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INTERVIEW: T-Roy & The Smoking Section

Tags: song music band

1.) We’re very excited to be speaking today with acclaimed veteran singer and songwriter t. Roy; greetings and salutations. Before we mosey down the Q&A pathway, how is  2023 treating you thus far?

Oh thanks! I’m excited to be here with you today and I’m looking forward to a great year in 2023

2.) Major congratulations on one of the best EP’s we’ve heard in these parts for a long time, the January 25 released gem The Texas Grit EP! How did this crackling five track masterpiece come about?

I’m going to give you the short answer and the long answer since I don’t know how much ink you’ve got. The longer story seems like it would be boring, but the short version is just a thumbnail. Here are both:

These particular five songs are a promotional pre-release for the 16 Song album “Dining Area” coming out Feb 28, 2023.    So actually the Texas Grit EP came out just so YOU could hear some songs before the album comes out Feb 28. :::::

SHORT:

Songwriting has been mental therapy for me since I was a kid, so I’ve written a ton of these kinds personal and autobiographical songs. Most of them came about after a particular hard personal situation, and I deal with that differently from song to song. Sometimes it’s sarcasm or humor, while other times it’s the result of raw emoting. Didn’t really think people would enjoy my pain until I heard Adele’s depression on the radio, ya know? Then I realized people need to express how they feel through Music and these are songs mostly about situations in relationships which everyone can relate to. 

LONG:

We’ve all had a very tough couple of years that tested us, right? I found myself writing a lot of these personal stories of my life at the same time I was studying audio engineering and had recently moved to be part of an amazing music scene in Asheville, NC

Started learning how to engineer with a couple of cover songs like “Starry Starry Night” by Don McClain because it’s just one guitar with a vocal, then I spent a week learning “I Am The Walrus” to study George Marting and then “Wild World” by Cat Stevens just because I like it. Spent $50 on a drummer from Italy and played all the instruments myself on those. 

Then it was time to learn how to record more musical instruments; and I began inviting the best players from around Asheville to come over. Many great artists around town helped turn these songs into something kinda Texas, kind of Appalachian…kind of soulful funky blues rock.

There were 32 songs recorded with this Band in the dining area of my small west Asheville apartment that will come out in stages in 2023. I believe the best is still yet to come. 

3.) As a former Texan, I appreciated the Southeast Texas Son track off of The Texas Grit EP! Is there a VH1-Behind the Music story you could share with readers on the genesis of this rousing tune?

Sure!

Born in Houston and grew up in the Beaumont Texas area, 90 miles east. Both sides of my family were musicians so every family gathering was a jam session hoe-down and I just thought everyone’s family was like this. Great-grandpa Martin Smith wrote the bluegrass standard “Beaumont Rag” and his sons all played with George Jones in my home town of Vidor, TX. On my dad’s side there were more blues and rock influences, with 2 cousins that taught me to play guitar and another cousin in my band.

When I was 17, my band got a house gig doing six night a week over the next three years at the Foxy Lady in Beaumont. We all needed parental releases to contribute to the delinquency of the adults! We produced several outdoor festivals and it was awesome being a big fish in a little pond for that season. We were playing mostly original music even then, and I’ve just never figured out how to quit.

4.) The Texas Grit EP acts as a sort of teaser for an epic 16-track bonanza of an album which you and The Smoking Section are releasing on February 28 entitled Dining Room. What can you tell fans about this jam-packed release?

If you like any of the songs on the Texas Grit EP, you are going to love the long version with 16 songs…and the follow up of another 16 songs towards the end of the year on “Table Scraps”.

These songs were all done initially for my own personal enjoyment, not following any formula or trying to please a label. 

I have intentionally been influenced by many hybrids of genres, and then twisted that into my own patently “Texas grit” sound. You’ll hear influences from zydeco, reggae, folk, outlaw country, Texas blues, classical acoustic, and even a jazz song. All sound like Texas to me. 

5.) In an era when it feels like everything is exponentially shrinking, what does it feel like to deliver an album which has absolutely no filler and is, in fact, peppered with one classic tune after another?

Gosh, thanks for characterizing it that way.  Honestly, I didn’t really think about it but I’m told all the time that I have no filters.

I’ve been secretly recording t.Roy music for the last decade (2 previous projects released in 2013 and 2018) but I didn’t tell anyone. ‘Asheville Sessions” EP had exactly one play on AWAL Records portal because no one knew about it but me. This was a “vanity project” for my own mental and musical satisfaction. Songs on that CD helped me release the pain of recent divorce. Didn’t really want my friends to hear it, actually. 

So I’m one of the rare people these days who can afford to write and record for my own personal therapy/pleasure, and t.Roy has been my creative outlet on the side while I continued touring in a different genre to pay the bills. 

