Interview || Riley Green

Let's talk about country music in 2017 for a minute. There's a new wave of country music that is more raw and vulnerable than it's ever been before. With vulnerability comes transparency. And transparency, well, sometimes that can be scary. But, most of the time the only reason transparency is scary is because we are afraid of the whole truth of a situation. Transparency is a hat that new comer Riley Green wears. And he wears it well.

source: Riley Green website

Riley Green hails from Northeast Alabama--more specifically Jacksonville. He has a huge, devoted following in the southeast that has grown 100% organically over the last few years. Riley doesn't have a record deal and he doesn't have a top ten single on the radio. Not yet, anyways. Riley was kind enough to sit down and chat with me before his co-headlining show in Macon about who he is, where he's going and why you should definitely be along for the ride.

Tell us a little bit about yourself for people who may not know much about you. When did you first get the itch to play music?

I grew up in Northeast Alabama, in a little town called Jacksonville. I played football, baseball and basketball all the way through school. I kind of dabbled in guitar. My granddaddy really liked music a lot. I wrote a song about him and there's a line in it that says 'he never could himself but he taught me how to play'--I'm not really sure what I was thinking about it when I wrote it but that's how it was. He didn't play the guitar but he pushed me to. We were sitting on the porch at my great grandparents house and he pulled the phone book out to call someone he knew that played. He called this older man to come over and he brought his fiddle. The next thing I know, there's four or five of us on the porch. I'm just watching their hands playing--that's how I learned how to play. It actually turned into this whole thing. We built a stage at my great grandparents house and called it the Golden Saw Music Hall. There will be several hundred older people out there every Friday night now. It's been going on for about 13 years now. That right there was my musical start.

You went from Music Hall on Friday nights to playing other local venues?

Absolutely. Being from a smaller town, I played lots of little hole in the wall bars. Then, I wrote 'Bury Me in Dixie.' After it had been out for a year or so my musical circle started to get a little bit bigger. That's how it all started.

So was it always music that you wanted to pursue? You also have a hunting show on Dirt Road TV called In the Hunt with Riley Green. Are you in it more for the kill or more so the thrill of the hunt?

Music was definitely my pursuit but I love being outdoors. If I had to quit hunting every game except one specific one, I'd quit everything except turkey hunting. I hate turkeys. I stay mad at them. They can see good, they can hear and they're smart. But, when turkey season comes around, that's all I do is ride around and look for them. Some of my best deer or duck hunts, though, I didn't even kill anything. I just like going. I like being outside. It's the same with fishing and being on a boat. I've got a boat and I love to fish but more so I just love being on a boat. People will ask sometimes 'oh, did you go fishing the other day?' and I tell them 'nope, just riding around.' It's the same with hunting. I just like being out there, regardless if I kill anything or not. I'm just going for a good time.

Speaking of a good time, you're new EP, 'Outlaws Like Us' was released yesterday and climbed the country chart to number 2 for a while. As an unsigned artist, that has to be the definition of a good time.

Absolutely. To the outside world that doesn't necessarily know how the charts work it may look like a huge deal--and it is. It's on a list and every other song on that list is played on the  radio. I don't have anything on the radio. So, the number two spot reflects that it all happened by word of mouth. It's all from social media that people bought it combined with me playing a bunch of bars. People will come to my shows and then leave and tell a buddy about me. It's awesome. I wouldn't have ever thought I'd be on any kind of chart at all. It means a whole lot that people have been  downloading my songs the last few days.

source: Riley Green website

You still live in Alabama as of now. With the continued success of writing and playing, a move to Nashville seems kind of unavoidable at this point.

I am going to have to move to Nashville at some point probably within the next little while. But, I do not like traffic. I struggle with Birmingham--and Atlanta. Nashville is worse than both of those. I like to drive so the thought of having to uber everywhere is rough. It's an awesome little town plus there's too many reasons to go out every night up there. I can go hard on Fridays and Saturdays when I play but then I need a few days to recover but up there, it's every night. Gary and Charlie will be going out somewhere when I'm up there. Someone we know is always playing somewhere. I'm building a house in Jacksonville on some family land. I'll always want a place there. I'll end up getting a place in Nashville, too but I'll always have a house there at home.

You've done well not being there full time, though. That's for sure. When it comes to the songs, though, is there one specific  song that you hear that you wish you would've written?

Oh yeah, that right there is literally my motivation to write songs. I hear something and think I wish I would've wrote that, you know? Right off the top of my head there is one that Brothers Osborne have called "Loving Me Back." Songs like that or "Whiskey and You" by Chris Stapleton. Songs that aren't ever going to jump out at anyone on the radio, it's never going to make it to number one as a slower, get you in the feels song. But, I think that's also because those are the kinds of songs that I like to write. 'Numbers on the Cars' is that kind of song. It will never do anything on the radio. I played it at Eddie's Attic the night after I finished writing it and after my set two ladies came up to me bawling their eyes out telling me how much the song meant to them. I like writing songs that people can relate to.

There's a large military crowd at the show tonight. These guys are from all over but stationed here and they were the ones singing 'Bury Me in Dixie' back to you the loudest. Most of them aren't even from Alabama yet they still relate to the song.

