In the spotlight – Riley Whittaker

In the spotlight – Riley Whittaker

Riley Whittaker is a 17-year-old indie alternative musician/songwriter currently living in Nashville (USA). In addition to playing guitar, she also plays the keyboard, ukulele and violin. Riley grew up in a small town called Sedona, Arizona. She lived in the same town her entire childhood, and didn’t move out of it till about a year and a half ago when she moved to Nashville.

“Coming from a small town I was surrounded by the same people almost every day. Sedona was a great place to grow up and I made some life-long friends. It really inspired me as a musician and gave me a good amount of opportunity as I was one of the few musicians living in Sedona. Although it got me started as a musician, Sedona had limited opportunity for musicians. Moving to Nashville opened my eyes to so much for more in the music world, and with things in general. Sedona will forever be my hometown, but Nashville has given me so much in just a year!”

Was it a hard decision for you to move to Nasville?

“The decision to move to Nashville definitely felt very spontaneous, although I had been begging my parents to move to Nashville for years prior. We moved right in the middle of the pandemic, so that aspect of things made it harder than it might’ve been. I started school online so it was hard to meet people, and make connections, but as the city started to open up, I fell in love with it more and more. Nashville has provided me with such amazing opportunity already, and I have met some incredible people. I find myself liking it more and more as I am here.”

How did you get into music, and what is your musical background? Do you come from a musical family?

“I have always loved music. From a young age I was singing and putting on small showcases in my living room for my family. I grew up listening to a lot of classic rock, as well as I was a huge fan of Adele and Taylor Swift. I knew quickly as a kid that music was something I wanted to pursue. My mom and dad aren’t musicians, but my uncle on my mom’s side is a full-time musician in Boston.”

You just mentioned Adele and Taylor Swift. Are they also the ones who influenced your music? Who are some of your musical influences?

“As a kid I listened to a lot of Adele, so I’d say she definitely is a big influence of mine. I also grew up listening to a lot of The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Taylor Swift, and a lot of classic rock! My recent major influences have been John Mayer, Dave Mathews, Holly Humberstone, and Billie Eilish.”

If you had to convince people who have never listened to your music to start listening to your music, what would you tell them?

“Good question!! I would probably describe my newest music as oddly descriptive situations you probably have gone through to with catchy melodies you can scream in your car to!”

In addition to playing guitar, you also play the keyboard, ukulele and violin. Which is your favourite?

“Yes! I’d have to say guitar! Guitar is where most of my songs are written, and It’s just such a beautiful instrument. There are so many melodies, and chord progressions that stem out of a guitar, and I think it’s fascinating how long guitars have been around, and how they have stayed fairly similar to how they were 100’s of years ago.”

What can you tell me about the first song you ever wrote? 

“The first song I wrote was probably about my dog or stuffed animal in the second grade (laughs). But I really started to take songwriting seriously when I was 12. The first song I decided to write and take to the studio was called ‘Always on My Mind’. It was about a guy who made me angry in middle school, and I sat in bed, like an emotional songwriter does, and wrote a song about him. (laughs)”

I always love hearing about the song writing process so I was wondering if you could give me a glimpse into that?

“The process for me is different every time. Sometimes it starts with a random melody in my head at 3 am, and me attempting to sing into my phone, or with a chord progression! A lot of times I find myself just sitting down with my guitar and coming up with the lyrics and chord progressions together, but it definitley depends on the situation.”

Your song ‘Love Somebody’ is currently in our chart. You also released a video for this song. Do you enjoy making music videos?

“Yes! I love making music videos! I did a lot of acting as a kid, so getting to act in music videos is super fun for me, and I love the whole visual side of projects. I also love getting to bring my lyrics to life with visuals. I feel like it allows people to connect with the song more, as well as sometimes I find myself discovering ideas or emotions that may have gone into the song that I may not have been aware of when I was writing it.”

What are you currently working on?

“I am about to release my first single of 2022! I’m super excited about that! As well as I’m booking a ton of full band shows around Nashville and surrounding areas!”

What can people expect from your live shows?

“To have fun!! I just want to connect with people emotionally with my lyrics, and speak to a room full of strangers in a way that makes us feel like we’re not strangers 🙂 To scream those catchy bridges we all love, and to just have a good time.”

What’s your favourite song to play live?

“Right now it’s definitely ‘Ain’t No Rest For The Wicked‘. It’s such a fun song to play, especially with a full band!”

Do you have any hobbies outside music or perhaps hobbies that contribute to your musicality? 

“I write a lot, as well as I love hanging out with friends. I feel like a lot of my songs stem from my social life. I also really like traveling and getting to see different places.”

What social issues are you most passionate about? 

“I’d say social media and how it reflects this idea of what a “perfect body” and “perfect life” is supposed to look like. It’s so hard not to compare yourself to others, especially when social media shows only what we want our viewers to see. I find myself falling down the rabbit hole of comparing myself to what others may be doing, or how others look and it’s such a dangerous path to fall down. It’s so hard to escape the false reality our phones can create, but I think today’s generation, and this day and age people are more aware of the issue, and there is a lot of positivity that goes around as well. We just have to remember we are all different and that’s what makes us beautiful. :)”

What do you think of talent shows such as American Idol?

“I think they can be a great way for people who love singing to take their passion to the next level, but I also think it depends on what type of path you are trying to take with music. Personally, I wouldn’t want to be on any of those shows, but I’m not a huge fan of voice competition. I did a lot when I was younger and it was fun for a while, but it starts to become more about winning then the passion itself, and I didn’t like that about it.”

Where would you like to be in 10 years?

“I hope to have released an album, and have a solid group of people who love my music, and to be able to go on the road and tour around the world and perform it for them!!”

What’s your favourite song from the Cool Top 20 and why?

“My favorite song from the Cool Top 20 is ‘Desert Marigold‘ by Ri Wolf and Sopie Dorsten. The song is super pretty! I love the cover art and the guitar in it is beautiful!”

What song would you like to add as a bonus track?

“I would like to add the track ‘Cooler’ by AJ Smith. I had the opportunity to play a writer’s round with him and he is an amazing artist and this was my favorite song I heard him perform live!”

Riley is on Spotify, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.