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Meet: Alt Folk Musician Riley Pearce


24 years young and a recent college graduate, Riley Pearce has already gained attention for his sincere folk sound and lyricism.

Last summer, Pearce opened for both Lifehouse and Lord Huron. He also won the ‘WA Music Song of the Year Award’  with his top song “Brave” reaching almost 5 million plays on Spotify and featured on popular TV Series, “Shadowhunters.” Recently, Pearce even played internationally in London for the first time. 

Already, Triple J caught onto his work.

“Immediately you can tell that he has the gift to silence a room with minimal effort or noise, with a typically old-fashioned, genuine folk voice that comes complete with an insightful and understated writing technique.”- Stereofox (US).

Lyrics in his songs, “The Long Road,” and “Brave” focus on his experiences traveling and chasing after his dream. After graduating with a business degree, Pearce decided that he would devote all of his time towards his songs instead of pursuing a career in his major.

Following the live stream of his newest song, “Misplaced” which will be published September 9th, listeners boasted his humble and honest lyricism.

“Another honest, heartfelt piece of alt-folk from Riley that will stop you in your tracks. I knew it would be worth the wait!” wrote reviewer Bridgette Hustwaite. 

On a weekday morning during his “Winter Warmers Warehouse Tour” in Australia, Pearce sat down on Skype and talked all about his journey as a singer/songwriter.

How long have you been playing music?

“I started playing left-handed, and I moved to Perth when I was eight. My guitar teacher there asked my parents if I could change to right handed because I was right handed with everything else. I think I just started playing left handed because I was mirroring the Tv [laughs.] I have been playing shows and writing songs for maybe four or five years now, since I first did an open mic type of thing. I put out my first CD in 2013. I wanted to be able to give something to the people who were playing along and coming along to the markets and listening to my music. I’ve been playing shows since then, and trying to build a following, recording more songs, and it’s a cycle now of trying to do all of that over and over again until something clicks.”

How do you feel about the success of your new song, “Brave?

“Yeah! That’s definitely one of my top songs so far. I’m hoping that’s not the peak of my music career and I can try and continue on an upward straight. It took a while from when I released from when I released Brave to when it started to gain momentum.

The hardest thing I think to predict is when people will start listening to your music.”

Do you gain inspiration from specific artists?

“Yeah, it’s hard not to as a musician. I love listening to obscure artists and listening to the way they do things, going to shows, and watching YouTube videos of them and what not, so it’s really hard not to find inspiration from them. I think that’s definitely how you grow your own genre and musicianship from doing that. You learn little things, like you’ll listen to a song and on the first hear, you might hear it at face value but once you listen to that song twenty times you might start picking up on different nuances and then you’ll start wondering how they did that, and trying to figure it out.”

Is there anyone in particular?

“I’m usually listening to a lot of different artists. There’s an artist called Leif Vollebekk from Canada who’s awesome. I have his vinyl in my vinyl pile at the moment. I like all of Justin Vernon’s stuff, and there’s an artist called Paul Dempsey in Australia who’s awesome. They’re probably some of my bigger influences.”

How did you feel when one of your songs hit over a million listens for the first time? (on Spotify)

“Ok, so that was pretty interesting because I didn’t really know that it had happened. I just kind of logged on to check how my songs had been going and I noticed they had jumped up a significant amount. So I was like, what the hell’s going on here? [Laughs]

Spotify used to tell you what playlists it was on, and I saw that it was on a pretty big playlist, I think that is where the plays had come from.”

I can imagine that was pretty exciting.

“Yeah it definitely was! It was motivating to know that my music was being pushed out to a bunch more people.”

What is the most important song to you? And Why?

“Out of all the ones that I’ve written? [grins.] It’s hard because they’re kinda like your kids.You go through phases of liking them. You like really like some, and then you often really like the new ones and hate the old ones. I really hate [laughs] a lot of the old ones now. I think Brave and circles are my two favorite ones.

I don’t really ever play it live, but I like listening to the recording of Seasick because I think the bridge sounds really nice.”

Are any other members of your family musicians?

“Yeah, my dad used to play guitar in an Australian rock cover band with a bunch of dads from my private school. My sister plays piano and sings a little, and that’s about it. My other two siblings started instruments and didn’t’t practice all that much.”

Do you go to school?

