Rising country artist Riley Roth made a splash earlier this year with her single “Friendly” which quickly amassed over 380K streams on Spotify alone. It was a release from her Altadena label – a joint effort with the late producer Busbee who had taken interest in Riley’s music early on. She just released her Christmas cover, “Silver Bells,” which is already earning her great attention and finding it’s way onto many prominent playlists.
I got the chance to chat with about how she got started making and performing music, her Christmas single, what’s next in 2020 and more! Keep reading to see what she had to say!
Tell me first a little bit about how you got into making and performing music.
My parents told me growing up that I started singing before I could talk. They would be driving me around in the car and my babbling had a bit of a melody to it. So honestly, I don’t really remember a time in my life where singing isn’t what I wanted to do. Around 10 years old, I got a guitar in my hands for the first time and started writing my first song. So when I hit the stage for the first time, it just made sense and I fell in love with it. The rest is kind of history as they say it.
Was there a specific moment or person that made you realize that music is what you wanted to pursue professionally and that it wasn’t just a hobby anymore?
Yeah. My my mom was a big country music fan – she still is – and she took me to a Keith Urban concert, which was my first concert. I think I was eight years old. And I remember sitting in the crowd and seeing him perform and it just hit me like, “This is what I want to do someday. I want to be up there connecting with all these people and singing the songs that I write.”
Kind of going off of that, besides Keith Urban, who are some of your biggest musical influences?
Yeah, so the earliest is definitely Keith and Shania Twain. I remember at five years old finding one of her CDs around the house and putting that in the karaoke machine. I was very young and singing “Man, I Feel Like A Woman,” which is just very funny [laughs]. But besides that, I’m a huge fan of the Zac Brown Band, Lee Brice, Thomas Rhett but also as I’ve gotten older, some pop influences too like Julia, Michaels and Dua Lipa.
Something I’m always genuinely curious about is what artists want to convey with their music. So if you had to describe your sound without using genre names, how would you describe it?
I think my music is very genuine to me. I want to portray who I am as a person, not just who I am as an artist. I’m a 21 year old girl, so I write about what I know and what I go through, which is falling in love for the first time and breakups and hanging out with my friends. So, through that, I want my music to be relatable to my peers and also just to help them through situations. I want people to have fun when they listen to my music and feel confident about themselves.
I want to talk about your cover of “Silver Bells.” Why did you choose that specific Christmas song out of all the hundreds of thousands of other Christmas songs that are out there?
It was an easy choice for me. “Silver Bells” has always been my favorite Christmas song. Instantly when I hear it, I just get so excited for the Christmas season and I love Christmas in New York City. When I hear this, I can picture the hustle and bustle on the city streets. I mean, that’s even a lyric in the song. And it makes me think of going out and shopping and getting ready for Christmas. I love the whole season of giving. Growing up, my family would ring a bell for the Salvation Army, so this reminds me of that and it reminds me of home in that way. So yeah, it really made sense for me to record this one.
Was covering a Christmas song and like releasing it out into the world, something you would always wanted to do?
Yeah, I mean I literally aggressively love Christmas [laughs]. Even before Thanksgiving hits, I’m already listening to Christmas music and decorating my apartment. So when I was approached with this idea, I lit up. I was so excited. So it definitely made sense to me.
What was the recording process and creating your own arrangement like for “Silver Bells”?
First of all, I love Dean Martin’s version, that’s the one that I grew up listening to. But I wanted to listen to some other versions to pull some inspiration and see the different ways people were putting spins on it and how I could make it my own. I recorded this one with a co-writer and producer Ben West and when we were in the studio doing this, we thought it would be fun to put a key change in the song to make it a little different. So we sat down at the piano and picked out the right key and it was interesting because we were torn between two so we were like, “To add momentum to the song and to make it my own, why don’t we add a key change?” which was really fun. When I was on the microphone, he was like, “Riley, just imagine that you’re sitting in your living room, just singing the song for fun” and I recorded this down like a performance. It was really, really awesome getting to do it that way.
That’s so cool. You also shot a gorgeous video for “Silver Bells.” What was your experience? like shooting that video? Was that your first time ever shooting a music video or have you done that before?
It was actually my second time recording a music video. I had just done one over the summer for my single, “I Did This To Myself”, but this one definitely had a very different vibe, very classic.
It was so much fun. I got to wear this big sparkly silver gown, which was really fun. I got to play dress-up for the day and wear red lipstick; I don’t get to do that very often [laughs]. But it was really awesome. I worked with Slater on this one from Good Media and he just had such an awesome direction for it. We used a snow machine which was really, really awesome. It was interesting while recording it because I kept inhaling the fake snowflakes [laughs]. So we had to be careful with that, but I’m really excited about how it turned out.
That’s awesome. So we’re getting ready to head into a new year. What does 2020 hold for you in terms of new music? Do you have any plans to release an EP or full length album?
I’m definitely looking forward to releasing another single towards the top of the year and continuing to write. I’ve got some more songs that I recorded with Busbee that’s in the mix and I’m looking forward to releasing those. Also, getting out on the road and being able to connect with people in a live setting.
You’re still kind of relatively new to the music game. What are some of your goals and benchmarks for your career that you’re aiming to reach in the next couple of years?
I am pretty new to releasing music so definitely putting out some more, connecting with fans on a larger scale, whether that is going out on the road or continuing to grow on social media. I’m just excited for people to get to know me and get to know my listeners more and to continue to record new stuff.
So since you just released your cover “Silver Bells”, I figured I’d ask you a few fun Christmas related questions. Do you have a favorite Christmas tradition that you and your family do each year?
Yes! As long as I can remember, every Christmas Eve, we would open one Christmas gift and it would always be Christmas pajamas. As kids, we would then do a little fashion show for my parents. Then, we would all pile in the car and drive around and look at Christmas lights. And now that we’re older, we don’t really don’t really do the fashion show anymore. We still open up a pair of Christmas pajamas every year, which is fun. And now that we’ve gotten older, there is a fire truck that drives around my hometown that’s all decked out in Christmas lights and there is a Santa Claus that hops off the tracks and gives all the dogs in the neighborhood treats. So we take our dog to go do that.
That’s so fun! What was the best gift you ever received on Christmas morning as a kid?
Oh, probably my first guitar. I was so young, it was like a first act guitar, but I just lit up. I was so excited [laughs].
That’s so cool. Do you remember how old you were?
Probably six years old. I mean, I did not know how to even play the guitar, but just the fact that I got to own a guitar made my whole year.
That’s so cool. Last question — we’re called Talk Nerdy With Us because we all have some kind of inner-nerd so what is something you are currently nerding out about?
Tha’ts a good question. I’m trying to pick – there’s so many things that I’m nerding out about. I just discovered this show on Netflix, Grace and Frankie.
Oh yeah, that’s a good one.
I’m such a mega nerd about it right now. I’m telling everyone about it. It’s just hilarious so I’ve been totally antisocial lately and just binge-watching that in my apartment alone.
Photo Credit: John Shearer