Daniel Sproul of Rose Hill Drive: Illuminating the Possibilites

The days of a 16 year and counting career is something that seems to be of the past, a different era in comparison to the now fast-paced millennial lifestyle. An exploratory, arguably United, America of start-ups, evolving technology and endless content at one’s fingertips makes five-year plans feel ancient, almost pre-historic. To have a veteran career in the music industry, when the “next-best-thing” is already yesterday’s decomposition of the remnants of its viral explosion, is absolutely unheard of. And yet Boulder-bred Rose Hill Drive is doing just that, entering 2017 with almost two decades of experience under their belts and ready to reignite the dream they always had.

The genesis of Rose Hill Drive began in the early 2000’s, “We started doing national work and touring long before we put out any records. A lot of that is just grinding it out, driving the van overnight to small clubs.We did that for several years, with some of the cool opener slots sprinkled in,” says Daniel Sproul, bassist of Rose Hill. The band also consisted of Jacob Sproul, brother of Daniel, on guitar and vocals as well as their childhood friend, Nathan Barnes, on drums. Rolling Stones Magazine listed them as one of the “10 New Artists to Watch” in April 2007 after their self-titled debut album was released. The band then saw a lot of attention from their second album, Moon is the New Earth, with their single “Sneak Out” making it on the video game Guitar Hero 5.

Constantly hitting the road, or rather just never getting off the tour bus, they shared the stage with an impressive list of noteworthy rock stars. They made national and international appearances and toured stadiums with Van Halen and Stone Temple Pilots. In that time, the band quickly wrote and recorded a third album and created their own label, Slow and Shirley. Daniel recalls the story of how the third album came to be, “We put out Americana under that label (Slow and Shirley) mainly because we wanted to have something to get to fans, or potential fans, when we were opening up for Stone Temple Pilots. Because we were playing all this new music,” they had to keep up with the momentum and demand. They also added a fourth band member, bassist Jimmy Stofer, and things seemed to be taking off. And then, they paused.

A five-year pause.

A lot happens in five years. Daniel, now a Longmont resident with wife and daughter, dove into the world of commercial music and licensing. Riding down a channel of the music industry, that he says he wasn’t aware really even existed, has experienced a lot of growth and exciting challenges writing music in this format. Through his now father-in-law, and a past producer of Rose Hill Drive, Daniel was connected to a recording studio that focused on commercial music and voice over recordings. Both Daniel and brother Jacob made their way into the contract commercial world within the past couple of years; creating music for corporations as notable as Starbucks, he considers it a fortunate opportunity to “be creative and make music, and not really be attached to it.” He even tells “my favorite part is once it’s done, it’s done. You don’t have to go play it every night on tour.”

However, the touring life didn’t completely vanish from the lives of Daniel and Jacob, Daniel actually enjoys life on the road as much as being home. They both spent a couple of years on tour with artist Ryan Bingham leading guitar sections and backup vocals. While playing music and collaborating with other musicians can be rewarding, the main focus now is to get Rose Hill Drive back in full swing.

What inspires him and motivates the desire to push the boundaries, see what the potential of Rose Hill could finally become? “I’m always listening to old rock and roll, it never really leaves me. I think the thing that was the most inspiring to me was getting out and playing my guitar. Just doing that and being on the road, I wanted to do that with MY band. I want to do that with the music we make, that’s where the inspiration came from for me. I want to keep the dream alive and keep pushing it and see what happens.”

So, after such a long break, was the idea of Rose Hill something of the past? “That always crossed my mind,” Daniel said. “That was never really something that I wanted to have happen but it was going out on my own with Ryan (Bingham), Jake got really into creating electronic music, and Nate’s now with Mary Chapin Carpenter here and there playing. I think doing these different projects created this space for us to be able to come back together in a new and fresh environment. I think it’s just such a part of my core and so much the reason that I love music, so to be able to have it come back together now is tremendously exciting. I really just want to take it as far as it can go.”

But what about the music industry? So much has changed since the release of Americana in 2011. Does a band with name recognition and a long list of accolades have the fear of adjusting to the mass accessibility of an over saturated market? “We got started and got to know the music industry right before it changed. When the whole record label business crashed. If you have something that resonates with people, then it’s amazing. But at the same time, it creates a pretty diluted pool. You can make a record in your bedroom and put it on iTunes without even leaving your bed.”

Daniel has a point, and are mediums like Facebook, YouTube and Spotify more of a hindrance than a help? Where does Rose Hill Drive fit, how does one create a plan or even know what steps to take next? “We are trying to make a plan but it’s just kind of funny because there is no agency, no management, no record label, it’s just us. There is this sense of freedom that’s exciting but at the same time I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing. It’s interesting to get to know the different aspects that I’ve been around for years and years and just had no idea the inner workings of it.”

So maybe the best laid plan is to not have one, and like they did at the beginning of their career, focus on making music they love and let the fan base grow in an organic way. Daniel admits, “I don’t even know where to begin with it. Part of me wants to just put it out and see what the response is. It’s almost like, if you put something out and it’s destined to be popular, people are going to share it. People do the word-of-mouth now across the world in milliseconds, it’s insane the speed of information and how many you can reach. I almost want to test the waters and just put a song out.”

And, the great thing is, the possibilities are endless. The band has reformulated as the original trio with a wealth of extra knowledge and experiences.“Currently we kind of have a clean slate… I feel like I have gained a totally different perspective on playing live and the difference of being 32 now vs 16 when we started, so I guess it’s just pure excitement. The songs are strong and playing with Jake and Nate is my favorite thing to do.” The band has reformulated as the original trio with a wealth of extra knowledge and experiences.

When it came time for Rose Hill Drive to get together again and focus on making music for them again, it wasn’t something that could be planned or forced. “It happens randomly, there are so many times you want to just sit down and nothing’s happening.” The idea of carving out a scheduled time and place to write really isn’t how they jive. When the inspiration strikes, you have to be ready, “it’s a disservice if you don’t sit down and try to capture it. You can’t make it happen, when it’s there you gotta take advantage of it. A lot of times we’ll come up with something individually and then make a demo and then the band will get together and record it.”

Even in the writing and recording process, so much has changed. “I work in Logic, this Apple program, and if I have an idea in just a handful of hours I can make this full sounding song. It’s not just sitting down with an acoustic guitar and trying to translate it to other guys in the band. You can completely illuminate the idea that you had in your head sonically because you’ve got this drummer that lives in your computer. The tools are really powerful these days.” Having to go out and find a musician that can execute an idea that one might have in their head is a “thing of the past now” Daniel says.

“The band feels and sounds better than ever,” and this month, the Denver and Fort Collins shows are an opportunity to get back on stage with the band, play some of the older music, as well as lend a platform to expose some of the new things they have been working on. “We have been working on this new record and I’m super excited about it. Just finished mixing it.”

Daniel shares that the he personally, as well as the rest of the band, are thrilled to expose the new music but they aren’t quite ready to divulge all the upcoming plans for Rose Hill Drive. “Definitely working on some other stuff, can’t really say yet, but some exciting things in the future. I just can’t wait to get out and play. I’m hoping to release music as soon as possible, I think people are going to like it, I get a good feeling from it.”

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Though the Denver show is sold-out, there are still tickets available for their show on December 31, in Ft Collins at Hodi's Half Note. Get tickets here!