Riley Phillips is a 16 year old singer and songwriter from Roanoke, Virginia. Now a junior, Phillips fell in love with songwriting as a sophomore in high school. His single, “15”, tells his story of the first time music sparked his interest, and his gratefulness for that new found love. Riley’s ultimate goal is to tell stories with his music and share his passion with the world, and he is certainly grateful for the opportunity to do so.
“15” is a simple and wonderfully relaxing song. With just guitar and voice, there is no clutter in the arrangement. The themes of the song seem to focus on the artist’s youth and his journey through life discovering a passion for music. These themes come across effortlessly, and there is a certain poised quality to this young man’s voice. Phillips never seems to have to try too hard to express himself, and this genuine style is something perhaps our modern music industry is missing. This young artist, at just 16 years of age, has a treasure trove of talent, and we can’t wait to see what else he does with it. Give “15” a listen today, and support this young talent!
Listen to “15” here and get to know more about Riley Phillips
Hey Riley, thanks for chatting with us! You’re a resident of Roanoke, Virginia. How would you describe the overall music scene there?
Hey, thank you guys for the chance I’ve always dreamed of having the opportunity to do interviews and I’m really excited to get to do one! Roanoke’s music scene is really great! I really just got myself involved with it last summer where I started playing a couple of open mics around town. The musicians I’ve met at these are some of my favorite people, they’re all very supportive even at my first open mic when I was shaking with my acoustic guitar playing Ed Sheeran covers and messing up every 5 seconds there was support. The genres that I’ve been exposed to have really been inspirational as well, from old fashion garage bands to rappers to straight up blues guys it’s all just a bunch of musicians supporting and listening to each other. The audience that comes out to these open mics is also amazing everyone really likes to listen to music and they’re all extremely friendly people. I even had my first gig a few months ago and several musicians I’d met through the open mics showed up to support me it really is an awesome community.
Would you mind briefly describing your background and how it is you first got involved with music and songwriting?
Growing up I spent a lot of time with the kids in my neighborhood. We’d spend hours on Sunday nights just walking around together or playing games and a lot of the lyrics in my song “15” came from memories of those times. The story of how I got involved into songwriting is actually kind of funny. When I was in 5th grade we had an assignment to come up with a way to convey something we had learned in math, so me and a few friends decided we’d make a song. In the 2012 version of GarageBand we remixed Justin Timberlake’s “Suit and Tie” into a song about math. I wrote and sang it and never really stopped writing songs after that. I always tried to write them growing up but it took a certain age for me to have gone through enough things to write a song that I felt was something people would relate to and wasn’t inherently awful. Guitar I picked up in November 2017, I taught myself off YouTube and just poured hours and hours a day into it and still do constantly play every day it’s something I instantly fell in love with.
You’ve been at this for a short time, but you’ve already written and released a single. How would you describe your journey into music?
My journey into making music really started when I began with the guitar. After I had learned the basic chords and could play a little I started writing full music in January of 2018. I had a lot of songs that I just made and was too scared to release, I went back to using GarageBand for most of the year, although now I use Ableton. I think the speed of me getting into things really came from a one place. My mom was one of the best musicians in her class when she was in high school, she played viola and while in high school she was playing with colleges. I think I have to have gotten some natural ability from her. Another thing that really helped us just support from my family and the people around me I’ve never had someone tell me they don’t think I can do it and my family is very supportive of me doing it which really has given me more confidence in making it.
Who would you describe as your biggest artistic influences?
Artistically my biggest influences I would say are John Mayer and Ed Sheeran. When I first got started on guitar almost all of the songs I learned where Ed Sheeran and that just pulled me fully into guitar and making music. The person who “15” is about actually introduced me to John Mayer, maybe two months into guitar I started learning Slow Dancing in A Burning Room. That song was miles above my skill level at the time but I kept trying to learn it no matter what. It took months for me to get it but once I did that brought me into a more electric and blues style of guitar. That style is something I really try to bring to my music not necessarily blues but that guitar influence in things like solos. Another genre as a whole that really got my was R&B the spirit that whole genre carries has really inspired me especially artists like The Weeknd and Drake. Another album I listened to a lot is Frank Ocean’s “Channel Orange” which it seems like I find a different inspiration from every time I listen. Anne Marie is another artist I’ve really come to love and her song “2002” was one where the idea of this song came from along with songs like “Castle on The Hill” by Ed Sheeran and “Sixteen” by Thomas Rhett, what I really wanted to do was tell a story about a time in my life that gave me a lot of the things I write about and has been a major part of my life.
What can we hope to see from you in the future, Riley?
In the future there’s definitely going to be a lot more music from me. I really make it because I’m just a kid that wants to be heard and these songs are me screaming out to the world and telling my story and saying what I want need to say. Music is such a great outlet for me that I think it will always be a part of my life. For 2019 I’m definitely planning on releasing a few more songs I’m not quite sure how many yet but I’ve definitely got plenty of ideas and I’m hoping to feature on a few things I love playing music with anyone I can even if it’s just a guitar solo. Another goal of mine is to have an album out before I graduate from high school in May of 2020; however, I think I need to develop a bit more artistically before I do that. I’ll definitely have something out before we hit fall though and I’m really excited to keep making music and I just hope people keep listening. Thank you guys so much for the interview opportunity again this means the world to me.
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