Decatur, IL-based Americana singer-songwriter Ashley Riley is set to release her latest single, “Close to Me,” on August 28, 2020. “Close to Me” won the Midwest Music Expo Listening Panel in May 2020, and after many requests from fans that she release it, Riley decided it was high time to officially put the song out into the universe.
“This year, as we all can attest, has been sad and strange and full of challenges,” says Riley. “We’ve all had to adjust and figure out how to keep moving forward, what can take a backseat, and what we can let go of altogether. I really wanted to put out something that feels good and ‘Close to Me’ is that song for me. It’s got a nice groove to it, although it does make me laugh that I’m releasing a song entitled ‘Close to Me’ when we all are supposed to stay at least six feet apart.”
The vocals on “Close to Me” were from a quick demo take that was recorded the first day in the studio. Says Riley about the recording session: “I remember it well because, right before that, I sang for three hours at a luncheon for the American Heart Association and I got to meet Jennie Garth from ‘Beverly Hills 90210’ who was the speaker at the event.”
Her sound is laced with earthy grit, and at its core, Riley’s music is best described as sophisticated indie/Americana. There’s a dreamy quality to the songs, yet lyrically they capture the essence of the more honest moments of our days: those seemingly ordinary moments that suddenly take your breath away or make you weak in the knees, those moments that prove to us that oftentimes the most extraordinary moments are found in our everyday lives. Riley has been slowly chipping away at her upcoming album, taking a slightly different approach. “Close to Me” is the first single from the album; Riley is still working on it and plans to release the as-yet-unnamed album in early 2021.
After her EP release in 2017 (Can’t Let You Go), half of her band moved away, and Riley returned to her acoustic songwriting roots. “I went back into my own little shell of singer-songwriter-ness, and I started enjoying that space again,” says Riley. “After a while I wanted to capture some of the songs, and I felt like I had an opportunity for it to be a blank slate again.” She reached out to James Treichler at Wave Upon Wave in Champaign, IL and headed into the studio with him in early 2019. Since then, Riley has been working with Treichler and dialing in the sound for the upcoming album. “It’s been an interesting process, really digging in and choosing the palette for each song,” Riley says. “I didn’t realize how heavily I relied on different players in my previous band to help pull out the sound, and it’s been really fun to step into that role more fully myself.”
Riley has been a staple in the music scene of her hometown Long Creek, IL, where she got her start hosting open mics in the Decatur area around 2008, helping to revitalize and nurture the underground singer-songwriter scene in town. After starting as an acoustic-based songwriter on her first record, Riley realized by her second album that her songs begged for a band, and her subsequent albums got the full-band treatment to glowing reviews.
New Noise Magazine called her “one of the best obscure female artists I’ve heard in, well, ever,” and In-Forty.com declared her a “female songstress everyone would be wise to spend time with.” Women of Substance Radio noted: “Ashley’s songs have an ethereal and delicate quality… Her reverence for Americana artists like Neil Young and Patty Griffin is unmistakable. She pens lyrics that are unsettling and sometimes even disturbing, as all good lyrics should be.” Illinois Entertainer trumpeted: “Make no mistake, Ashley Riley has an utterly gorgeous voice and a sound all her own.” Seven of the nine songs on her third album, All The Pretty Things, can be heard in rotation on Starbucks in-store airplay.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Riley is unable to tour right now. Fans eager to see her live can catch her celebrating the release of her new single with two livestreams. The first will be on August 21st at 8 p.m. central on TheBoot.com‘s Facebook and Instagram pages. The second will be on August 28th (the single’s release date) for SCENES Live Sessions on SCENES’ Facebook, Instagram, Periscope/Twitter, YouTube, and Twitch simultaneously at 7 p.m. central.