We pick the hottest new live acts so you can tell your friends you heard them first. This week's pick is Melbourne-based indie-folk singer-songwriter Riley Pearce
From humble beginnings busking at farmers markets and playing open mic nights around Perth to finding a new home in Melbourne and a comfortable place on stages around the world, indie-folk singer-songwriter Riley Pearce knows a thing or two about the pressures of the music industry.
And that’s what he’s reflecting on in his latest single ‘Breathe & Release’. Building on the windswept, warm folk we have come to expect from Pearce, the pop-leaning indie-folk track captures Pearce at his absolute best – brimming with passion and emotion, his vivid storytelling underpinning the track’s simple, catchy melody.
But underneath that breezy melody is something a little heavier, as Pearce reflects on and contemplates the pressures the music industry puts on artists across their careers to constantly evolve, to stay relevant and fit into a particular box or sound. This idea is something that Pearce is finally comfortable fighting against.
‘Breathe & Release’ follows Pearce’s first single of the year, ‘Ceramic Real Estate’, giving us two distinctly different tastes of his forthcoming record Maybe I Can Sleep It Off.
The singles follow a pair of EPs that arrived in quick succession – Acoustic, which delivered stripped back versions of tracks from across Pearce’s career, and 2019’s The Landing Songs, which he wrote while on tour in Europe back in 2018.
In the five years since his breakout single ‘Brave’ brought his breezy, coastal-fuelled indie-folk to listeners all around the world, Pearce has continued to grow by expanding his sound and pushing the limits of what “indie-folk” can sound like.
On his latest single he continues to move forward.
We sat down with Riley Pearce to get to know him a little better.
The Riley Pearce Story
From the beginning
Riley Pearce: “It was probably around the time I was busking a lot at local farmers markets that I started writing very cringeworthy songs about all of the insignificant life problems I blew out of proportion. I enjoyed throwing my originals into my set of covers and hoping the songs would fit in nicely.”
What you’ll hear
Riley Pearce: “This is always the hardest question to answer. I try to write as authentically as I know how to and hope that gets reflected in the sound. Also that the song and story is always front and centre and not too washed over by production elements, but instead is enhanced.”
Influences & inspiration
Riley Pearce: “More and more I’m being inspired by people who challenge the status quo and own it. Also, those who are really standing up for what they believe in and using their enormous platforms to spread a message. It really isn’t restricted to music. I’m a massive sports fan and love following LeBron and Stephen Jackson’s journeys.”
Inside ‘Breathe & Release’
Riley Pearce: “This song is definitely the most dancey song I’ve ever released and that scares me. I’m quite foreign to the prospect of being able to dance to something I’ve written.
“It’s about the unnecessary pressures that the music industry places on artists to sound a certain way in order to get radio play or have their music considered, and my own realisation that none of that matters and as long as I’m finding happiness and creating from a good place then that’s all I can ask for.
“It is the second single from an EP release coming in September. The EP is titled Maybe I Can Sleep It Off and deals with my own relationship to my songwriting and the various states of unsureness, inspiration, and being at peace with my creative process.”
For the love of music
Riley Pearce: “I love the storytelling, the connection to the listener, and when your music becomes a part of their life or specific moments for them. I love the unpredictability of it all and the continual effort to improve your skills and get better.”
Riley Pearce: “Getting to play shows around Europe and have people coming up to you saying they’ve travelled four hours to come and watch you play or that your song was part of their meeting story is always something that really warms me.”
The hard yards
Riley Pearce: “I did so much on my own for so long, and am very lucky now to have such a great team on board with my music but it was a fight to get there.”
The year ahead
Riley Pearce: “There will be plenty of writing and a tonne of new songs plus hopefully some shows. I miss that.”
Riley Pearce – Portugal
“This song came from a trip travelling across Europe in 2018 with my girlfriend Alex. More specifically the moment the van caught fire on the side of a Spanish highway.”
Riley Pearce – Park Dogs
“Fun fact, listen to the first few seconds and you’ll hear my family dog Jake bark in the background.”
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