Written By: BK
Photography By: Sean Sisk Photography
“The Road To Muscle Shoals” Was Worth It for Ottawa’s Tribe Royal
Featuring Famed Producer Norbert Putnam and GRAMMY Award-winning engineer Jimmy Nutt,
Two Part Mini Doc Captures the Band’s Journey to Create New Double A-Side
Double A-Side — “Good To Me” & “Holding On”
Documentary — The Road To Muscle Shoals — Part I & — Part II
“Cool stuff” — Santa Rosa Records
“Fluid guitar work stands out” — Obscure Sound
“Fits the summer sunshine” — Niche Music
“Smooth, folksy sway…” — At Cost Magazine
“Good classic, smooth, poppy-rock sound” — For the Rabbits
“I appreciate the chill rock style here” — Ear To The Ground Music
“Talented vocals over a rhythmic slice of blues rock with infectious guitar lines & anthemic chorus” — Velvety
“The very epitome of an easy listening piece of classic rock.. Just the ticket for a great night out.” — mp3hugger
“In so many ways, our trip to Muscle Shoals was — and is — a story of perseverance,” says Tribe Royal’s Chris Kerwin. “Sometimes the result you’re looking for lies just over the hill, just a little further down the road.”
For Tribe Royal, that road was an 18 hour one from their hometown of Ottawa, Ontario to the hit-making capital of the world — Muscle Shoals, Alabama — and a career-defining session with producer Norbert Putnam (Elvis, Jimmy Buffett, Don Fogelberg) and GRAMMY Award-winning engineer Jimmy Nutt (12 Years a Slave, The Steeldrivers, James LeBlanc).
The results are multifold.
First, there’s the double A-side collection — The Road To Muscle Shoals — featuring new singles “Good To Me” and “Holding On”, chock-full of the band’s signature indie folk alt-Americana rock sound.
There’s also a two-part documentary (here and here) detailing behind the scenes of the road trip, the session, and exclusive band interviews about the new work and experience working with some of the industry’s most famed talent.
“When we got the call that we were going to be working with Norbert Putnam, our jaws hit the floor,” shares Chris on working with the famed producer at his Alabama studio. “Emotionally, we’d had a couple of disappointing setbacks served to us through the industry, and we were frustrated.
“When news came in that Norbert like our material, it was the prototypical ‘break’ we had been waiting for over the last five years.”
The band almost didn’t make it. Their long-term drummer parted paths the day after the news came in, leaving to pursue a production career of his own, and the three remaining members were left in frantic search for a session drummer — with Ottawa’s Jasen Colson stepping up— for the sophomore EP.
“From the onset (of getting to Muscle Shoals), we had to fight to get there,” Chris reveals. “We really had to fight for our chance, and to make good on all the energy and time we’d invested…
“We had to right the ship and keep sailing.”
And then they hit the deer.
“A high speed collision with a large animal while leaving Ottawa…” Chris continues. “It almost ended Tribe Royal forever.”
Their van was totalled and threw a wrench in the already-tight travel itinerary to reach their session time more than an 18 hour drive away. Beyond having to scramble for new last-minute transportation, the sombre reality of the accident continues to leave a lasting pause over the crew. “It was a very powerful, life-changing experience. The memory of it still sends shivers down our collective spine and through the heart of the band.
“Knowing that we were pursuing our passion and living our lives as we wanted to — freely and creatively — was no real solace for any of having come so close to it ending before it really began.
“Dreams can and will come true if you are relentless in your vision and desire. That we have it encapsulated in this documentary is a gift we’ll treasure for the rest of our lives. Wherever this adventure may lead us, we know to carry our resolve in our breast pocket.
// ABOUT “GOOD TO ME”
“Good To Me” came about during a rather frustrating time in a failing relationship,” shares Terry. “I’d like to think it’s a positive look at getting through the rough patches and moving on. It’s intended as more of a re-evaluation than an attack on anyone.
“It was me asking if we could talk more and fight less.”
// ABOUT “HOLDING ON”
“Holding On” is about love, and sticking it out in a loving relationship through both the good and the bad,” Chris says. “There are times in love where you’ll feel a world apart from your partner and you’re not sure how you’ll get through…
“But sometimes what it takes to heal and repair is to simply ‘hold on’ and love truly and deeply through the pain and keep going together. I believe this creates a deeper level of trust and facilitates longevity.”
// ABOUT TRIBE ROYAL
Rare is the band able to land genuinely surprising curveballs against a sonic backdrop firmly rooted in the accessible and familiar. But that’s Tribe Royal for you. The quartet can be described variously as alt-rock, folk and Americana shot through with a retro 60s vibe and yet… still something more.
They’re fearless, too, willing to scorch a sweetly harmonic throwback pop song with a monster guitar solo. Or graffiti a plaintive ballad with elegiac words about a marginalized war vet – while adding yet another scorching guitar solo. All that and more features on the band’s dazzling 2016 debut long-player“Colours of the Sun”, which builds on the combined (but wholly distinct) singing/songwriting of Chris Kerwin and Terry O’Brien.
Alongside long-standing bassist/vocalist Bram Al-Najjar, and session drummer/vocalist Jasen Colson…the hype is building around this exciting quartet. The last year found Tribe Royal on the main stage at RBC Ottawa Bluesfest, performing with one of Canada’s premier rock acts in Sam Roberts Band. Notable industry members have noticed also, with Tribe Royal partnering with Entertainment Music Group (EMG) in Toronto and signing a distribution deal with Believe! Digital in late 2017.
The train appears to be rolling all the way through 2018 with legendary producer Norbert Putnam(Elvis, Jimmy Buffett, Linda Ronstadt) inviting the band south to Muscle Shoals, Alabama to record their sophomore LP at The Nutthouse Recording Studio with Grammy award-winning engineer, Jimmy Nutt (The Steeldrivers, James LeBlanc, 12 Years A Slave).
With the release of “The Road To Muscle Shoals”, a double A-Side collection, and international showcasing opportunities at Live At Heart (Sweden) and MIDEM 2019 (France) along with the forthcoming release of their second studio album…the fast-rising Tribe Royal handily proves that exhilarating diversity does still exist in contemporary rock.
You just need to know where to look.
We would like to thank Eric Alper for the artist profile and press release.