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The Right Balance: The Diverse Career And Life Of Grace Royse

Looking at the key aspects of a successful career from someone who places as much weight on accountability and attitude as she does on technical aptitude.

Finding The Way

Royse’s interest in music started as a child in Phoenix. Her father, a retired army officer, often took her to shows where he worked security. The family also saw blues shows together and Royse loved punk rock, took every opportunity to work with some of the bands from her area, and became hooked on audio.

She went on to study at the Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences (CRAS) in Phoenix, where she met David Nichols, one of her most important mentors and owner of Living Head Audio Recording (also in Phoenix), where she worked for several years.

Recording proved a natural fit: “I definitely had that muscle memory for punching in,” she says, explaining that on the rare occasions the local radio played punk, she’d record new tracks on her cassette deck. “I hated guys who would talk over the first couple licks. I’d be like, ‘Shut up,’ and then try to hit the red button and catch that first chord.”

Eventually Royse partnered to found a studio, but it was her first regular live gig at a local venue that led to her heading out on the road, pretty much for good: “I got an emergency call from the PM at the local arena. He said, ‘The monitor engineer stormed off, can you mix wedges?’ I went, ‘I don’t know. I’ve mixed mostly headphones in the studio. It’s the same thing, right? Sure, I’ll be right there’.”

Not everyone was thrilled with her career choice, she adds. “Adults want an answer to questions like, ‘What are you doing?’ So the answer was, ‘I’m traveling.’ But I kind of did it originally to get out of going to college.”

Nichols was highly supportive, Royse continues, although like other adults he did insist that she “get a degree, in something,” she notes, laughing. “So I got an undergraduate at community college while working for him and at venues.” As for the naysayers: “By that point they didn’t get much of an option. The tattoos were spreading. If they tried to make me go to law school, I probably wouldn’t have done very well.”

Granted, few outside of the production world have an accurate picture of road life. “It can be glamorous and fun, but it’s hard work. Like, in two weeks on a South American run I’ve supposedly seen four countries. Then I get home and someone asks, ‘How was Panama?’ and I’m thinking ‘I was in Panama?’.”

That’s where balance – on and off the road – comes in. She feels fortunate to have come across people who enjoy pursuits such as hiking and sailing while sharing similar outlooks and values. In fact, this network took her to Montana, where she now splits time as a resident. It’s also a reflection of her desire for balance.

“I followed John Wicks from Fitz and the Tantrums. He and his family moved here years ago to open Drum Coffee,” Royse says. “We’ve got several rock stars in town looking suspiciously comfortable at my coffee shop lately.”

Noticing Similarities

Eventually, she purchased a Sears catalog (mail order) house, built in the 1930s, in Missoula (MT). “I want to maintain the look but bring it up to code because it’s literally a shack,” Like I need one more project right?” she says. “So, again, just that perfect balance; I come to LA and I’m doing television shows and the Grammys, then I go to Montana and don’t do my hair for a week and nobody cares.”

There are, again, parallels to life on the road. “Accountability in a small town – you think you’re going to tick off one contractor and everyone else won’t hear about it? You’ve got to respect the network,” she says. “I was redoing the house and had to get structural permits. My mom was laughing – she’s kind of in the same industry, doing back end for high-end resorts, and she understands the logistics.

“So I can complain to her about the same processes. I was setting up LA Pride at the time and she noted the similarities. I had meetings with the city about new, structural decisions for next year and I swear I was getting some phone calls mixed up. You know, ‘Which structural expert am I talking to?’ It’s driving home structural weight distribution in a whole new way. So cool.”

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