- Associated Press - Monday, June 1, 2015

DETROIT (AP) - Royce Nunley is prepared to set down his bass and pick up a brief as he begins his “second act” as an attorney.

Nunley, 39, of Ferndale graduated from Wayne State University Law School on May 18.

His road from music to the law was a long one. After graduating from high school in 1994, he toured for eight years as bassist for the successful punk rock band The Suicide Machines. They did major tours of Europe twice, Japan four times and multiple tours of the United States and Canada.

Born in Redford, his parents were both blue-collar folks with a strong work ethic.

“Both my mom and dad worked very hard, which I believe had a great deal to do with how I turned out,” he told the Detroit Legal News ( https://bit.ly/1HI2Ce3 ).

Nunley jokes that he became a bass player by default. He had been a trumpeter in the school band since third grade and had learned to read music.

“My friends and I were just discovering punk rock music around 1991 or so and decided we should find a way to start a band,” he says. “One already had a guitar, we knew somebody who had a drum set, so I had to be the bass player. I talked my mom into buying me a bass when I was 14. She maintains that it was one of the biggest mistakes she has ever made. I disagree.”

Nunley says that his interest in school was limited, but that he loved both music and languages. A teacher who told him he would never learn a foreign language didn’t discourage him, but instead acted as a motivation.

“That always stuck with me, and eventually, when I got a break from touring, I decided that I was going to learn how to speak Spanish,” he says. “So, I studied the language for two years, moved to Spain for two years, came back and graduated with a degree in Spanish. Now, after all that, I am fluent in the language.”

After earning a degree in Spanish, he considered where to go next academically.

“I chose law school for a few reasons. First, a degree in Spanish isn’t very ‘marketable,’” he said. “My angry punk rock youth made me cognizant of social justice issues, and I figured that becoming a lawyer could be a good way to work for change from the inside, rather than the outside.”

Wayne Law was chosen for pragmatic reasons, mostly geographical.

“I lived in Detroit and worked in Detroit,” he says. “I could not afford to quit my job to move somewhere else to go to law school.”

Nunley says that his biggest law school challenge wasn’t academic, it was time management.

“My girlfriend and I split up my first month of law school,” he says. “My son was 5 months old at the time. I picked him up every Friday after school and dropped him off every Monday before school. I was also working nights as a bartender. Trying to keep up with the reading in my classes, raise a baby, and work a night job was tricky, but I survived.”

Nunley believes that long tours with a successful band prepared him for the long hours and sleep deprivation of law school.

“Touring the way that I did was a lot harder than law school,” he says. “In school you go to class, read some books, and take a test. Time management can be tricky, but I thought it was manageable. On tour, you are working from the minute you wake up till the minute you go to bed, driving sometimes hundreds of miles a day, for months at a time. I remember coming home from tours and barely getting out of bed for a few days at a time trying to recover.”

Eventually burned out by the demands of touring, he slowly made the evolution to producer, opening Ringside Recording Studios and Broken Spoke Records in Detroit.

“I wrote a lot of songs for the Suicide Machines and had a habit of recording all the instruments and vocals myself before giving the songs to the rest of the band to hear,” he says. “I had done it so many times for my own songs before I started recording other people’s music that I had a good idea of what to do.”

At the same time he also worked as a sound engineer and tour manager for the Reverend Horton Heat, a rockabilly band from Texas, and was part of its European, Canadian and national tours.

When he finally decided to pursue law, Nunley says that his former music colleagues were supportive, if a bit skeptical.

“I was skeptical myself,” he says. “I assumed that I would have absolutely nothing in common with anybody at the law school. Fortunately, I was wrong.”

Nunley plans to start his own law firm doing immigration, employment, and criminal law.

“Hopefully, in 10 years I will still be working for myself, practicing law in a way that makes me feel good about myself and my decision to go to law school.”

But music will still be part of his life. He’s been in a band called Radio Burns for a couple years.

“I still love playing music and hope that I will be playing in some form or another for a long time to come.”

___

Information from: Detroit Legal News, https://www.legalnews.com/detroit

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