Last Weekend, Royal Studios held a block party to celebrate their latest venture as a Memphis institution: Royal Records. I caught up with siblings Oona and Boo Mitchell to talk about what led to the creation of Royal Records and what the duo has planned for the future. — Chris Shaw
The Memphis Flyer: How long has the idea for Royal Records been in the works?
Oona Mitchell: We've probably been talking about it for the past five years.
Boo Mitchell: I think we had it in the back of our minds that we would need to do it one day. We weren't avoiding it, but when we first started thinking about it, the timing wasn't right, the climate wasn't right, and we just didn't have the talent. You know, the music business was changing so much, and we were still learning all the ways to monetize music. We didn't have a firm handle on the streaming and the downloading and that type of stuff.
How did winning the Grammy help spur the start of a label?
Boo Mitchell: The Grammy was a big part of it, because it gave us a platform. It was kind of like a right of passage, ya know? It kind of gave us and Memphis the attention and energy. I mean, you can't pay for that kind of publicity.
Who are some artists that Royal Records are working with?
Boo Mitchell: Lil Riah and Key Money are our flagship artists. They are the first product that we are going to push. As a studio, we work with a lot of artists that are unsigned like Frayser Boy, Al Kapone, and Tori WhoDat. These are all people who potentially may end up on the label. But me and my sister are so all over the map musically. I mean, today we have Devil Train coming in to record after this interview.
Let's talk about the Block Party that went down on Saturday. It seemed like a pretty big success.
Oona Mitchell: I think the neighborhood is excited, and I think Memphis is excited. I think a lot of people have been waiting on us to do something like this.
Boo Mitchell: We couldn't have asked for better success. We had people from the neighborhood there. We had the mayor there and people both white and black from all walks of life. It was bigger than we expected. There was such a diverse group of people enjoying the music, and that was really cool to see.
Do you think the label will take away from the studio side of things at Royal?
Boo Mitchell: The label will make the studio a little bit more exclusive as far as booking sessions. One energizes the other. I think having a studio is the perfect magnet for talent, and it's the perfect launching pad for a label. We have the history of recording famous people, but we also record local people who are trying to get their music out there.
What's next for the label? Do you want people submitting their music to you?
Boo Mitchell: We are dropping the album [for Lil Riah and Key Money] in September, and then at the first of the year we will probably start releasing other artists. We want to make sure we have quality over quantity, so we're probably going to focus on this while we get our legs under us.
As for demos, I like things to happen organically. I mean, my dad wasn't out looking for Al Green, it just kinda happened. I approach my career the same way.