Outside his own Lines: An Interview with Riley Pearce
Michelle Zhu | On 24, Feb 2016
Riley Pearce is a 23-year old singer/songwriter from Perth who has taken a lot of steps in finding his own voice and his place within music. With songs that swoon and expand both emotionally and sonically, he has been on a journey halfway across the globe, and in turn has become more acquainted with himself and his music.
I had the pleasure of catching up with Riley on a hot and humid Australian morning, as he reminisced about his 6-month trip to Montana, the craft in his art, and his thoughts on his past, present and future.
His sophomore EP Outside the LinesÂ was released on the 19th of February, and is delicate and reflective, as each song somehow simultaneously conveys deeply personal experiences that are somehow relatable to its listeners. His songs soar with small specific details and are paired with huge undeniable feelings. I asked him how long it took to write the EP and about the stories that lay in between the lines.
â€œA lot of the songs I wrote a while ago, but Iâ€™m now in the process of being happier with the recordings and timing everything for the release of it. It all adds up and it takes time, so itâ€™s been about a year and a half in the making.â€
His song “Brave” is an ode to finding courage in times of uncertainty and self-doubt. It starts minimal, with reverbing guitar chords. You can hear his fingers slide on the strings and feel his physical presence, as his rich vocals add another expressive layer to the song. He knew he had to go somewhere, and find the courage to detach himself. I asked Riley exactly where that destination was.
â€œI wrote “Brave” just before I was heading to my trip in Montana for six months. It was about the inevitable separation with the people you love. Thatâ€™s the story behind that song.â€
â€œHaving something you wish to convey in a song is a big part of it, and well-crafted lyrics are always good. With “Brave”, Andy (Lawson, the producer) and I really achieved the moody feel to the song, which I think really pushed that song to make its listeners feel a certain way. Having those instrumentals also pushed the meaning for the song.â€
His trip to Montana seemed to have been a necessary trip for personal discovery and deep contemplation. Over the course of six months, he embarked on a journey that he could not easily predict, and he understood the good and the bad that came with being away from home. Instead of shying away from them, he embraced them.
â€œEveryone in Montana was so welcoming, and involved in music too. Thereâ€™s an unfortunate side of missing people over here, but thereâ€™s something exciting about being away and being somewhere new.â€
He chose somewhere different to his hometown in Perth, somewhere with a different heartbeat but a lot of heart nonetheless.
â€œI wanted to go somewhere less crowded and not so city-like. Itâ€™s a really picturesque place. The main difference between Perth and Montana is how crowded Perth could be, and how in Montana everything is really relaxed and time sort of moved at a slower speed.â€
When asked about the music scene, he excitedly recalled the different genres they would play in different venues. It sounded different to Perth, and it seemed as though the exposure to such diverse musical settings also opened up his own tastes and appreciation for what the music world has to offer.
â€œThey played everything from country to bluegrass to a hard rap song in about ten minutes. I found myself enjoying every genre of music that I would not ordinarily enjoy. Everybody was still out enjoying the music that was playing in pubs, even if it was really cold.â€
Almost every song on his EP Outside the Lines was directly related to his personal experiences in Montana. The trip had influenced his own personal growth in ways that he could express the way he knew best, by transforming them into luscious and evocative tunes.
â€œI wrote six songs in Montana, and “Seasick” was the only song that I didnâ€™t write about the trip. It was the first time I was away from home for such a long period of time, and it definitely gave me an opportunity to think about life and ponder about a whole bunch of different things.â€
When asked about how he grew as both a person and a musician during his extended stay in Montana, he was somewhat struck by the magnitude of meaning that came with that question. He thought for a while, and answered with thoughtfulness and care.
â€œI suppose it helped me think about what I wanted in my music, and where I wanted my music to take me. It helped me become happy with how far Iâ€™ve come and where Iâ€™m going to go as a musician. It also helped me strive for a higher level of song writing. As a person, it helped me learn about what I can live with and without, and what I value the most. You learn a lot about yourself when you travel.â€
Coming home was an inevitable part of his journey, as he was handed a new set of questions to answer, and a whole lot of work to do. He was now rich with experiences, and had to get down to creating and putting together all the ideas and inspirations that had accumulated throughout his journey. He is content and delighted at how Outside the Lines came to be, and has challenged himself with new progressions to his sound.
â€œSo I came back from Montana and workshopped them with the band. I recorded with Andy Lawson who did an incredible job and weâ€™re super happy with how it turned out. It was a really natural process and some songs were a little trickier to record like “Circles” which was a guitar-percussive song.â€
However, Riley has not always been as confident and sure about his journey through music, as he detailed his life before finding his musical identity. His road towards his seemingly very clear path was once not as concise, as he told me the story that prefaced the launch of his musical endeavours.
â€œI didnâ€™t really know what I wanted to do. I was really good at maths and accounting, but I just realised that music was what I wanted to while I was busking and truly enjoying myself. And here I am.â€
We can expect big things from Riley Pearce in 2016, with a full tour approaching us Australia-wide, and a whole lot of stories to convey to everyone who will listen. Do yourself a favour and listen to Rileyâ€™s sweet and honest prose, find yourself envisioning the tranquil landscapes of Montana or wherever you need to be, and find it within you to be as brave as Riley Pearce has proven to be throughout his expedition to becoming the artist that he is today.
He will be touring Australia on the following tour dates:
Fri Feb 26th – Rosemount Hotel, Perth
Fri Mar 4 – Mar 6 – Nannup Music Festival, Nannup
Thur Mar 10 – Prince of Wales, Bunbury
Fri Mar 11 â€“ The Monkey Bar, Mandurah
Wed Mar 30 -The Bearded Lady, Brisbane
Fri Apr 1st – The Newsagency, Sydney
Sun Apr 3 â€“The Workers Club, Melbourne
Photo credits: Claire Borello