May 28, 2019
Country musicians sharing stories of love, heartbreak, and family life are commonplace on western radio stations. Adding to these stories is Riley Clemmons, a pop singer-songwriter. Her lyrics are inspired by the struggles of her relationships and faith. Clemmons is one of SoundExchange’s “Top Breakout Artists” of 2018. She earned 99 percent of her royalties by the company between October 1, 2017, and September 30, 2018.
The Nashville singer-songwriter’s career started at the age of 13. She was first discovered during a school pageant. Her career elevated when she began playing shows across her hometown. Eventually, she landed a deal with Capitol CMG, a music group under Universal Music. Clemmons recently unveiled the strength-filled power ballad “Fighting for Me.” The song serves as a follow-up to her debut single “Broken Prayers.” Embedded in her music is her journey of grappling with the imperfections of her faith walk. Her truth continues to captivate listeners. Clemmons shared over email just how she is inspiring her generation, maneuvering the music industry, and building a musical legacy in her hometown of Nashville and beyond.
SoundExchange: How do you hope to use the power of music to encourage your generation?
Riley Clemmons: I’ve always been drawn to music as a means of communication. It definitely has a unique power within itself. That alone is a central reason why I started writing and making music – I had something to say. I want my music to speak to people, start conversations, and encourage others to use their voices, too.
SX: Was there a specific moment when you knew that you were meant to be an artist?
RC: Growing up, music was a huge part of my foundation. I was raised in the church around gospel music, there was always music in my house, I was always wanting to find something new to listen to and sing. From the time I was very young, there was nothing else I wanted to do. I started co-writing when I was 13 and have been in the industry ever since. It was kind of love at first sight kind of thing.
SX: At 19, what are three of the most important lessons you’ve learned as a breakout artist in the industry?
RC: The past six years have been the biggest learning process of my life. The most important lesson I’ve learned is the importance of finding people, in and out of the industry, that you can trust – people that have your back despite circumstance. As a young woman in the industry, I’ve also continually learned how to use my voice – how to speak up, and demand to be heard. It’s easy to be silenced in this industry, so getting educated on the industry and applying my knowledge has made all the difference. Lastly, I’ve learned that my gut intuition matters, but so does the intuition of those around me. I’m not afraid to learn and ask questions. Music is collaborative, and I think that can be a beautiful thing.
SX: What is one of your most memorable performance moments to date?
RC: The first time I played my song “I’ll Stay” on piano on stage. It’s to date one of the most vulnerable songs I’ve ever written and getting to have that moment for the first time was truly so special and unforgettable.
SX: Who has inspired you the most as a singer/songwriter?
RC: My taste in music has always been widely eclectic, so I’ve been able to pull inspiration from a variety of genres and people. From a lyrical standpoint, I’ve always been in awe of Billy Joel and Elton John. They have a unique way of telling stories through music. Aretha Franklin has also been a massive inspiration – the gospel and power and richness of her voice is beyond comparison. It’s impossible to pick just one!
SX: Nashville has such a rich music history. What mark do you hope to leave on your city’s music scene?
RC: Being born and raised in Nashville, I’ve really gotten to watch the city grow and change over the past few years. I’ve watched so many great artists and writers develop and grow, leaving a distinct footprint. I want to leave my own. I want to say something through music that only I can say but speaks to the community as a whole.
SX: Who are you currently listening to?
RC: Genuinely a little bit of everything! But I always come back to the classics – Fleetwood Mac, Elton, Billy Joel, Aretha. I’m also really into Jessie Ware, Ariana Grande, Troye Sivan, Lady Gaga… the list goes on.
SX: How has SoundExchange helped you fund your dreams as a creator?
RC: I’ve grown up in the age of digital music consumption. I love that music is so accessible and constantly moving with the changes of technology. And as a creator, being able to release music that can be widely accessible and consumed is seriously incredible. SoundExchange has allowed me to do so, while also receiving fair compensation. SoundExchange has helped to allow my dream of creating & releasing music I care about to become a reality and career for me. I’m genuinely so thankful and excited to see what we’re gonna do next.