I had the opportunity to travel with Royal Bliss for a couple of shows out West. During that time I interviewed each member of the band separately. The fourth of my five interviews is with drummer, Jake Smith, which took place when we were in Lewiston, Idaho, in the van, waiting for the tow truck. We discussed song writing, musical and band member influences, and his motivation to keep playing after 17 years with the same band. He gave his thoughts on Royal Bliss’ greatest strength, how he defines success, what he feels is his greatest accomplishment and more.
Listen to the entire Jake Smith interview below:
Today I’m joined by Jake Smith from the band Royal Bliss.
Thanks for taking the time to speak with me. So during the first couple of shows this tour you guys have played a few brand new songs. Has the change in style been exciting for you?
Yes. It’s fun. I like it. I like all sorts of styles.
That’s all you’re going to give me?
Alright, so Drown With me was written with your newest member Sean Hennesy. What contributions do you see him bringing to the table down the road?
You’re gonna get complicated, huh? Every time there’s a new member in the band it always sparks new ideas and new vibes, just having somebody in the band, and sometimes it’s easier, sometimes it’s harder, sometimes it’s too many cooks in the kitchen when you’re trying to write a song, but Sean just makes it easier. It’s actually, it’s a really good thing and he’s helping out a lot, actually.
Well good. On your last album, Chasing the Sun, It Haunts Me was your brain child. Do you have any other ideas you’re trying for the future songs?
Yes, I do. We haven’t actually not even worked on them yet, but I have a few ideas, but we haven’t got to them yet.
Can I request more piano parts?
You can. It doesn’t mean you’re gonna get it, but you can request it.
Have you guys thought far enough ahead to maybe adding, eventually somebody that could play piano if that was the direction that the new songs took?
I mean, even the parts I play now, we didn’t think, we weren’t like, “Jake is going to play this,” when we were writing the songs, it just happened. I was like, “I probably can do this,” and I just started playing them.
Because right now there’s a couple that you kind of do the intro [live] but then obviously you have to play drums.
Yeah, intro and outro, but yeah, I don’t know, we’ll see. It would be cool. I like doing it, it’s fun, but we haven’t planned anything out.
What would you say is your biggest influence when you’re song writing?
Influence? I don’t know. I don’t really channel anything as far as favorite bands or anything. I just, I don’t know, I can’t really answer that. God? [laughter] I don’t know. I don’t really have any influences, it’s just based off what I’ve always been listening to.
What inspiration do you draw from, possibly, the other band members, you know, that make you a better musician?
You know, sometimes when you are around creative like-minded people it rubs off. I mean, do you feel the other guys in the band, you know, bring out the most in you?
I think they bring out the worst in me, that’s what they do. Just kidding. Yeah, I don’t know. I just, Dwayne inspires me. Like I was saying before, sometimes it’s easy to write with people, sometimes it’s hard, sometimes it just meshes. It’s easy to jam and come up with new things. It kind of depends on the day. So I don’t know. That’s it. [laughter]
So you’ve been in Royal Bliss for 17 years. What’s your motivation to keep playing?
It’s my passion. It’s what I love. It’s what I do. It’s what I know and we’ve put 17 years into it so, gotta kind of see it through.
What would you say is Royal Bliss’ greatest strength?
Our greatest strength. Well, as far as Neal and Taylor and I go it’s what we’ve, sorry, hold on, I might need to answer this. [pauses to check his phone] Just like, I don’t know, I guess you’d call it brotherhood. We’ve put so much time and energy into this we’re seeing it through. I think that’s our greatest strength because so many bands just go through so many changes and we’ve gone through a lot of changes too but Taylor and Neal and I have always kind of been there.
Once you are at the point of releasing the next album, will you be doing the album artwork?
Maybe. I don’t know.
Have any ideas been floating through your head already?
Not yet. I don’t have any ideas yet, I may or may not do it. I haven’t done all of them, but I think I’ve pretty much come up with ideas for all of them but that doesn’t mean that it’s gonna be my artwork.
In your creative process, do you need some, whether it’s an album title, or song titles or something like that before you would even attempt?
Yeah, for the most part, that’s kind of what I go off of, is having a title.
So what about new merch ideas or designs? Anything else that…
Yeah, I’m always working on new merch ideas and designs. I think pretty much everything we’re selling right now are all my merch ideas and they’re all pretty new, but I’m not working on anything right now.
What would you say has been your greatest accomplishment since joining the band?
Greatest accomplishment. Humm, that’s a good one. [pauses to think] Humm. Still being in the band and lasting this whole time [laughter] because it’s been, it’s been a lot of fun, it’s been amazing but it’s been a lot of work and it’s been hard but yeah, just still doing it, I think that’s a good accomplishment.
That’s a good answer.
You’re welcome. So with the music industry getting easier for some bands and harder for others, has your definition of success changed over the years?
That’s a really good question. Yeah, I mean, I don’t know, I think it’s hard for everybody, well for at least 90% of the bands out there. It’s definitely changed because back in the day, I think it was way easier, but it’s just so much work now. Just selling one album is an accomplishment so, I think anything positive that you’re doing these days is awesome.
Alright. So, based on a conversation we had, here’s my last little…
…out of left field question. If you could create a super group with members from your favorite bands, no matter the genre, give me the singer, the guitar player, the bassist and the drummer.
Do I have to be in the band?
No, it’s band members from your favorite bands, but it doesn’t have to be the same genre.
They’d all be drummers. [laughter] Just kidding. John Bonham would be playing drums, uh, [laughter] Nat King Cole would be singing. Guitar. I don’t know. Taylor would be playing guitar, just because, just because. Bass, Victor Wooten.
And who’s he?
He’s in, oh, what’s the name of his band? Bela Fleck and the Flecktones. He’s pretty awesome.
That would be quite an interesting group.
Yeah, it probably wouldn’t sound good at all but I’d watch it.
There’s a bee in here.
Well, that’s all I have.
Thanks for taking the time and best of luck with everything.
Thank you. I’m sorry I’m half asleep.
Royal Bliss are currently on tour. Find all dates here.