TrouBeliever Fest is the first song-based music festival to bring intimate “Bluebird Cafe” style performances to a festival stage, and it’s taking root in Ogden. For every famous singer, there are hundreds of thousands of equally talented songwriters and performers who go unnoticed. Many sprung up in the late 1960’s/early 70’s when the first singer-songwriter movement hit, playing at the renowned West Hollywood club called Troubadour where artists like Elton John and The Eagles got their start. TrouBeliever Fest serves as a vestige to the spirit of that era, celebrating the art of the lyrics and offering a platform for poet-musicians to tell “the stories behind the songs.”
Festival founders, Grammy Award-winning songwriters Anna Wilson and Monty Powell are products of this early Troubadour generation. They started the festival to bring more artists a voice and a stage. “Seeing the world of music festivals blow up around the country, and the world,” says Wilson and Powell, “none of them were specifically targeted to represent the unsung hero of the working and performing songwriter.” After over three decades in Nashville working as artists, producers and songwriters - together they’ve written a dozen #1 hit songs that helped launch the careers of big names like Keith Urban and Lady Antebellum - they left Nashville and moved permanently to Ogden Valley with a vision and a calling. “There is a well of untapped music and lyrical thought that never had a real outlet,” they say, “and we intend to shine a bright light on all of the things we have always wanted to create.”
Diehard skiers and longtime travelers to the area, Wilson and Powell first crossed paths with guitarist Taylor Richards of Royal Bliss years ago when the popular Utah band was still in its infancy, united by a shared love of skiing and music. Royal Bliss has co-written a few songs with Wilson and Powell through the years but their friendship was always more about skiing. Richards says “we didn’t say hey Monty you’re a hit songwriter, we need to write some songs. We were just ski buddy friends.” Richards says Royal Bliss has always been songwriters first, more so than trying to fit into any specific genre, and that’s where they fit in with the festival. “The number one thing about us is we just try to write a good song,” says Richards. “It’s never been ‘oh this song is too country or too metal or too hip hop.’ We wrote it and we feel it’s a good song. If it’s not a good song it’s not coming out.”
Since leaving successful careers in "Music City, USA" behind, Wilson and Powell are finally making their own "unedited and uncompromised" art with their Americana duo Troubadour 77, a music project revitalizing the Southern California singer-songwriter vibe of the early 1970’s. “We’re grateful for the opportunities and successes we’ve been blessed with because it’s afforded us this new season in our careers to be truly unleveraged by the music business and its constraints,” they say, as they’ve both felt they’ve had to sacrifice some of their own artistic vision to facilitate the careers of others. “We’ve laid aside our fears of not fitting ‘into the box’ or being relevant to the industry machine to make the art they were born to make. Troubadour 77 is our new era and we can’t wait to see what awaits!”
The two-day festival includes songwriting workshops, intimate acoustic performances, impromptu jam sessions, and “stories behind the songs” from some great local and out of state artists. See a more “intimate, broken down presentation” from Utah’s favorite rock band Royal Bliss, Ogden native blues prodigy Sammy Brue, the early 1970’s Southern California vibe of TrouBeliever Fest founders’ own music group T77, and 3hattrio from Southern Utah whose pioneering “American Desert Music” is turning heads. For full line up and festival details, visit troubelieverfest.com.
Royal Bliss is a band that doesn’t do things the “normal” way. They’re not an “out of Utah” band. They still live in their hometown of Salt Lake City, earning the label ‘Utah’s rock band,’ and through hard-work have slowly but steadily paved their own way to successful careers as independent, nationally-touring musicians over the last 20 years. Their new self-titled album is a return to “classic Royal Bliss” of earlier years - pure, heart-pumping, radio blasting rock. Single tracks ‘Hard and Loud,’ ‘Pain,’ and ‘Devils & Angels’ have all received rave reviews and are currently climbing the rock charts. There’s never been a better time for Royal Bliss to come back to Ogden.
Band member Taylor Richards says Royal Bliss loves Ogden, been playing here for years mostly at Kamikazes, Brewskies, and Snowbasin, and that Ogden Amphitheater is one of his favorite, very underestimated, amphitheaters. “We’re honored to headline with some great artists, like Sammy Brue and Troubadour 77 and all the great bands coming in.” Richards has been friends with festival founders Anna Wilson and Monty Powell since the late 1990’s when he was just out of high school working at Snowbird as a liftie - his last “real job.” It was around this time they realized they were making more money with the band than at their other jobs, and by 2004 all band members became full-time musicians.
Their success has been earned through years of perseverance not many musicians have the work ethic, or passion, to achieve. But Richards credits friends and fans in the area for their survival as they spread slowly but surely into Colorado, Idaho, Wyoming, Nevada, and Arizona the old-fashioned way, trying to get into gigs. Getting signed with Capitol Records helped in that aspect, giving them that stamp of approval that said, “you’re an official real band now” when going out to radio stations and venues to play shows. While it didn’t last, and they did most of it independently, they were lucky the 2009 album, “Life In-Between,” was released.
Ten years later, the self-titled new album, Royal Bliss, has brought them back full circle - coincidentally, the single off the new album, “Devils & Angels” shares a similar title and common theme to the popular single from “Life In-Between,” “Devil With Angel Eyes.” The emotionally-charged new record feels like Royal Bliss coming back with a vengeance. A few years ago they took a little honky tonk detour into Nashville. A publicist had sent some of their tunes out that grabbed the attention of CMT, who then asked for a music video to release and promote. Suddenly the band found themselves in the middle of Nashville, Tennessee. “We had doors open for us, and we kind of rolled with that for a bit,” Richards explains. “But we found when we went back to our roots of songwriting we weren’t writing country songs.” They’d even recorded a country-rock EP “The Truth,” co-written in part by Wilson and Powell. But everywhere they went the country music scene didn’t get it. “They were like, this isn’t country. And we’re like, we know we’re not a country band.”
Now they’re back to doing what they do best. Richards describes it as the good ol’ days, when they first started out as a band, “We’d go into our little band rehearsal room and just jam. We didn’t have a songwriting concept, it just flowed. There was a guitar riff, or there was a vocal line or a drum groove and it just kind of naturally and organically grew from each individual person doing what they do on their instrument. And the songs kind of came naturally, they weren’t forced.” But when they first started out, says Richards, “we kind of just wrote songs because it was fun and we were in a band, in high school.” Then it became something that actually made money so they started to really work at it. “We tried to surround ourselves with like-minded musicians and songwriters, like Monty and Anna, and other local bands. It’s just a process of learning the craft. And the best part is that it’s music, it’s art, it’s creative. You can be different. It can make no sense, but if it makes sense to you it might make sense to someone listening to it. The beauty in music and art is that it doesn’t necessarily have to perfect, it just has to be heartfelt and thought about.”
For the upcoming TrouBeliever Fest, Richards says it’s kind of like VH1 Behind The Music “where you talk about the songs and then play the song, so there will be a little of that going on.” He says, “Neal could go up there and tell a story about a song we wrote and I could tell a whole different story about what it means to me, how I perceive the lyrics.” They’ll be playing new and old songs, a little of everything. And he says they might even bust out some Tom Petty.