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A Dirty Dozen with ASHLEY RILEY – August 2020

| 27 August 2020 | Reply


According to a recent press release: “Decatur, IL-based Americana singer-songwriter Ashley Riley is set to release her latest single, “Close to Me,” on August 28, 2020. “Close to Me” won the Midwest Music Expo Listening Panel in May 2020, and after many requests from fans that she release it, Riley decided it was high time to officially put the song out into the universe. Riley has been a staple in the music scene of her hometown Long Creek, IL, where she got her start hosting open mics in the Decatur area around 2008, helping to revitalize and nurture the underground singer-songwriter scene in town. After starting as an acoustic-based songwriter on her first record, Riley realized by her second album that her songs begged for a band, and her subsequent albums got the full-band treatment to glowing reviews.” We get Ashley to discuss new music, influences, and much more…

Photo Credit: Joe Riley

1. Tell us a little about your latest release.  What might a fan or listener not grab the first or second time they listen through?  Are there any hidden nuggets you put in the material or that only diehard fans might find?

I’m releasing a new single called “Close to Me.”  It’s the first taste of a new album I’ve been working on and plan to release early next year.  I didn’t hide any little clues or anything, but it’s a good representation of the mood of what I’ve been working on.

2. What got you into music, and can you tell us about the moment you realized you wanted to be a musician?

I remember being 15 and riding around my hometown with these 2 older girls who I thought were so much cooler than me.  They were playing the Jewel album Pieces of You, and I’d never heard anything like it.  I just remember thinking I wanted to do that!  I wanted to get a guitar and write folk songs.  I didn’t get a guitar until probably eight  years later, but it was then that I started seeking out music instead of just listening to whatever was on Top 40.

3. Building on that, is there a specific song, album, performer, or live show that guided your musical taste?

Not necessarily, but I did go through a phase when I was a very new songwriter where I only liked to listen to live albums. I loved hearing everything stripped back and acoustic.  I think that phase helped me to decipher what makes me like a song and feel like it stands up on it it’s own, without all the instrumentation.  That’s important to me since I go through seasons where I play solo acoustic more than with a band.

4. Who would be your main five musical influences?

This is a hard question because my influences change a lot. I’m always finding new music to love, and then I’ll circle back to things I loved years ago.  That said, these five were probably the most influential at different times for me: Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – You just can’t go wrong.  I feel like with Tom Petty, his songs really belong to him and his voice, and he’s the only one who sounds right singing them… but at the same time, they belong to everyone.  Like, everyone knows the lyrics to some Tom Petty songs, right?!; Patty Griffin – Her storytelling and perspective were a game changer to me.  Living with Ghosts is a favorite; Neil Young – I listened to a lot of Neil Young when I first started writing.  I was really into his guitar playing and just the vibe, I guess; Brandi Carlile – Brandi and the twins are amazing to see live; you can tell how much they put into their live show. It’s an art unto itself. That’s inspiring to me; and Jewel – I kind of got a guitar because of Jewel, so she always makes the list.

5. If you could call in any one collaborator to do a song with, who would it be, and why?

Can it be a group?  I’m gonna pretend that’s okay and choose a supergroup… The Highwomen. That would be a good one!

6. How would you describe your music to someone who’d never listened to you before? What is the one comparison a reviewer or fan has made that made you cringe or you disagreed with?

I like to tell people that my style is Dreamy Americana and if they look at me like, “Huh?” Then I just say, “It’s kinda like Stevie Nicks mixed with Sheryl Crow, maybe?” They usually think that’s cool.  To be honest, a lot of people will say I sound like Stevie Nicks, and I never really heard it, but I’ve embraced it now. I think I get what they’re saying.

7. When your band is hanging out together, who cooks, who gets the drinks in, and who is first to crack out the acoustic guitars for a singalong?

At the moment I’m a one-woman show, so it’s all on me.

8. When was the last time you were starstruck and who was it?

I went to AmericanaFest in Nashville last year, and Sheryl Crow was performing this intimate set in a small venue.  My friend and I were like five people back from the stage, so we had an amazing view.  Sheryl Crow and her band were incredible, and then out comes Bonnie Raitt, like what?!  When she opened her mouth and sang, I just got chills. I mean, I didn’t meet any of them or anything, but just being there, that close… I’d say I was starstruck.

9. What is the best part of being a musician? If you could no longer be a musician for whatever reason, what would be your dream job?

I think my favorite part of being a musician is sharing music, and the connection that it creates with other people. I have a hard time waiting to share something when I’m done. I think it’s really important to think through how you want to present a new song, and the artwork and video and everything that helps you to get it out there, but when I write something or finish a recording that resonates with me, my instinct is just to put it out there.  So I guess I’m also impatient. If I couldn’t be a musician – that’s not something I like to think about really – could I still help other people make music, like be an audio engineer?  I feel like it would be some part of the process still.  I do a lot of my own video and photo work, and I can get really into that, so maybe design of some sort.

10. What is one question you have always wanted an interviewer to ask – and what is the answer? Conversely, what question are you tired of answering?

Hmmm, maybe something easy like which “Friends” character are you?  I love those random quizzes on Facebook that tell you that you should live in Hawaii or that you have a heart of gold like a golden retriever.  It’s a good way to pass the time. I’m Phoebe, btw. I don’t really get tired of answering questions, but I have a hard time narrowing things down to one. I think about it way too seriously, lol.

11. Looking back over your career, is there a single moment or situation you feel was a misstep or you would like to have a “do over,” even if it didn’t change your current situation?

I can’t think of a particular moment that I felt like was a misstep, but I do think in the past, I might have had a tendency to look to other people to tell me what to do, and as a result maybe I didn’t lead as well or present myself in the way I feel confident enough to do now.  That might just be an overall human thing, learning to trust yourself.

12. If you could magically go back in time and be a part of the recording sessions for any one record in history, which would you choose – and what does that record mean to you?

That is a really cool question; I’ve never thought about that.  Now I’m wondering if I should choose something that I know was an amazing session, or would it be really interesting to be in on a session of a global one-hit wonder like say, Right Said Fred?!  I always enjoy watching the video of Bob Dylan at the “We Are the World” recording, so maybe that one.





Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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