“I did a boring old business degree, but I finished that now and I’m just focusing on my music. Until I have a family of my own and people that depend on me I have time now to work on my music, I’m trying to make the most of it while I can.”

What is one thing you that you hope your audience gained from what you’ve written and produced?

 “I really enjoy writing songs and having different kinds of meanings in the songs and not making every song about a girl or every song about heartbreak or something like that. I like having different meanings within the songs. I like having the songs somewhat relatable so people can form a connection to them. I suppose I want them to pick up like the sincerity of my songwriting through listening to it.”

Has your music ever helped you through a difficult time in your life?

“Yeah definitely, it’s a massive stress reliever. It’s a really good way to stay mentally healthy or to get you through those times. I feel very lucky that I haven’t had anything majorly bad happen in my life. Compared to what a lot of other people go through, I feel very lucky. I suppose it’s helped me through the occasion of missing people or being homesick, maybe certain worries about how I’m at the age now where my friends are out there getting jobs and thinking about buying houses and that will probably take a little longer for myself. You get to the stage where if things don’t pick up for your career, wherever you are, it’s harder for you to be able to do that [move forward in career]. Some days are just bad.” 

Lately there has been more attention focused on mental health issues in the music industry. What do you think of this?

“Yeah, there’s definitely a big focus on mental health right now within the music world. A lot of people do use music as an outlet of expression and a way to get through the bad times. I think it’s important that we provide services for musicians who are struggling with mental health issues.”

Do you have a specific venue you’ve played at that has been your favorite?

“I played with a band called Lifehouse when they came over here, and that was so much fun. I was playing in this theatre in Perth, a place that I’ve always dreamt about playing. Everything went really well for the show. I was really happy with how I played, my dad and my sister were there watching, and then I got to watch Lifehouse afterwards.

I also played a show over in Sydney with a band called Lord Huron, who are probably in my list of top five bands ever. I’ve been a fan of their stuff for ages, and I was so happy when I got to play with them so I was definitely “fangirling.” I tried to stay as cool as I could. It was a really surreal experience to be able to play a show with those guys.”

Why did you travel to Montana to write?

“I went to Montana for a semester of exchange, because [laughs] my grades weren’t’t good enough to get into Boston, which is where I wanted to go. I had a friend who went there as well so he suggested it was a good place to go. I liked the idea of going someplace where it wasn’t’t too big of a city where I could spend time writing and seeing scenery and whatnot. I did a study called enjoyment of music, and it was like, if you enjoyed the music you passed [laughs]. I had some friends who were doing engineering and were struggling to stay on top of their grades. I also traveled around and went to the Sasquatch festival, that was so much fun.”

What’s a lyric that you’re the most proud of?

[Laughs] It probably sounds pretty arrogant for me to pick a favorite. I have this one line that says “you’re time is up when you’re 25” and I’m almost 25 so, I find that kind of funny.”

Pearce is referring to a verse from his song, “The Long Road,” which is about the rejection of his potential career with his business degree and his dedication to success in songwriting.

In ten years, where do you picture yourself? Will you be touring and living the “rock star” life? What does your best future look like in your imagination?

“Definitely not the rock star life. Rock stars do not wake up this early. Lately a lot of people have been asking me what my end goal would be and what my real purpose of doing all of this is, and I supposed I really want to be able to play my shows around the world and have people that really connect with the music. There’s obviously a whole bunch of festivals and venues I’d love to play at but ultimately I think that I’d be happy playing to ten people or a thousand people. I’d like to be able to play and to continue to write music and grow as a musician and songwriter. I want my music to be a part of people’s lives too. I always like listen to songs that remind me of specific moments in my life like a movie soundtrack in your life that you associate with certain things. I like how my music can mean something to people because I have songs that I listen to that mean so much to me because they are associated with a specific moment in my life. I’d love for my music to be at that point for other people.”

What does your most popular song, “Brave,” mean to you?

“I wrote Brave at a time when I was about to head off on exchange for 6 months. I hadn’t ever really spent anything longer than say 2 weeks away from family before so I was nervous about it. My little brother and I are super close and I knew it would be hard for him not being together but the trip abroad was something I knew I needed to do. So it’s about that inevitable separation.”

To hear all of Riley’s music, check out his account on Spotify and his website below.

His website as well: http://www.rileypearce.com.au/

Student Athlete Majoring in Journalism. Obsessed with all things involving nature, art, and music.
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