For many artists, COVID-19 has been harsh, but not for Tim & The Glory Boys. The band, which is transitioning from Christian to contemporary country, landed a record deal with Sony Music and has been getting attention for hit singles like When You Know You Know and Without A Prayer – all while the world was under attack from COVID-19.
The resulting new music is a powerful blend of country, bluegrass and positivity – a bit like country favourites Washboard Union.
Frontman Tim Neufeld was so excited about the change and their quick growth that he called 519 before Christmas to check in.
A lot of the entertainment industry has kind of gone downhill with COVID, but a lot has happened for you guys. We’ll start with the change from independent to major label.
The pandemic happened and all I got was a record deal out of it. It was very unexpected. And when you think about these things as a young musician, or even as you’re starting a band, it’s like nobody would guess it would happen during this apocalyptic time that we’re living in right now. But as it turns out, it allows you to focus on it in ways that I think we would have been hard-pressed to do had we been keeping up our rigorous touring schedule. When we’re stuck at home and all we can do is make videos and the online shows and all the things that go into developing a brand with a record label, we had nothing but time. So it was kind of wonderful.
You just got… Normally, I would say off the road, but you just probably got off the cheapest road trip you’ve ever had.
Yeah. We did the cheapest tour of all time in that it was free. And we actually made money and that there was some people that generously filled up our tip jar here and there. And that was wonderful. But yes, we decided to try to tour virtually, but still make it exclusive to the places that we were touring. So it wasn’t our whole list. Every time that we went online with Facebook live or whatever, it turned out in a roundabout way. There were certainly smaller shows than they could have been, but all people ever want is exclusivity. And they want to feel like VIP’s and they want to have their own essentially kind of a private show. And that’s what we were able to give them.
We would geo tag the place that we were playing. So nobody outside of say Windsor, Ontario could be a part of it, or London show, and it worked wonderfully and it was just such a cool give back. We’ve also never done anything online until this year. That’s also been just rewarding in ways that we didn’t think it could be. And as it turns out doing these shows, whether it’s in-person or online, that human connection is the same. And that’s all we’re really looking for is just to engage in that ancient ritual of singing and performing and entertaining and laughing together. And it works when we’re sitting on our tour bus in Chilliwack, BC, and we’re doing it for 10 or 20 screens in places like Windsor, Ontario.
Were there rituals that you would do in a sense where, on the road, you have a routine that you do every day. Is there a routine to a virtual tour?
Well, we developed some, we invited one of our Halloween decorations who plays banjo at the skeleton to join all of our shows. It was a developing character. I’ll put it that way. And it’s kind of nice too, because we’re on the bus and we’re sitting down. So we had a bottle of wine for almost all the shows and we would just slowly go through it. And that was a different element for me. I’ve done so much stuff in churches. I guess mine is the only acceptable alcoholic drink, but not on stage obviously. We never do that. But it was just cool to be able to do that and just be like, we’re hanging out in the living room versus on stage with the lights on us. And everybody is expecting us to do our song and dance. It was a very casual feeling, which just makes us more relaxed and ultimately makes the show better.
You guys mostly toured in churches before. If this was a real tour where do you think it would have been?
We’re trying to move to mostly neutral venues, theaters, lots of soft suitor theaters. We really enjoy that versus a partial arena or a mega church that can hold a lot of people. Ultimately, we want people to feel comfortable at our shows, no matter their background. And that has seemed to be a resounding neutral venue kind of a response. And so we’ve tried to do that. We’re not afraid of playing in churches. We love playing for church folks and in a lot of the places that we played, the only venue and therefore, the biggest venue is the church. And they’ve been so gracious to us. They were so good to us over the years. I believe we’ll always continue to play churches here and there as they make sense. Sure.
I caught you guys about two years ago on the Buffalo road show when you came to Windsor.
That was in a church. And I think at this point, this tour that you did, if it was a real tour, would have probably been in clubs or in different venues. Is that true?