But since I have now recorded so many songs, it seems like I should give them a chance and tell someone? That’s where Ronda Kelley comes in at Whizkid PR. She’s been a rock of encouragement since the first time we talked. It was her that convinced me to actually tell people know about t.Roy & The Smoking Section. 

6.) For the record, can you introduce our ever-inquisitive readers to the talented members of The Smoking Section?

Love to!

As you probably know, it’s hard to keep a band together these days, and so many musicians in Asheville play in about 5 bands each. I’ve got access to everyone who played on the album yet availability always depends on the gig and the season. I have mostly traveled as a solo acoustic, bringing a band only when the situation demands it. 

The Smoking Section is a conglomeration built around a nucleus of these guys:  

Lenny Pettinelli on piano, Josh Courts on drums, Tristen Hefner on guitar, Ben Bjorlie on bass, Will Franke on violin/cello/sitar, Ken Bailey on steel guitar, and I play acoustic and slide guitars. 

7.) Who was your producer on Dining Room and what did the collaboration between producer and artists look like in the studio?

Glad you asked….I am the Producer. 

I’ve co-produced and worked with 9 Award winning super-producers in the past, but always had to hire a great engineer.  As I mentioned earlier, this project was started as a way to learn audio engineering. 

8.) How is Dining Room similar to some of your past music? How is it different?

My demos don’t suck as much as they used to    

I’ve always liked songs with a danceable bluesy groove over intellectual compositions. This collection of songs is similar in that way, and by being personal and autobiographical. They are different by having a much rounder knowledge of music theory combined with Production/Engineering experience. Add a great music scene like Asheville and the ingredients alone say it would bake a good cake. 

9.) You hail from the beautiful city of Beaumont, Texas, an area which is rich in music. How does someone such as J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson or Janis Joplin – both natives of your fair city – inform you as a musician? Were you aware of their music when you were coming up as a musician?

I’ve been living back in Beaumont for a few months now to visit regularly with my mom in hospice. When you travel all the time your home address doesn’t really matter, but it is very weird to be back after leaving so long ago. I leave on a tour late March

JP Richardson Jr (son of Big Bopper) was best friends with my older brother, and Julian LaCroix (brother of Jerry in the Edgar Winter’s White Trash Band) managed me for a time. My grandpa and his brother played with George Jones, and I’ve got a cousin who is George’s illegitimate son.

I’ve been a part of the larger music scene around Texas for a long time, owning a booking agency for a time and producing a cable-access TV show called “Dallas Music Magazine” for a decade. For example, I was booking Eric Johnson, Stevie Ray, and The Fabulous Thunderbirds into Beaumont at least 5 years before you ever heard of them. I edited or produced all of Pantera’s video when they were a glam band with a different singer. Ray Wylie Hubbard was a volunteer on my TV crew, Reverend Horton Heat was my sound guy before he got famous with a live video we did on him in 1989. Had dinner with Roy Orbison and Maria Elana Holly once.  It goes on and on and on like that….

For my entire life, I have always been working on the next song, listening and producing mostly local original music wherever I was. It would be a full novel to explain…but yes, I’d say the locals influenced me quit a bit. 

10.) On the heels of the release of The Texas Grit EP and Dining Room, can fans look forward to seeing you and The Smoking Section on the touring circuit?

That’s the plan, yes. It’s nearing impossible to carry a band so I’m hoping one of these reviews gets us into the right agency…but I’ve been living on endless tour as a solo acoustic singer/songwriter since 2004 under a different name. 

11.) As a singer and songwriter, which comes first for you – The lyrics or the music?

I usually hear some words to a melody as the initial inspiration, then work out the verses and chords

12.) Any final thoughts on The Texas Grit EP and Dining Room which you might like to share with readers?

I’ve intentionally chosen to be an original songwriter for an entire life. These songs are not formulaic, like modern music has been trending, nor are they written to be anything but my own personal therapy. For that reason, I think the raw honesty of a well-produced non-commercial album will appeal to those longing for the imperfections of music created by real humans. 

Besides…who is making rock records any more!?!?

13.) Final – SILLY! – Question: Favorite movie about the music scene – Walk the LineAlmost FamousThe Buddy Holly StoryElvis or La Bamba?

Buddy Holly story, hands down!

He was the first original BAND, and produced his own music….plus I’ve danced with his wife, Maria… and Gary Bussey allegedly became a christian after meeting my pastor on a plane and was going to my church for several months. He wasn’t all “there” already. 



This post first appeared on A Teaser For The Upcoming Single From Faiz Hassan Song, Baytee., please read the originial post: here

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INTERVIEW: T-Roy & The Smoking Section

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