I think that's really special. It reminds them of home. I get a lot of social media messages from guys overseas or in the military that will say that song reminds them of home. It's kind of neat--I'll go up north to hunt and the guys will have me just sit and start playing songs and they all kind of relate the most to that one. Which, if you know anything about Alabama, 'Bury Me in Dixie' is an extremely regional song. People find ways to relate to it even if they aren't from Alabama. Another good example of that is my cover of 'Atlantic City.' People don't know what the chicken man is or what the song is even talking about half the song but they find a way to relate to it because it's a good song. It's an enjoyable song. I get that back from folks when I play 'Bury Me in Dixie.' I mean, we're in Georgia, playing a song about Alabama and I'm not getting booed off the stage. So, we're doing pretty good.

source: Riley Green website

'Bury Me in Dixie' is probably your most well known song. When writing music, what is your process like. Do you write it all in one sitting?

I had never co written, with anyone, until about eight months ago. Everything I wrote was just me on my own. It was kind of like I would get tired of all the songs that I was playing so I would tell myself I need new songs. It wasn't even necessarily that I had an idea, I just needed a song. I wrote 'Bury Me in Dixie' in about 45 minutes. I didn't even write a word of it down. I just turned my voice recorder on my phone and started playing. It's really cool, though. I went through one of my old cell phones the other day and I was listening for ideas and I could hear every line of 'Bury Me in Dixie' in the voice memos. It was just a bunch of thirteen second clips until I had the whole song recorded. There's not a rhyme or reason to how I do it. It's just luck.

I'd have to say that's more talent than luck. Has there been a song that's been particularly difficult for you to write?

I had the chorus to 'All Along' for about three years before it ever was finished. You know, there's the lines "I want grandma in the garden, granddaddy out there on the lake." I was just picturing that. I spend a lot of time on the road so when I get home one day and after they pass away, I want to remember it exactly how it was-- down to every detail that I could. Jacksonville is growing and the town is changing. Everything changes all the time. That was just my most nostalgic nod to family. I had the chorus but couldn't find the verses to it. I literally finished it two days before going into the studio to record the EP that the song is on. I just told myself I had to finish it. That one was a struggle.

A strong theme for you when writing songs ties back to your family. Taking pride in your last name, your momma's prayers making you who you are today. How do you stay connected to them being on the road as much as you are?

I bring them with me as much as I can. My momma and daddy come out to a lot of my shows. They were actually out with me in Athens this weekend. My whole family lives ten minutes away from where I grew up at. I try not to take that for granted. A lot of people don't even know their grandparents, let alone have both sets still alive. I can even remember my great grandmother out on the beach with me playing wiffle ball. I've always been real close to them. I'm gone on the weekends but I make time in the week. I probably go by both sets of my grandparents houses daily.

Would you credit one of those family members with influencing your style of music? Your style is unlike any other artist currently. Your songs sound like they could've been out forty years ago and still be relevant then. In the same thought, they are still relevant today and would be relevant in the future. It's a timeless style of writing. Was that learned from someone?

That was definitely my granddaddy Buford. He was the same one that pushed me into playing the guitar. The type of people who like my music are the type of people who like Merle Haggard. That's the best way to describe it. That's the same idea with the fans of mine who hunt. The same people who listen to my music like to hunt. So, with all the social media, it's done nothing but help my career. There's nothing like my music on the radio right now. The fact that you can play a Merle Haggard song that was put out decades ago and people still relate to it, that's pretty cool.

It's obvious your granddaddy influenced you a lot. Is there one piece of advice that someone outside of your family has given you that you've held onto?

Corey Smith. I won a little songwriter competition for a song I wrote called 'Almost.' I got to meet him and actually stayed in touch and he's been great to me. I was able to do a few shows with him as well. He's not a radio guy, you know? But, he's got a great career. He sells out shows--and he's been doing it for fifteen years. I use to watch him when I was in high school. He told me to do as much as I could on my own for as long as I could do it. That's helped me out because if I would've gone to Nashville four years ago, I'd have signed the first record deal that was offered to me. As a musician, a record deal is like what the NFL is to a athlete. That's the goal. Social media has changed the game so much recently. You don't have to have a record deal to have a career in music. I've built a following before I go to Nashville so that I can have a different conversation when I sit down with those people in those meetings. That's been a really good piece of advice.

It's a lot different than 10 years ago when record deals were strictly signed based on talent.

Oh yeah. They aren't looking for talent like they use to. Now with all the socials and streaming platforms, they're looking at numbers.

Is there a specific goal that you have in the back of your mind for the next year or so?

That's funny--because my goal for this year was to get a publishing deal. I've met with a lot of folks about one and I just want to be smart with my next move. I'm not totally sold that a publishing deal, for me, right now, is the best move. To be honest, I'm not writing for radio. Radio is not my goal. It would be more so of a goal of staying true to the music. I want to be able to be at one of those little song writer rounds in Nashville and I can play a song and have absolutely no care in the world if someone likes it--if it's a song I'm proud of that's all that matters. I look at it as songwriting is something I can always get better at. I want to continue to get better at it and write a bunch of songs that I'm really, really proud of.

source: Riley Green website


One listen to his new EP, "Outlaws Like Us" and proud is definitely a word and more so a feeling that Riley should feel naturally. It's refreshing to not only hear him sing his songs but really interesting to see his approach. That girl in that song he wrote called 'Georgia Time' is going to be the least of his worries soon. I stood in a theater last night with hundreds of people stuck on something called "Riley Green" time.

Special thanks to Riley for taking some time to talk to us about his new projects, his future plans and letting us in on his personal life a little bit. Make sure that you purchase his new EP, as well as the other EP's he's released. Check out his website for upcoming shows near you.



  1. Great article! Been following your blog since you were on Sam Hunt's team. Glad to see you linking up with another great artist!

  2. best interview I've ever read