ONE sees Rider, and the spirit she has, and imagines her starring…
in an American Indie film. The U.S-born songwriter is based over here but definitely has a lot of American passion, humour and musical heritage – someone who has grown up with a range of influences and in different locations. I ask her about the new song, A Little Light. She talks about the song’s tough story and how, when the track was conceived, she had gone through a confusing and dislocating time. Rider chats about future music and gigs; the albums and artists that have helped guide her through her music career (so far).
I ask her about her evolution and progressing from penning radio jingles to, in a few days, performing at one of London’s best small venues – and what she has learned along the way. Rider talks about producing her own material and the influence her family had on her music/outlook on life.
Hi, Rider. How are you? How has your week been?
I’ve been great - and thank you for having me!
For those new to your work, can you introduce yourself, please?
I was born in America but have lived in the U.K. since I was about five-years-old. I’ve lived all over England - as well as South West Wales, too. I grew up in a musical family and started writing my own songs around the age of eight - mostly by playing around on the piano and singing something that would stick.
I started to produce my own songs - using my dad’s music studio - from about the age of thirteen-fourteen - and I’ve been hooked ever since! I’ve worked in London, recently; recording vocals for radio, T.V. and film - but have always worked on my own music in my spare time.
I’m a dreamer, I’m an airhead: I’m serious; I’m crazy and I love a good-ol' deep-chat about anything - space, nature; quantum physics or spirituality.
Wow, that sounds like I’m writing for a dating site! That’s me, though...
That name, ‘Rider’. Is that indication that you push forward and have energy to keep dreaming? Was there a time or moment that inspired the name – or is it the embodiment of your passion and determination?
It means many things to me but, yes: it’s definitely a reflection of how I feel about my life and my outlook towards it.
It just sums me up well!
A Little Light is your new single. Can you tell me about the song and the story that compelled it?
It echoes a difficult time in my life from about three-four years ago. I basically found myself in a love-triangle. I also wasn’t sure if I was turning gay or that I was just bi. I felt lost...
To sum up the story; it goes like this:
I was in the middle of a hard break-up with a guy who I had been with for years - but I had also fallen in love with a girl who I had been seeing for a while - even though she lived in America. Every time she came to visit, we would act as if we were together. Eventually, I met another guy who completely changed my life! We started to hang out a lot and he just made me feel better about everything! He knew about this other girl and my hard breakup with my boyfriend and respected me - but we were both falling in love.
It was so hard for everyone involved. So, even though it was a real transitional time in my life, he was literally my ‘little light’ - that helped me get through the emotional mess I was in.
It seems like the song, in title and sound, is a relief and redemption after a fraught patch in your life. Are relationships and matters of the heart the biggest motivator for your creativity or was there something unique that led to A Little Light’s creation?
I would say the past four years of my life have definitely fuelled the need to write about my relationships - and the ups-and-downs of love. It’s what really affects me - more than anything, really! Perhaps that’s because I think a lot with my heart...or that I’m, simply, a girl - and us girls love to chat about our relationships. I’ve always been in one, too. The last time I was single for more than a week was when I was sixteen-years-old! I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not...
I’ve wondered what it may mean - or maybe I’ve just been lucky enough to find amazing guys to be with at those particular times in my life.
Love is definitely the driving force behind my songs.
PHOTO CREDIT: Ollie Rillands
What was the video like to shoot? Can you tell me about the concept and how representative the visuals are the messages and truth of the song?
It was a lot of fun!
I feel it definitely tested my acting abilities. The bathroom scene was amazing because I had to make myself cry (after having to imagine sad things in my mind) and then, sitting topless in the bath - in front of the camera crew - was pretty funny. I wanted it to all be as real as possible, though, as if I was reliving my memories. It worked and I felt pretty exhausted after it. I love acting and will do anything to express and evoke what the song’s about - it has to be real to me!
The kissing in the alleyway scene was also a laugh to film because people were walking by sometimes and would stop in confusion and stare. It made it more exciting to film, though. All in all, it was filmed over two days: the first being the indoor shots and the second the outdoor shots.
The visuals, throughout, are VERY reflective of what actually happened to me. We wanted to create that massive divide between the happy times and the bad; light and dark. At that time, three-four years ago, I was a mess (from each day to the next). One minute, I felt the happiest I've ever been: the next, crying my eyes out like my life was ending. It was so weird and real hard to deal with.
Looking back, though: I was totally stuck in my head about stuff and just too scared of hurting anyone.
Does A Little Light mean there will be more material soon? What are your plans regarding an E.P., for example?
There’s definitely more material to release!
For the moment I’m just enjoying releasing singles and music videos across Vevo, Spotify; Apple Music etc. - I love to see people’s reactions/connections to them.
There is certainly enough material for an album - which may well be surfacing next year.
You’re an artist who writes and produces their own material. How important is it having that control and direction and do you think more artists should take this approach?
I am and I think it’s vital I keep writing and producing on my own - because I’m able to fully create what’s in my head. I’ve worked with other producers in the past and, although that has its unique benefits, I feel they can never fully create what I hear. I think if you’re able to produce your own music then, yes, I highly recommend it! No one can copy your way of writing or what sounds you want to use and how.
It’s the best!
You are U.S.-born but are based in the U.K. What was the reason for relocating and do you notice a big difference between the music scenes in both countries?
