I had the opportunity to talk to Ashley Riley about her song- writing preferences, inspirations, and her third album, All the Pretty Things. See what she had to say below.
Your vocals have had comparisons to Stevie Nicks and your music seems to emulate a lot of the strong Americana sound; which artists have most inspired you?
Ashley Riley: I think I've been most inspired by Patty Griffin and Neil Young; I really like his guitar playing even though some people say it's sloppy. I actually just discovered Lori McKenna and I think she's a really good lyric writer.
Where does your inspiration come from when you're putting together something new?
A lot of times I'll just kind of sit down and play and sometimes I don't actually know what a song is about until I'm about halfway through it. Sometimes I actually do sit down with something in mind that I want to write about so it's kind of different every time. It's usually just [inspiration from] my life, my friends, and just everything around me.
When did you start actually playing and writing songs?
In 2008. I think my first show was on Valentine's Day.
All the Pretty Things is your third album. How has your style matured since your first album's release?
I would say that my first album was pretty much just me: solo acoustic. Since then, I feel like I've just kind of grown my sound each time. The second album had a full band behind it, well, actually, not a full band, just bass and drums, and this new album actually has a lot more organ and keyboard and lead guitar. I feel like I just kind of keep making it a little more sophisticated sounding.
What made you decide to add a band on your second and third albums after releasing a solo debut album?
Well, I think just the way that I kind of got started was [as a solo artist]. I just got a guitar and started taking lessons and writing songs pretty much instantly and once I started getting more confident in that I started going out to a lot of open mics in the area and eventually became the host of one. From there I met my future band and started collaborating a little bit more. [The band were] other artists that would come to the shows and [we] just became friends and decided to play some stuff together and became a band that way.
Do you prefer working with a band over the solo work you used to do?
I mean, I still write by myself; I still write everything and then take it to the band. We haven't collaborated yet, maybe it's something I should try, but we haven't done that yet.
I'm a fan of "Bulletproof"; where did the inspiration for that song come from?
That song is actually kind of sad. It's about someone who OD'd on heroin actually and it's just kind of like the people around trying to help. It was a family member of a friend so I'm kind of like a third person in that story.
Is there a song on the album you most prefer to perform live?
I think, actually, the title track, "All the Pretty Things", is the most fun to play live. It's just got a lot of dynamics with it, like it's kind of quiet but the choruses get really loud so that one's pretty fun. And people seem to really like "Love Shark"; a lot of people tell me that's their favorite one.
Where did the inspiration for the title track come from?
That was actually a song that I was trying to write on purpose. I was trying to write more of a fun song because a lot of my music seems to be a little downbeat and kind of, I don't know, people will be like 'are you okay? Are you upset?', so I was trying to write something a little happier.
Does that downbeat tempo reflect the music you most enjoy or would you rather begin writing more of these upbeat tracks?
It does. I kind of enjoy more mellow music or I kind of joke that my iPod is basically like Lilith Fair or something. So I do enjoy that kind of music and I think that's why I write a lot of it but it is fun to perform those upbeat songs; you can rock out and that's fun.
You said that your favorite track to perform live was "All the Pretty Things", but do you have a favorite track from all the songs which you have written throughout your career?
Honestly, I think that my favorite is usually the song that I just wrote. It's usually the last song I wrote because you're kind of really invested in it and you're just, you know, really playing it a lot when you're trying to write a song. I usually find that when I'm writing a song it ends up being my favorite until I write a new one.
Is there anything else you want to say to your fans about this upcoming album or any of your music in general?
I really just am proud of this album. I actually worked on it for about two years and I think that I've really just kind of found my sound through all of the songs that I've written and albums that I've done. I feel like this time around it just kind of really is what I wanted it to sound like. I think that it's more personal [than former albums]. I finally got exactly what I wanted to get across in the recordings.