“The downfall of my football career was the rise of my music career,” said Riley Green during a recent visit to MusicRow‘s office. Green is the newest member of the BMLG Records family (an imprint of Big Machine Label Group).
The Jacksonville, Alabama native played quarterback at Jacksonville State, until his sports dreams were sidelined.
“I can throw pretty good, but I was real skinny,” he says. “When I got out of high school I was like 6’3″ and 165 pounds. When I was a starter at Jacksonville State, they signed a guy named Ryan Perrilloux from LSU’s national championship team. When the coach told me they signed Ryan, I was like, ‘I’ll go get my stuff out of my locker.’”
Football’s loss was music’s gain, as Green concentrated on his love of writing songs and performing.
Though Green is now a Nashville resident, his “There Was This Girl” single was crafted late last year, when Green was still making regular commutes from his home in Alabama to Music City. He co-wrote the track with Erik Dylan.
“We started talking about all the dumbest things we had done in our lives, and the one constant excuse we had was there was always this girl,” he says. “It was something we thought a lot of guys could relate to. It’s a really ‘90s country sounding song that’s kind of a refreshing sound for a lot of people.” Green is one of a number of artists, including recent releases from Cody Johnson, Florida Georgia Line, Jon Pardi and several others, to embrace throwback sounds reminiscent of the robust twang that ’90s country was known for.
“There Was This Girl” is from Riley’s four-song EP In A Truck Right Now, which released June 29. His traditional-leaning voice rumbles through songs including the title track, which traces the steadfast role a pickup plays in many of life’s most memorable stages.
During the MusicRow visit, Green also performed “Numbers On The Cars,” a song inspired by his grandfather.
“Granddaddy was a big NASCAR fan,” Green says. “I can remember going over to his house on Sundays and he would say, ‘Son, what is going on here is that black number three car goes around the track real fast and all the other cars try to catch him.’ I got to thinking about him getting Alzheimer’s, and about how, even going through that, he would still know who drove what numbered car.”
Green signed his publishing deal with Warner/Chappell Music in February, one week before he inked a recording contract with Big Machine Label Group.
“They offered me a record deal in Chicago at Joe’s Bar,” Green recalls. “Jimmy [Harnen] and them gave me a bottle of Crystal and we walked around the streets of Chicago. I didn’t sign that night, but we still drank the champagne.”
He’s recorded about eight songs for the album so far, and teamed with Dann Huff for the project. Green says he wasn’t aware of Huff’s legendary producer status until fellow label mate Reba told him.
“I met Reba in Vegas at the ACMs,” Green says. “Scott [Borchetta] introduced me to her and told her I was in the studio. When I told her my producer was Dann Huff, she slapped me in the face with her scarf. She said, ‘Here I was in the ‘90s trying to go through all these producers to find one that’s worth a shit and here you get Dann Huff right off the bat.’ So that told me he was pretty good.”
Prior to signing his deal with Warner/Chappell and BMLG, Green had already put out several EPs, and had three different tracks garner 3 million streams each. As is increasingly common in Nashville, early streaming success led to calls from several potential label and publishing suitors—an exhilarating but stressful prospect for any new artist.
“I had a few offers for publishing and label, and it was miserable to try to make a decision because everyone was great. They don’t put people that aren’t likeable in A&R positions at labels or publishing companies. I remember I was getting to eat a lot of steak and drink a lot of wine…”
Green says BMLG was the first label to offer him a deal, and in the end, was the place he felt most comfortable.
“Them giving me the first offer definitely came into play. I had a lot of songs recorded and ready, and I didn’t want them to be put on a shelf,” he says. “That was my big fear. Big Machine seemed to really like what I was already doing and just wanted to make it better.”
Green will offer live renditions of plenty of those songs on his headlining The Outlaws Like Us Tour, which launches in August with guests Troy Cartwright and Trea Landon. Green’s full-length album is set for a 2019 release.
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