“Practice and play because you love it,” Taylor Richards told Gibson.com. “Jam with friends, and if you can, write a song, or two.”
Richards and the guys of Royal Bliss got together in the late-‘90s in Salt Lake City. The group quickly became at one with the road, touring frequently and playing hometown shows.
Chasing the Sun is the band’s latest full-length, and on it, you’ll find a collection of rock tunes with a hint of metal, post-grunge and pop sensibility.
Richards checked in with Gibson.com to gush about his 1996 Vintage Sunburst and explain why the Les Paul is the only guitar for him.
When did you first discover you had a talent for the guitar?
I was 13. I had played piano for about four years prior. My neighbor up the street had a guitar and was taking lessons, and I started picking up his guitar, which just so happened to be a 1980 Gibson ES-335. I’m still trying to buy that guitar off him. But, I pretty much surpassed his playing skills within a week or so. Then, I got a guitar for my 14th birthday, and I was off to the races!
What guitarists influenced you growing up?
Jimmy Page. I learned “Stairway to Heaven,” note for note. That was the first song that did it for me. Anything Led Zeppelin. Then I really got into Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton/Cream, Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters,” Boston’s Tom Scholz. But I was also into Eric Johnson, Joe Satriani and classical stuff, because that’s what my guitar teacher at the time was teaching me.
Royal Bliss have been around for over 15 years. What keeps you together and going strong?
We just keep getting better, and we get along. We’re like brothers. We love what we do, and we have come a long way, and we still have many goals to achieve. We’re very hard working, and it has really paid off. But we feel that we have a lot of untapped potential.
You guys have a new album out, Chasing the Sun. What was your guitar philosophy on this album?
You know, on this album my philosophy was less is more. But I wanted the guitars to sound huge and with good rhythms and melody. Each song has its own guitar sound. I had a few staple amps and settings that we would use, but a lot of experimenting went into this album.
What’s Royal Bliss’ songwriting process like?
Every song is different, really, especially on this album. Sometime we get together and just jam. Sometimes a song or two will come out of those jams. Sometimes someone will bring in an idea or a riff or even a whole song idea with verses, choruses, breakdowns and everything. Usually, we all put our own touch on the song, once we know it going to be a song.
Tell me about the album’s first single, “Cry Sister.”
“Cry Sister” came out of a jam. We were set up in the studio, and we had some friends over, and we just hit record and jammed for three hours. A few days later, we listened back, and were like, “That riff is awesome. Let’s use it. Neal, your melody over those chord changes was killer. Keep that.” Next thing we know, we wrote a song that we didn’t even know we had written. We brought it into the studio with the guys and hashed out the arrangement and made sure all the parts worked, and bam: “Cry Sister.”
You’re a big Les Paul player. What makes the Les Paul the right fit for you?
It’s really the only fit for me. I’ve played Gibson Les Pauls ever since I bought my first. Nothing compares to it, really. It has that huge tone, sustain and feel that I can only get from a Gibson Les Paul. The Les Paul is just right for me.
What are your go-go guitars for recording and the road?
I have two Les Paul’s now: My original 1996 Vintage Sunburst Standard and my new 2011 Honey Burst Traditional. The Traditional is my backup. I had an acoustic Gibson Songwriter Deluxe, but it was stolen at a show a few years back. So sad. I haven’t found a replacement yet.
What makes Gibson stand out above other brands?
The quality, the feel and the sound. The neck of the Gibson Guitar is what makes me feel comfortable when I play. The sustain and full sound you get is what makes my sound better than when I play with any other guitar.
Finish the sentence: I never go on tour without _____.
My computer, haha! And my 1996 Vintage Sunburst Les Paul Standard!
What’s next for Royal Bliss?
Tour, write, record, repeat.
Outdoor photos: Teresa Burke
Indoor photos: Brandon Mizar