Royal Johnson began with just one song. Founders Chance Royal and Andy Johnson, both from Thomaston, GA, got together in May of 2014 to record a simple demo of a song that Johnson had recently written. He laid down some basic guitar and vocals, leaving Royal to work on the rest for a couple days. In that time Royal filled out the song, adding bass and layered guitar work. In the following months the duo developed an entire album of material in this fashion - piece by piece, trading ideas track by track, experimenting and thoughtfully crafting the songs from the ground up, in an extra room at Royal’s house.
Most of the tracks that became Belly Full were recorded solely by Royal and Johnson. Kevin Vines was enlisted to track bass on a few songs, and drum tracks were provided by Justin Raffield and Chris Reeves. Vines brought such an energy to the recordings that he was asked to join the live band, and subsequently brought in drummer Joanie Ferguson as his rhythm section partner.
That foursome, with the occasional addition of Bennie Mobley on harmonica, had an amazing two-year run that took them all over the southeast, captivating audiences of all colors and creeds by playing a variety of venues from central Florida to the North Carolina highlands to western Alabama, sharing stages with the likes of The Doobie Brothers, Stillwater (twice opening their annual reunion show), Jimmy Hall, Jack Pearson, Willie Nelson, Old Crow Medicine Show, The Avett Brothers, Drivin’ n’ Cryin’, Turnpike Troubadours, Robert Lee Coleman, Greensky Bluegrass, Big Mike and the Booty Papas, Joey Huffman and Bobby Golden. They’ve played hockey arenas, large outdoor festivals, craft breweries, listening rooms, wedding receptions, bars and restaurants, intimate theaters, strip clubs, back yard parties, art galleries and mud bogs.