If we had done this tour, I guess, yeah. We’re trying to move to mostly neutral venues, theaters, lots of soft suitor theaters. We really enjoy that versus a partial arena or a mega church that can hold a lot of people. Ultimately, we want people to feel comfortable at our shows, no matter their background. And that has seemed to be a resounding neutral venue kind of a response. And so we’ve tried to do that. We’re not afraid of playing in churches. We love playing for church folks and in a lot of the places that we played, the only venue and therefore, the biggest venue is the church. And they’ve been so gracious to us. They were so good to us over the years. I believe we’ll always continue to play churches here and there as they make sense. Sure.
The music is definitely taking a more non-religious direction. Not that there’s not messages in the song, it’s just not as upfront.
Yeah. Not as overtly gospel, which I think is a lot more how we live our lives too. I would say our faith inspires the music and the lyrics and it is a reflection of who we are as people. So it’s in the songs, but again, our goal is not to proselytize or try to win people over to any kind of religion. It’s, honestly just to see who we are and to entertain.
We weren’t sure how that would go, if people would believe us, but overwhelmingly country music fans have. And it’s been such a cool thing to feel now, like we’re part of a new family in country music that we really didn’t know we had. And it’s been fun to try to merge the two families, and so far for nothing, but just harmony and everybody gets it.
We’re not losing fans. We’re not having the new fans approach us really with caution and trepidation. It’s just been awesome.
It’s worked. And most importantly, we’re having the time of our lives and being in music for as long as I have, I just feel like I finally found my voice in country music and literally, and figuratively in that I’m a baritone and I have this deep voice that suits the genre and I’ve grown up mimicking some of these great baritone artists like Johnny Cash and, and figuratively, because I feel like this is the music I was brought up on. And I’m full circle coming back to it and just falling in love with it all over again. Bluegrass Country music and the industry that fuels it.
We just love every opportunity we get. We’re giddy, like a brand new band playing out of their parents’ garage. And we just can’t wait for what, 2021 and 22 brings for sure.
I can’t see the Christian fans not liking the new music. The music is still bluegrass at heart and it’s all positive stuff. So it’s a win-win. It’s not like you became a heavy metal band.
Well, there are the heavy metal bands in Christian music, too. I grew up listening to back up Stryper, which you should look up if you get a chance. Because it is ridiculousness in a good way, in a playful way, in the same way that we look back on the hair metal bands of the eighties and their spandex and their teased hair and laugh. It’s just the Christian version of that. But yeah, we’re not much different.
I think the one thing that maybe for the church it’s taken a little bit to navigate it. It’s just that we’re singing these love songs, which is fully acceptable to be in love and to have long lasting, healthy relationships.
Traditionally in the church, there hasn’t been any romantic music that has made its way into worship services or anything.
It’s just always been a separate thing where it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. It never has to me. And we’re having so much fun if we’re stirring it up, it’s with these wholesome love songs.
I feel like that’s a pretty good way to stir it up and feel pretty necessary in that there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be celebrated. And that’s not really what we’re trying to do, but it is as effective making this switch to more mainstream country music. It’s been fun to watch people squirm a little bit, but then like you said, be accepting of it in the long run.
Why don’t we talk about the most obvious love song “When You Know You Know”.
Yes, obvious a love song. It is a song about that moment of just realizing that you are in love and there was someone in love with you. And that’s why that expression exists. Because it’s hard to put mask to it or to use logic. It’s one of those things that really takes following your gut.
When I first heard the song, and recorded it, one of the most rewarding things has been, just incorporating my parents’ love into the branding of it. We found a picture of them from one of those old family albums with the cellophane. We peel it off and pull the five by seven photo out of it. And it was from their wedding day, just coming off the alter, confetti spill on their shoulders and just looking so in love with this gorgeous couple in 1971, it’s Thunder Bay, Ontario.
And we just thought, man, they have to be the cover art for the single. It’s exactly what comes up if you listen to the song in Spotify or Apple. I think that’s so cool.
