“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.