Riley Green has made no secret that one of his goals in following up his 2019 debut album Different ’Round Here was to not stray too far from its sound or lyrical personality.
That album, which brought together songs from three earlier EPs, gave Green his first two Top 15 hits on Billboard’s Country chart in “There Was This Girl” and “I Wish Grandpas Never Died.”
Now he’s trying to accomplish what he considers one of the biggest challenges an artist faces, beginning with 2021’s Behind the Bar.
“I think it’s really hard for a new artist to go from (people saying), ‘Hey, I know this song, but I don’t know who sings it,’ into, ‘Oh, and that’s a Riley Green song,’ ” Green said in a phone interview. “I think that probably comes from maybe too much bouncing (around stylistically) with your first few singles.
“Ten years ago, your average Joe couldn’t go into the studio and record something and put it out on Spotify or Amazon or iTunes,” he added. “Now that you have so much music, this overflow of music, you’ve got to find a way to stand out, and I think that’s kind of by having your own sound.”
You will have a chance to hear his sound when he stops by The Clyde Theatre on Friday, April 21.
Finding his place
As Green continues on his current tour, even he is trying to figure out where he stands on the country scene.
“I have no idea what it is about what I’m doing that’s working, but I just want to make sure I don’t mess it up,” he said.
Perhaps part of what is working for Green is the way he puts pieces of himself, his life, and people he’s known into his lyrics. His songs are solid musically, but that’s not what sets him apart.
On uptempo tunes like “Jesus and Wranglers,” “If I Didn’t Wear Boots” from the If It Wasn’t for Trucks EP and “Put ’Em on Mine” from Behind the Bar he mixes a good bit of twang with muscular rock, creating a sound that fits well in today’s mainstream country. Even his lyrics — which incorporate familiar country themes about family bonds, faith, a blue-collar work ethic, small-town life, and wholesome values — might not seem that unique.
Still, Green’s lyrics give listeners a tangible sense of the small Alabama town he’s from, his down-to-earth upbringing, his outlook on life, and his general love of country and rock music.
Putting the work in
Green certainly came to country music honestly, spending many an hour listening to the music of country legends like Roy Acuff and Merle Haggard with his grandfather, Buford. And he put in plenty of time and effort as an independent artist before reaching the point where he’s a major label artist on Big Machine Records, with a couple hit singles that helped him win the prestigious 2020 Academy of Country Music award for New Male Artist of the Year. He also saw his profile grow after appearing on Thomas Rhett’s “Half of Me.”
It all started for Green in Jacksonville, Alabama.
As he learned guitar, he started writing songs, and by his early 20s he was getting gigs. He posted songs online and self-released several EPs, gradually building a following that was large enough to allow him to make music a full-time venture. This self-made career was what eventually got him noticed in Nashville, Tennessee.
“I played for probably 10 years before a record label ever showed up at a show,” the 34-year-old said. “I had never been to Nashville. It wasn’t because I was just amazing or I had some big hit song that I got discovered. It was because I was selling a lot of tickets and people were coming to my shows and downloading my songs.”
Keep the music coming
Since releasing Behind the Bar, Green has put out singles and the There Was This Girl EP. His latest release was the single “Everybody Get Along” that he recorded with Justin Moore, which was released March 31.
Green says he prefers doing EPs because it involves fewer songs and he can get music released soon after songs have been written and recorded.
“Now there are so many platforms where you can put music out, and for me it’s just the only way I can really disappoint my fans is by not putting out music,” he said. “And so it takes a while to go do a full-length album. That’s months and months and months of planning and picking songs and (scheduling) studio time.
“You know, when you put out a project like an EP, it buys you some time. And I think it will probably be similar to how my debut album was, Different ’Round Here, where it was actually three EPs that became an album. That, to me, is sort of an easier way to give fans (a larger batch) of music, but also not jump the gun and go hey man, we’ve got to go cut 12 songs right now.”
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