolate and caffeine while I am touring, or preparing for a show. This is not an easy sacrifice as I am an absolute treat lover, but it definitely helps me stay healthy and clean for my vocal performances. I also visit my vocal health coach before every tour for more tips and lessons. Preparing for a long tour is not what many might think. I train regularly with exercise and vocal strengthening. I’ve even taken a page out of the book from Frank Sinatra and sing while I run. Again, this is not easy, but I definitely reward myself when the shows are all done and I have some down time – bring on the ice cream and chocolate!
What are the benefits and challenges to being an indie musician?
There are many benefits and challenges that go along with being an independent musician. The benefits include being your own boss, which for me, has always been a priority. I love having the power to dictate my own schedule, creative process and brand. I am a bit of a perfectionist – okay, I am a huge perfectionist, so being independent provides me with the authority to do things as I please. The downside of this is that there are always a million things to do in a day, and not enough hours. Sometimes I become so overwhelmed with the business side of things that it takes me away from the creative. However at the end of the day, I love both sides and have managed to create a schedule (for the most part) which gives me a healthy helping of both.
If you could collaborate with three musicians, whether you have worked with them or not, whom would you choose and why?
This is always a difficult question to answer, as I have so many musicians that I admire and would love to work with. However my top three would be Lana Del Rey, Imogen Heap, and The Black Keys.
I was completely mesmerized by Lana Del Rey’s voice and songwriting style when I first heard her. I would love to learn first-hand how she gains inspiration and continues to develop her songwriting style, and apply that to my own creative process.
I absolutely love Imogen Heap. She is brilliant and unbelievably talented. In writing with her, I believe many doors could be opened that could take my music above and beyond all I have imagined.
The Black Keys have a certain “swagger” to their sound. To combine my voice with their distorted rock, blues fusion would be a magical mixture. These are three artists I aspire to collaborate with one day.
I have one more artist from my top collaborators list that I presently have the honour of working with, Luca Fogale. He and I are currently working away at the pre-production of my Heart of Shadows album, and it is nothing short of a dream.
As a once-aspring musician myself, I totally appreciate ROYAL’s outlook on the music business as a whole. Here is a young person who is committed to investing the necessary work to ensure that success is ultimately realized and every dream in her heart is actualized. All too often, people outside the music world seem to perpetuate the idea that music and singing is something that anyone can do. Furthermore, people both on the inside and the outside of the business adhere to a faulty vision that includes wealth, fame, and prestige. Unfortunately, when starstruck young people embark on the career path that they believe should be a guaranteed success, the vast majority of aspiring msuicians fall to the wayside. As ROYAL herself mentions, music is NOT easy. In fact, I would go a step further. If you can do something else in your life besides pursuing a career in the arts, go do it! However, if your passion is such that there is nothing else you can do but music or the arts, pursue it and never give up. No matter the blood, sweat and tears that emanate from your deep within, all is worth it when you can stand on that stage and inspire people through song.And this is the exact path on which ROYAL has chosen to traverse.
I invite everyone to tune in tomorrow night (June 10th) for the Hallmark Channel premiere of The Perfect Bride, starring Kavan Smith and Pascale Hutton. While I am certain the film will be a sheer delight, be sure that you listen for ROYAL and her rendition of the “perfect song for the perfect couple.” Also, don’t forget to follow her at all the links below. We are all breathlessly awaiting her next album, and by supporting her via social media and watching for her updates, we will be certain not to miss that auspicious occasion!