Interview with Ashley Riley; musical influences, recording and ‘See You Around’

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Singer-songwriter and guitarist Ashley Riley from Illinois released her new single “See You Around” in August as a follow-up to her earlier album All The Pretty Things. The album was written as a result of a falling out with a close friend. To accompany the new song, Riley and friends created their own video using a GoPro camera for some of the scenes.

Picking up the guitar in the Spring of 2004, Ashley started writing songs and began her solo career in her hometown of Decatur, IL. She released her debut album, Last One Standing in the Summer of 2008 and in 2010, released Most Likely To.

We had a chance to learn more about Riley, her album All The Pretty Things, her recording process, the DIY video that accompanies her new song “See You Around,” her musical influences, and more.

GGM:  “See You Around” is your new single that just released following your album All The Pretty Things earlier this year. What was the inspiration for releasing a single after the release of an album?

AR:  It seems to happen that each time I put out a new album (All The Pretty Things is my 3rd full length release), I write a bunch of new songs. Maybe it’s because I become so focused on the songs for the album that once it’s finished and ready to be put out, I need a little distance from them or something? I really don’t know, but it’s happened each time… All The Pretty Things was actually done in early 2013 and I didn’t release it until Feb of 2014, so it can be a long process. Anyway, when I wrote “See You Around” I just loved it so much, it’s personal to me and I feel like a lot people relate to it. So to answer your question, I was just really excited about “See You Around” and didn’t want to wait to release it. I mean, who doesn’t love a good sad song ya know?!

GGM:  You recorded the song in Nashville. Can you share with us the recording process?

AR:  Sure, my band and I spent a week at The Blackbird Academy, which is a fantastic audio engineering program at Blackbird Studio. We were recorded by the students (Rachael Moore, Luke Reynolds, Charlie Treat, Josh Epifanio, and Lenny Juliano) who are instructed by Kevin Becka and his assistant teacher Jeremy Cottrell. Mark Rubel, who has recorded all of my previous releases, is a teacher there and that’s how we came to get the opportunity. It was a great experience for us to work in such a state-of-the-art studio and the students made it a fun and laid back experience.  

“See You Around” was done as a live take because the song is so delicate that we knew we would need to use the original guitar and vocal track and not be able to go back and overdub it. Tyler sings some on this song so he did add that later as well as Ian on the Hammond B3 organ, but the bones of the song were a live take. We did record five other songs and some of those were the first times that I ever have recorded scratch vocals and guitar parts. I like recording live because it feels really natural and authentic but I have to say, I was able to get some really great vocals when I was able to concentrate on just that on some of the other recordings.  

GGM:  The video for the song was pretty much a DIY process. What inspired the backdrop for the video and how did you bring it all together in its final form?

AR:  Yes, totally DIY. It started out as me just wanting to have the band film the song on an empty stage or something, but the more I thought about it, I really wanted to show the story in the song. My friend Melanie, who helped film the theater scenes, actually suggested the Avon Theater because it has a stage that the band could use, but once she said movie theater I started picturing the storyline that you see in the video. Two people running into each other in the empty theater and not sitting with each other even though they are the only ones there…. The fight scene was the last thing we filmed. I wanted something dramatic to go with the line “screaming and fighting, we don’t talk at all,” and also wanted to show the back story that these two people had at one time been very close. 

We used a GoPro camera, which I absolutely love now and I used the GoPro editing software as well and really, it was quite easy. It made me want to upgrade my laptop though! I had an audio latency issue on the first computer I was using so I’d get the video all synced up and it was only synced up on that computer… I had to upgrade the software on my Mac to get the editing software to work, which it did, but then it kept crashing so I had to make sure and save the video after every single change I made! I think it was worth the hassle though, I’m really happy with how it turned out.  

GGM:  You released All The Pretty Things earlier this year. Does that album differ from your previous work?

AR:  I don’t think I’ve changed that much stylistically, but I do feel like All The Pretty Things is more refined and cohesive than previous releases. My first album is completely acoustic, I didn’t have a band yet and hadn’t even played with other musicians at all at that point, so I’ve definitely grown as a musician since then. 

GGM:  What’s your current band lineup – members, instruments, etc.?

AR:  Matt Comerford on bass guitar, Ian Grindstaff on drums and background vocals, Tyler Bundy on lead guitar and background vocals and me, of course, on acoustic guitar and lead vocals.

GGM:  Do you take the lead role in the songwriting for the band and how do you approach the process?

AR:  I write the songs and then take them to the band and they come up with their parts. Sometimes I’ll even take half a song to them just to see what direction it could take and if I want to finish writing it. I haven’t really done much co-writing, but it’s something I want to try more of. I mainly write solo because I pick up my guitar when I get a quiet moment to myself.   

GGM:  New Noise Magazine described you as a younger version of Patty Griffin, with other media outlets describing your voice as somewhere between Jewel and Martina McBride. What’s it like to be compared to such great musicians?

AR:  It’s really flattering! I know sometimes people don’t want to be compared to anyone but I appreciate the references, it makes me feel like people are really listening to what you’re doing to pick out those subtle influences that creep into your work and as a musician, that’s what we want, people listening. 😉

GGM:  Who were some of your earliest musical influences?

AR:  Well, the first song I learned on guitar was “You Were Meant For Me” by Jewel. I started writing songs pretty immediately though. I got really heavy into Jewel’s stuff but I would search for her bootleg recordings and unreleased stuff. From there, Patty Griffin and Neil Young.  

GGM:  What music are you listening to today?

AR:  Right now I’m alternating between The Wind and The Wave, Lindi Ortega, and Tom Petty. I need to pick up the new Shovels and Rope and I can’t wait for the new Ryan Adams CD. I still buy CD’s most of the time, I’ll be sad when it’s all downloading and streaming.  

GGM:  What inspired you to play the guitar and how long have you been playing?

AR:  I picked up the guitar because I wanted to write songs, that was definitely my intention. I’m pretty sure I started playing in the spring of 2004. I remember getting a guitar from my husband the year we got married but then letting it sit in the case for a year.   

GGM:  What’s next on the agenda for Ashley Riley?

AR:  I’ve got a really great band and we are focusing on getting out and playing more shows this next year. We’re still promoting All the Pretty Things but we do have the remainder of the Nashville sessions and lots of new songs when we’re ready to start thinking about that.  

Five Fun Facts about Ashley Riley:

Top 3 songs on my playlist.:

This changes constantly… but right now:

1.  The Saint Johns – “Your Head and Your Heart”
2.  Ryan Adams – “Let it Ride”
3.  The Wind and The Wave – “From the Wreckage Build a Home”

My dream performance would be with:  

This changes too!  I think it would be really fun to perform with Brandi Carlile and the twins.

My favorite pastime is:  

Spending time with my family

In one word, music to me is:

Essential

One thing my fans don’t know about me:

I’m a lefty

To get social with Ashley Riley, visit her sites below:
www.ashleyriley.com
www.facebook.com/ashleyrileymusic
www.twitter.com/ashley_riley

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