They’ll be married 50 years in June of this coming year. So less than a year. I can’t think of a better example of knowing that two people sticking together that long through the thick and thin. And I have to say, they’ve been an amazing example for me. I’ve now been married 17 years, have three kids, 11, 10, and 7, and it just works. And that’s not everybody’s experience. I totally understand that. There’s no judgment at all. It’s just that we might go celebrate when it happens. And it happens in a way that is healthy and that becomes a legacy for the generations that are up and coming to follow and to be inspired by.
That kind of person doesn’t sound like a man who is “Without a Prayer”, as I slowly kind of segue into your newest hit song.
Yes. So here’s the truth about it though. We need our team, we need our crew, or we need our partner, our spouse to truly realize whatever relationship you’re in. It needs to be a two-way street. And there needs to be that honesty to say like, “Hey, I really can’t do this on my own.” And that’s the whole point of partnering up with somebody long-term. It’s a commitment to say, I’m going to be humble and eat my words when I need to. I’m going to admit when I’m wrong, I’m going to play my part. And I need you to sharpen me to keep me better. And that’s an appropriate posture to go into a relationship with.
So Without a Prayer is basically saying that I’m lost without you, I need you and together there’s synergy there. And that’s what this song plays out. I feel like I’m giving the very emotional relational explanation for these songs. But I suppose I should consider that as I’m thinking these romantic scenes now, I joked with my band mate, Colin that we should put together a relationship therapy online kind of YouTube show where we can take calls. And now that we’re experts on the subject after releasing two mediocrely successful songs about the subject we can speak through without our doctorate.
A lot of times when you want to know more information about a song, you kind of ask where the song came from, but this one was co-written by your manager.
So Brad Rempel is the greatest guy and obviously, just an uber talented musician writer. But also a bit of a country music mogul, and Canadian country music and American, and he’s signed to a major American label and he’s doing amazing things. And he’s had really successful songs and I’ve watched him, we’ve known each other for about 20 years. He was in Christian music early on with High Valley and he’s taken a similar path. And it worked out. A few years ago, we happened to meet up in Nashville at the Bluebird randomly. And we had breakfast together and just started talking about country music and what maybe could be for us in the future. And all of this has come out of that relationship.
And we’re grateful for all of it. Probably mostly for the incredible songs that as somebody who’s always had to write my own songs, it has been so refreshing to be able to lean on and draw from people like Brad and the other writers on these tunes to help us say the things that we’re trying to say and learn as we go. I figured writing gospel music would be an easy transition to country music. I was so wrong. It feels like a different muscle altogether. And I’ve just so enjoyed having something that I’m not good at that I get to learn in my old age. And that learning process has been so rewarding.
So in some ways I can see, High Valley and Tim and the Glory Boys doing a tour together. But when I looked at your Facebook page, I see an upcoming event in May with some unknown guy, Clint Black.
Yeah. Some dude from the ’90s who’s still very much alive and well.
These are the kinds of opportunities that I still feel like an imposter. I see the ad on our site. We know about the fact that it’s coming up, COVID, it’s kind of made it weird because it was supposed to already happen so that it feels even more cerebral. Is it happening? Is this real? Are we signed to Sony? Is Clint Black really going to say, “Next up, welcome Tim and the Glory Boys.”? And all the other conversations going on. And it just seemed out of this world insane. And it’s so cool. And we’re having so much fun and it hardly feels like a job. It’s this party that just keeps getting bigger and we’re along for the ride. And so when names like Clint Black get thrown around, it’s not lost on me for a second. And we’re just so still blown away by the opportunities.
So the last song that we all know about is the new one that just came out a couple of weeks ago, “Right Back Atcha”. Tell me about that song.
Yeah. It’s probably my favorite song to play and it’s the most, for lack of a better word blue-grassy, which for all of us, it’s that triggered in a good way for long nights of just jamming on the box and loving the ride that it allows us to go on. Bluegrass has this playfulness to it. There’s a permission in it to just be a little reverence musically. And I just love, especially coming out of gospel music where it’s a lot of seriousness, a lot of the time, it’s just that these upbeat love songs just about wanting to hang out and be with the one you love.
