We had the good fortune of connecting with Nathaniel Riley and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Nathaniel, why did you pursue a creative career?
Well, I decided when I was young I would be doing this. I just always needed to have a way to express the intense multifaceted relationship I have with my life. Playing music helps me sort out a lot of different things, the process of writing lyrics especially helps. Songwriting is total catharsis for me, someone can have something that can be so emotionally upheaving then imagine and create a soundscape that often times for me, ends up being a gentle liberation. This connection I have had my entire life and it came quickly. What matters most to me is being honest in my writing. Hoping that it finds people who search for the same things I do from songs; that a songwriter’s own story and our interpretations of them can work like a way mark guiding us toward something we might not even realize we feel at the time or need. Art holds its role and bridges the gap inside of us between rationality and all other experience and feeling that is hard to put into words. Without sounding too cheesy. Pursuing this as a career was more a result of my relationship with music influencing and involving itself with every piece of my life since I was a child. There wasn’t much time spent pondering a decision, I knew I needed to do this and it became as much a part of me as being sure tomorrow will come. I chose this as a career to continually allow myself the platform of expression and hoping that maybe my words can make a positive impression in someone’s life. Similar to what so many other songwriters have provided for me.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I am very excited to release my debut album. It has taken countless hours writing, rehearsing and performing to get to where I am now. I started recording, playing shows, and doing small local tours when I was in high school as a front man and guitar player in a rock band. I lived in a really small rural town and we would drive an hour away to play the closest music scene then drive all the way back and wake up a couple hours later running to math class in the morning. We had the pleasure of playing music together for about 5 years, putting out 2 records. The band dissolved from huge moral issues with another member that was circumstances out of my control. As we know, a single person’s actions can impact so many things by extension. After that happened, I personally couldn’t give up and stop. I had been feeling the call to write something entirely different anyway, that’s when folk music started to form its role in my life. I wrote lots of music, recording, releasing and deleting a couple months later. Disappearing, coming back, doing this over again a few times and never really finding anything that felt right for long term until after nearly 2 years of effort. I scrapped everything I was writing musically at one point, decided to stop complicating my life so much trying to figure out a band name, genres, band mates, fearing the longevity of a brand and name and just really brought it back to square one. I wanted to play shows and write the music I felt was honest toward who I am and true toward what I needed to say. So I started to perform under my name Nathaniel Riley. This was one of the most freeing things I had felt in my relationship with music, the first time I really felt in control along with absolute expressive freedom. The sound and songs that came were abundant, easy, honest, and very fast during that time. This was right around the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. So March 2020 just as so many others, some in much greater lengths, I was alone. Left with myself, my jumbled notebook and my guitar again. I lived the romanticized isolated songwriter lifestyle and put all of my songs together in preparation for an album. Uncertain toward the future of anything let alone performing music, it didn’t stop my pursuit. It was a humbling and very pure setting to make an album, more for the sake of the song over anything else. The album completed in the fall of 2021 with a release TBA
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I would pack a bag, a couple fly fishing rods, some maps highlighting blue lines of water and hike the trails in mountains. I grew up with a lot of natural solitude. Colorado offers some great experiences out there in nature. I specifically love the Indian Peaks Wilderness in the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forest. Eating some rehydrated plant based food, drinking fresh cold filtered lake water and hanging out next to a patch of wild flowers and a small brook flowing through them. – I’m sorry it wasn’t in the city.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I am so grateful to say I have had such a vast community of support. Although, I want to specifically mention a couple of folks who helped me record and finish my first full length album over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic. Darren Garvey and Aaron Youngberg, they supported me, my songs and lended their passion for creating along with several hours and days during such a tumultuous time. Having done that with them has become a very fond memory for me.
– Jo Babb – Cynthia Reaves