I moved to the U.K. when I was about five-years-old because my dad took a job over here - so I don't have much experience working as an artist in the U.S. From what I’ve heard on the radio though - whilst visiting family over there - the U.S. is definitely more varied and accepting of different types of music (more than the U.K.) - that’s no surprise since it’s a massive country with millions more people. The U.K. market is a lot smaller. Perhaps that’s a positive thing, though, because you’d get noticed over here more easily. I’m not entirely sure.
Either way; I’d love to break America and tour it a hundred-times-over (as well as the U.K.).
What was it like when you first arrived here? You moved about a bit. Was it difficult finding your niche here or was it a case of exploring the country? What were the best early memories you had of this country?
I was so young - but I remember my first primary school.
I also had a feeling that things were smaller in general - like our car, our house; other people’s houses. The weather was also a little different. Things like that were a little strange to me but when you’re as young as five-six years old…you adjust really quickly.
Before releasing music; you appeared on a number of jingles on big radio stations. What was that experience like and how beneficial was that time and exposure to your confidence?
Working as a session singer over the years and recording all sorts of things - not only radio jingles have helped me develop my voice in ways I couldn't do otherwise: all the experiences have been incredibly valuable! I’ve constantly been asked to sing like so-and-so; mimic this-and-that-artist and, through that, I found my true voice. Some say being able to mimic other artists can be a curse because you can lose sight of who you really are as a singer - but it’s done the opposite for me, actually, and helped me understand what’s the most natural way for me to sing.
Also; a lot of radio jingles require of a lot of tracking-up (layering up vocals and harmonies) and that’s helped me with my own vocal production.
Your music has been played at the opening and closing ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Are these your career highlights and how did it feel hearing your sounds being projected to so many people?
My music was played on T.V. during the showing of the Olympics and Paralympic Games. But, because I don’t really watch T.V., I didn't even hear it while it was being played. I found out at a later date so I didn't get that instant buzz feel of hearing it live.
Still; I do feel a lot of pride knowing it was played.
Tell me a bit about your music idols and inspirations. Who are the artists that have been most instrumental and important to you?
I grew up as a Christian and used to listen to a lot of Amy Grant (whom I still adore). Her album, called The Collection (from 1986), was almost on constant-repeat in my bedroom. I would say the production on those tracks has greatly influenced me from a young age.
I’ve gone through phases of listening to certain artists on repeat like Prince, Michael Jackson; Third Eye Blind, Faith Hill; Céline Dion, Leann Rimes; Donna Lewis and the Goo Goo Dolls. Each of these artists, I feel, has all influenced me at certain stages in my life - there’s tonnes, though! Also, growing up in a musical family, I used to hear my dad and brother improvise on the piano all the time - they are my number one influences, to be honest. I do feel being exposed to a lot of Classical music whilst growing up too has influenced me.
I would go to many concerts from as young as I can remember - with full orchestras performing. I grew up singing in many choirs too - so that’s definitely influenced my creativity with vocal arranging and naturally understanding harmony etc.
It’s been a rich musical upbringing and I’ve been inspired by all of it!
You play The Water Rats on 19th September. Are you looking forward to that gig and what can we expect in terms of songs and set?
Oh, my word…I am seriously looking forward to the gig!
Set-wise, they’ll be some little surprises along the way: some emotional ups-and-downs and some serious rocking-out. It’s an all-killer set - so I really hope to see you there. Come along!
We’ll be on stage at 8 P.M.
What other tour dates do you have coming up? Where can we see you play?
Apart from my gig on the 19th September; we have another gig lined-up at The Camden Assembly (London) on 30th October. Come to it!
Tour dates will follow soon, though!
Who are new acts you recommend we check out?
You should really check out The Kondoors. These guys have THE most incredible voices and write the most beautiful songs. They’re real soulful and their song, Forgiveness, makes me cry every single darn time! They’re amazing!
IN THIS PHOTO: The Kondoors
Another is a band called Fickle Friends. I really love their vibe and energy. Their production is so upbeat and has that happy '80s feel to it - I can’t get enough them!
Check out LANY, too - man, I love these guys so much! I went to see them live at KOKO (in London) some months ago and I fell in love with them instantly. They have that sunny and dreamy quality to their production and songs - which instantly makes me feel happy and relaxed.
IN THIS PHOTO: Fickle Friends
If you had to select the three albums that mean the most to you; which would they be and why?
Wow: this is tricky to answer…
Ok; my first album is Songbird by Eva Cassidy
The album holds a lot of weight for me - so many memories. I used to listen to it on-repeat during my A-levels - and throughout my years at uni. Eva’s voice is beyond perfection.
My second is an album by Sting called All This Time
It’s actually a live recording of a concert he held on the 11th September, 2001 - the same day the Twin Towers were hit in N.Y. The songs he performed on this album and the rich arrangements created are so sublime.
One word: inspirational.
My third album is a tough decision - because I have so many more - but I think it has to be Amy Grant’s The Collection (released in 1986). This album takes me right back to my early-childhood years. I instantly get that feeling of warmth, safety; home; being with Mum, Dad and my brother; America, being naive…everything. It makes me feel everything! It’s so hard to describe.
Have a listen!
What advice would you give to artists coming through right now?
Be self-sufficient: learn as much as you can and keep learning about the industry you’re about to get into.
Read the fine print….
Follow your vision: don't let anyone change what you truly desire to be.
Dream big - and then dream bigger than that!
Finally, and for a being good sport; you can name a song and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that).
I Love You Always Forever by Donna Lewis (one of my (most) favourite songs of all-time).
Thank you so much!