It is so refreshing musically. And then subject matters also, it’s light. It’s fun. It’s airy. It’s singing about the things that make us all universally happy. The weirdest thing is that for all of these singles, we just haven’t had the chance to really play them in front of people because of COVID. I can’t even imagine what it’s like to be on a festival stage somewhere for 5, 10,000 people and have them sing along. I think I’m just going to break down and it’s going to be a terrible show, but a great experience.
So are the new songs going to be part of an upcoming album or EP?
They are. I think that’s in the works. Everything’s changing by the month as songs do unexpectedly well, and we have to scramble and take seriously, all the things that could go one way or the other. But yes, there has been very serious talk about an EP, seven, eight songs, and then more music getting recorded and, and lots of fun, exciting, entertaining things into 2022. For sure.
It seem like you have a lot of fun when you’re together, all the videos, when you’re on the bus, or even in your music videos, unless it’s a super serious song, of course, but you, you seem to have a lot of fun. So whoever the band is the one that has the most fun, who’s the practical joker?
Definitely at the top between Colin and I, but I think everybody else would probably vote Colin. He’s the Energizer bunny, but he’s also Mr. Positive. And he’s the kind of person you want to be around on tour that eternal optimist extrovert to whip the rest of us up when we’re just sort of getting a little lazy, or we want to spend another night just on the bus without getting into trouble somewhere in a random town. And when I say trouble, I don’t mean real trouble, but there is that, you get into the tunnel when you’re on the road. And it’s easy to just get inward and not experience the places that you’re in after the show. You get off the bus, there’s the parking lot.
There’s the back of it arena. You walked through the door, you get on stage for your time. You come off and get back on the bus and Colin is the remedy for that routine, which I’m so grateful for. And it keeps us all on our toes. It’s humor and that fun, loving sort of thing that you’re picking up on is exactly what we try to lead within that we won’t really even say yes to an opportunity unless we do the math and figure out whether we can bring our one wheels or before our just have time within that, wherever we are to get into the downtown. And again, that’s at the 150 year old pub or whatever it is that happens to be there. I just think it’s important to keep that at the forefront. So it doesn’t feel like a job where we can be at our back to entertain and to really dig in and engage with those that we’re in, in front of every night.
It sounds to me like you’re just dying to get back on the road?
Are you picking up on that? What I meant when I said we encode them the blessing when it comes to the label stuff is we’ve never even thought about our singles going to rate, or even streaming. Our streaming numbers are about a million times higher now that we’ve actually got a partner in Sony that is an expert at exactly that. Those are the partners that we haven’t had. And therefore, that side suffered, but now that there’s all of this streaming happening and we have radio singles climbing the charts, it feels like we’re a fully three dimensional band. And before that, it was just the road stuff. And so the road stuff has always been very important to us and it’s all we’ve ever done.
So when it went away, even though there was all this other amazing stuff going on, it felt like a big hole. And we were, in a way, wallowing in this impossible loop where we have all of these things, we’ve worked so hard for, including a Boston sound system and it’s all paid for. We’re just set up to do this, but we can’t actually go out and do the thing that we feel like we have worked so hard to be ready to do. So, now that there’s hope, and we’re able to see light at the end of this tunnel sometime in 2021, and we get to have it all, it’s almost 200 people to think about. It just seems impossible. Like I was saying earlier, like we’re in this dream, but I think it’s going to be a really good year, and getting back to touring is going to feel as amazing as we think it’s going to.
Yeah, the pandemic you’re coming out of it is almost victorious in a way.
With three hits on our hands. I don’t know if that’s ever been done. Just keep putting socks at red. You’ll never do it until you’ve got enough that you can fill an arena. Maybe that’s what’s going to happen. We’re the next biggest thing, I don’t think so. I mean, there’s great momentum and we couldn’t be happier.