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 third of my five interviews is with bass player, Dwayne Crawford, which took place when we were in Lewiston, Idaho. We discussed the importance of Royal Bliss’ new musical direction, the impact Sean Hennesy will have on future songs and how Royal Bliss has helped make him a better musician. We discussed what inspires his creativity and what he enjoys about making new music. Among other things, we discussed what he feels is Royal Bliss’ greatest strength, his thoughts on success and the one thing he would do to make the music industry better for all musicians.
Listen to the entire Dwayne Crawford interview below:
Today I’m joined by Dwayne Crawford from the band Royal Bliss. Thanks for taking the time to speak with me.
Having joined the band a few years ago, from your perspective, how important is the musical direction Royal Bliss is taking with the new songs?
You know, honestly, I don’t know that we really put any thought behind what we were doing. We’ve always kind of forced ourselves to try to fit certain molds and we’ve never really written songs for ourselves and, I don’t know. I would actually, I want to retract that last statement. We write songs for ourselves but we’ve got to have, you’ve always got to have that one song or those two songs that fit a certain mold so you kind of have to force yourself to put something out that maybe you’re not necessarily a hundred percent happy with, but honestly, I really dig the direction we’re taking. It feels like a natural course of action for us. We’ve always evolved as a band and they’ve always evolved as a band even before my time. I mean, realistically it makes sense.
So Drown With Me was written with Sean Hennesy, who officially joined the band last year. In your opinion, what kind of impact will he have on future song writing?
You know, Sean, the way Sean plays is very blues influenced, very jazz influenced, he’s, the guy blows my mind, honestly. Even a year of being in the band with the guy, just watching him play, watching him noodle around is just absolutely mind blowing. He’s very different from Taylor [Richards]. Taylor’s more of a straight forward, just rock dude and Sean, Sean’s really got that heavy blues influence. I think having a mixture of the two is kind of keeping us in that southern realm but still allowing us to be a rock band.
So, what are you looking forward to the most as you continue to write new songs?
I’m just interested in seeing where it goes. It’s still so new. This is only my second record writing with the band so I’m still finding my niche with the band and having Sean come in, it’s really interesting. It’s very interesting.
So would you say, since you’ve joined the band, that the other members have made you a better musician?
Yeah, I would. I would say, truthfully, Jake [Smith] keeps me in line. [laughs] I think my favorite thing about Jake is, the guy, he’s a machine. He can play anything he wanted and just somehow manages to stay in the pocket. He can throw random fills, change this up, change that up and he’s a timing monster.
As a bass player, usually most bands it’s the bass player and the drummer that kind of have that connection.
Yep. Just locked. I think, honestly, I’ve played with a lot of really good drummers. I’ve been very, very privileged over my years but Jake is a, the guy’s a beast. He’s an absolute beast and I think we compliment each other fairly well. He knows where I’m going. I know where he’s going. We’re getting to know each other pretty well musically. We know what each other’s gonna do. I would say definitely. Taylor’s pushed my limits a little too with a lot of his writing and Sean’s really giving me a workout. [laughs]
So other than the band members, when it comes to writing, what inspires your creativity?
I don’t know, you know, honestly, that’s a tough question. It’s hard to put into words. I feel like different types of riffs, I write on guitar generally. When I write I don’t write on bass. I feel like different types of riffs come out based on your mood. If you’re in a bummed out kind of stressed out mood, you tend to play slower, prettier “parts” and I don’t really dive into lyric writing too much, so I guess emotions get put into, I guess, just guitar riffs, honestly. It’s really hard to explain.
I get it because for me, music comes first when I hear a song. So if I’m connecting to it, it’s not like obviously I knew what somebody was thinking when they wrote it, but I could still feel something based on the music I’m hearing.
I personally, for myself, and this may sound way out of left field, or kind of crazy and I hope I convey what I’m trying to say, for me, I feel more emotion and can hear the emotion in someone’s instrumental parts or the way a song is orchestrated more than I can hear it lyrically. There’s a lot of songs out there that lyrics could be one direction over here but the way it’s conveyed, just because of the type of music the band plays, it’s really hard to explain.
Is it more because you’re a musician, so you kind of know what went into making it?
