Brother and sister bluegrass duo The Roys are proud of each of the 11 tracks from their newest release, The View, but both tell Billboard that for a lot of reasons, the title cut is something very special.
“We were on tour in Canada last year,” recalled Lee, “and we were going through the town where our grandparents are buried, and we had a little bit of time. Elaine was with our parents, and they had gone to lunch, while I had taken our bus over to the venue that we were playing. I decided I wanted to pay a visit to their final resting place. They are buried on a hill with a beautiful view of the valley and where the river is where they are from. I had posted a picture on Facebook of it, and I had said ‘Grandma and Grandpa’s final resting place…What a view.’ The minute I posted that, I thought it could be a really good idea for a song. I wrote it on my phone, and we held it as a song title to write.”
They kept the idea back, saving it for the right time — which proved to be a writing appointment with Country Music Hall of Fame member Bill Anderson. “I knew I wanted to bring something powerful to the table that meant something to Elaine and I. When I told him the idea for the story, he fell in love with the idea and said ‘We’ve got to write this.’ He loved the song so much that he actually wrote the liner notes for the album. It’s a great tribute to two people that were so monumental in our lives.”
Writing the song was emotional enough for the duo, but composing the song with Anderson was a moment Elaine tells The 615 she won’t soon forget. “It was nerve-racking. I wanted to make sure we brought our A-game, because Bill Anderson is an incredible songwriter. It was our first time in a writing room with him. He seemed to like the idea. When we got done with it, we did a work tape, and I couldn’t finish it because the last verse is really emotional. Then, I looked over at him, and he was crying. I thought, ‘Man, if I’m crying and Bill Anderson is crying, then I hope we have a hit on our hands.’ I can’t wait for the folks to hear it.”
Equally monumental for The Roys was the recording experience behind The View. “It was very fun as always,” said Elaine. “We always look at the album process as ‘If it was going to be our last, then let’s make it our best.”
In addition to writing with Anderson, another of the duo’s heroes figures into the disc. Doyle Lawson adds his signature vocal licks to “Mandolin Man,” a tribute song to Bill Monroe. Lee Roy says Lawson has always been in their corner. “There are a few people that reached out to us when we made the switch from country to bluegrass. Rhonda Vincent, Ricky Skaggs, Vince Gill and Doyle Lawson. He became a mentor to us. I ran into him at IBMA about four years ago. He went out of his way to talk to us, which was surreal because here’s one of the legends in the business introducing himself to us. Of course, we knew who he was. I had everything from vinyl to cassettes to CDs of his music. When we were tracking the song, there were two people that came to mind: Del McCoury and Doyle Lawson. Both of them worked with Bill Monroe. We reached out to Doyle, and he said he’d do it. The rest is history. He recorded his part at his house in Bristol [Tenn.]. Technology allowed us to get it done. It was such a blessing. Having him on here is icing on the cake.”
Elaine Roy says the calendar for the rest of 2014 is full, as they hit the road to promote The View and prepare their next project. “Being on the road is very important. Getting in front of those fans means so much to us, and we can’t wait for them to hear it. We’re also working on a Christmas album. There’s a lot of good things going on, and we’re just blessed that we get to do this.”