Riley Green: There’s a ‘Piece of Me’ in Every Song on New Album
Riley Green remembers the moment he knew he could be a country artist. He was opening for the Marshall Tucker Band in his home state of Alabama in 2014 and had just performed the newly-written "Bury Me in Dixie." He forgot one of the lines, but the crowd didn't notice because they were too engaged with the lyrics, which celebrate Alabama culture.
"It was like cheating, to write a song like that that talked about Talledega and Toomer's Corner and Tuscaloosa and Flora-Bama," Green recalls to Taste of Country. "That was one I really thought, 'I can write something that's gonna make somebody remember me when they leave.'"
From there, Green became a hometown hero as he continued to write songs and take them across Alabama, cultivating a rabid fanbase as he sang about distinct elements of his native state directly to the people who lived it as much as he did. He was simultaneously building an online fanbase through social media and streaming services, ultimately drawing the attention of Nashville record label Big Machine Label Group, which signed him in 2018. Though he now performs for crowds thousands of miles away from his hometown of Jacksonville, Ala., he hears fans all around the country chanting his songs about rural life.
"What I've come to realize is people will relate to me saying Mountain Street in a song, they just make it the street they grew up on. It doesn't matter how specific you are in a song or how regional it sounds, people find a way to make it about how they grew up," Green explains. "It just turns out a lot of folks in the country grew up the same way we did in northeast Alabama."
Being relatable is at the core of Green's songwriting. While many of his songs are upbeat, he admits he has an affinity for writing sad songs. "Numbers on the Cars" is one he wrote about his grandfather who, despite having Alzheimer's disease, could still remember the names and car numbers of his favorite NASCAR drivers. It's the type of song that inspires fans to share their personal experiences with the singer, who recalls two women who came up to him after his show at Eddie's Attic in Atlanta, Ga., crying as they shared how their family members had been affected by the disease.
"The song is about the fact that somebody, although they might not be all there, there's certain things that they latch on to that they just don't forget. That's something that's hopeful in a situation like that for a lot of people," Green says.
"Numbers on the Cars" will be featured on his upcoming debut album, alongside the title track and single, "In Love by Now," and two songs he describes as "different" from the music he's previously released: "My First Everything" and "Hard to Leave."
"I feel like it's a really good time to sound different," he says. "That's one thing about songwriting that I really enjoy is whatever you write is a thought that only you came up with, so there's a least a piece of you as an artist. Most everything on there has got a hint of my childhood or my growing up somehow in it. There's a piece of me in every one of them."
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