I just think there’s songs that sound like they mean one thing and they’re written about something completely different. Sweet Rosie, for example, it’s written about masterbating, but the song, you’d never know listening to the lyrics. I mean, it’s not necessarily the emotion that was, I would say, intended. You know what I mean? It’s really pretty lyrically, but it’s written about something completely different. Musically, at least for me, I can feel it. You kind of know the emotion that was put into certain aspects.
So for you, what’s the most thrilling part about making new music?
I just like new stuff. When you think about it, we recorded, well we wrote our last record within the first year of me being in the band. I’ve been in the band for going on almost five years and we’ve been playing the same stuff for quite a while. So for me, it’s all about showing the direction the band’s going. It’s all about seeing what happens with the new line up. I love the process of writing but mostly it’s getting new music out and seeing the reaction of people who are excited to hear it.
So that leads into my next question. You guys just started a tour, and the first two shows, one was an accident because you were subbing in because another band had to cancel, but two back to back acoustic shows, what’s been the best part of playing those new songs?
You know, I like seeing the reaction of people when they first hear them. It kind of lets me know, I guess it’s almost like either reassurance that you’re doing the right thing or kind of lets you know your direction doesn’t work for you and so far, it seems everyone has expected this new sound from us. I enjoy playing music. I enjoy touring as much as the next guy but truthfully I think what got me into music to begin with was the whole process and evolving and putting emotion into song. So, every aspect of it is exciting for me.
Alright. So what older Royal Bliss song would you like to rework into the new style direction?
Truthfully, we have a lot of songs that could be, or should have been, in the new direction. I mean, Devils & Angels is one or two guitar tones away from being a southern rock song with a country twist. I Was Drunk. For me personally, I think Crazy would really fit the mold of the southern rock and country vibe. I think just lyrically and the fact that it connects with people on so many levels, I mean, that’s what that genre of music is about.
So what would you say is Royal Bliss’ greatest strength?
We don’t give up. We don’t. We don’t know how. We are hit with so many issues and so many problems, I mean, every band is. Every band’s got their ups and their downs and their vehicle breakdowns and their financial crises and their lawsuits and stuff like that but it’s never stopped us. It’s never made anyone even question it. We just keep going and we love what we do and we’re thankful that we get to do what we do and I don’t think any of us are ready to give up any time soon so I would definitely say that’s our greatest strength, for sure.
Awesome. So, with the music industry getting easier for some bands and harder for others, has your definition of success changed over the years?
You know, I don’t know how to define success anymore because success ten years ago for me was, you know, I think, to backtrack that, I think success, the idea of success is getting signed to a label. It’s selling a million records. It’s doing this and doing that. The reality is it doesn’t really work like that anymore and I think for me, success is being able to sustain. It’s being able to afford to do what you do to pay your bills, not have a side job and just get out there and do it. I know everybody’s got their meaning of success and of course everybody wants to be the biggest band in the world but the reality is, there can only be so many bands and the way that everything is it’s just all screwed up. It’s all screwed up. So truthfully, I think anyone that gets to tour full time is successful. That’s just me.
Alright, so, playing off of that, if you were responsible for the music industry as a whole, what one mandatory rule would you put in place to benefit musicians?
If I were in charge of the industry as a whole, what one rule, that’s a tough one.
Because you live it. So what is the one thing?
I don’t think it’s necessarily a rule, but I would do away with the commercializing of the way that radio is going because it’s so corporate. It’s structured by two companies that own the majority of radio stations and regardless of how good a song is, they don’t care. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that the record label’s putting money in their back pockets, even though technically it’s illegal, and they govern everything and honestly, that’s music’s biggest downfall. It’s completely hindering any good band, I don’t want to say any good band, but your average good band from succeeding. If you don’t have money and if you don’t have a label with money it’s just not gonna happen and it’s kind of a sad reality because growing up, your dream is, I’m gonna play this show and I’m gonna be at the right place at the right time and this person’s gonna hear my music and they’re gonna love us and we’re gonna be the biggest band in the world because of this and the reality is that it doesn’t happen like that anymore. The days of that happening are over. It’s all about who you know [interrupted by House of Pain’s Jump Around playing on the jukebox.] and how much money you have.
Alright, well maybe someday that will change, but for now…
Perfect timing. Perfect timing.
…that’s all I have. So thanks again for talking to me and best of luck with everything.
Thank you and thank you for cueing this outro music. It’s brilliant. I love it and it’s perfectly timed.
Royal Bliss are currently on tour. Find all dates here.