At only 18, LA-based singer/songwriter Graham Riley has already achieved notable success in his early career. With only a handful of independent singles, he has quickly amassed over a million streams and convincing following. Today, we are truly excited to premiere Graham’s first visual release “Rain” and introduce a promising new artist.
Carrying a rich musical background and inspired by his musical mentor Margie Balter, Graham’s musical approach could be described as effective new age indie-pop. Nostalgia is seamlessly woven through self-reflective lyrics and relatable feelings of teenage angst – yet his vocal maturity is far ahead of his time with an undoubted classical execution.
Directed by Ryder Sloane, the music video compliments the budding artist’s most successful single-to-date, and points to a bright career in music. In our candid discussion, we spoke to Graham about his new video, overcoming depression, and how growing up in LA influenced his sound. Read our full conversation below.
Congratulations on your new release. How does it feel to finally have this video out with the world?
Graham: Thank you! It feels fantastic. Ryder Sloane directed it beautifully. We shot this video in August and the song has been out for around a year-and-a-half now, so I’ve definitely had to employ a good amount of patience. I hope the visual will allow fans of the song to have a greater understanding of the feelings that inspired its’ creation.
What does this song mean to you – and what inspired you to write it?
Graham: This song does mean a lot to me. It captures a pivotal moment in my adolescence when I first experienced depression. I wrote this song when I was 16, and having never felt or thought about depression before, I could only describe my experience as a dark rain cloud passing over my brain, hence the inspiration for the song. Every time I hear “Rain” now, I am reminded of just how much I have changed since I wrote it two years ago. I think that music can capture the beauty of adolescence; my ideas then were significantly more raw and unrefined than they are now. Each song I create represents my thoughts and feelings at a specific point in time. I’m sure that when I turn 20 and look back on the music I wrote when I was 18, I will probably have similar feelings.
“Rain” surpassed over a million streams when the single was first released. What was it like to receive that kind of initial support?
Graham: It was beautiful. As cliché as it may sound, I never would’ve expected the reaction that I received when I released “Rain” independently. In the age of play-listing, it was made even more special that the song got to one-million streams without any editorial playlists. I still remember that when Max Toth and I finished the first, extremely shitty demo of “Rain,” Max was insistent about putting it on his Soundcloud. I think we are both very glad that we held off. To be fair, we were 15 and 16 respectively, so we had almost no clue what we were doing. Overall, I am extremely grateful to the hundreds of thousands of people who have streamed Rain, as well as to Max for letting me put the song out on all platforms.
What was the creative process like conceptualizing and creating the visuals, in comparison to writing the song?
Graham: When it came to the video, there were two concepts I was absolutely set on. One is that I wanted very dim tones and dark coloring, and the second was renting out the rain room. After Ryder sent me a link to a studio in DTLA for a room with controlled rain, it was pretty challenging to pass up. The entire budget for the video was renting that room for an hour, priced at 73 bucks. The rest of the video was shot at various locations around downtown, including the iconic Department of Water and Power building. In comparison to writing the song, the process for conceptualizing the visual was super different. Ryder had a lot of creative control over the visual, and the energies and themes that I had wanted for the video were captured perfectly.
People who may be listening/watching for the first time will be impressed to know that you’re only 18. How long have you been creating music?
Graham: I started as a classically trained pianist when I was 3 years old, but my interest in song writing and pop music didn’t blossom until around the age of 10. I started collaborating with producers and learning to write on beats when I was 15, and for my 16th birthday, my parents graciously helped me set up an unimpressive but practical home studio. Since then, my focus has been split between working with my talented producer peers and producing for myself. Honestly, I still feel as if I am such a novice in the song writing game. I learn new things every time I write, and I often find myself fanboying over the incredible musical feats that more tenured songwriters and producers accomplish. I’m not entirely sure if fanboying is a word, but you get the idea.
One thing that stands out right away is your vocal range and the skilled inflections in your voice. Are you self-taught or have you had previous training in music?
Graham: Thank you! I’ve never really had any voice training but I took piano from the ages of 3 to 15, and I’ve been learning guitar and music theory on and off for the last two years. I think starting to learn an instrument at such a young age really fast tracked my ear training and allowed for me to understand melodies very well at a young age. I have no doubt in my mind that learning piano indirectly made me both a better singer and a better writer.
How has your environment and growing up in LA influenced you as an artist and your sound?
Graham: I absolutely can’t understate how much growing up in LA has influenced me as an artist. LA is such a creative hub with so many incredible artists that are constantly pushing limits and boundaries, so being in that company has forced me to constantly try and do the same. As far as my environment, I have been unbelievably lucky to grow up with an incredible array of talented musicians in my circles. My best friend is an amazing musical artist, and I didn’t even know he made music until about a year ago. One of my closest friends from childhood is my manager. Max was a grade below me in the same elementary and high school. LA is blessed with an embarrassing amount of talent.
Can we look forward to hearing more music from you in 2020?
Graham: Yes! This summer will be very exciting.
Watch the official premiere of “Rain,” and follow Graham on Instagram for future releases.