Interview: ‘Leave Me Out To Dry’ With Riley Catherall + The Colourful Writer

Words/Interview by Shannon-Lee Sloane {The Colourful Writer}

I am not sure what it is exactly, perhaps it the way of the world as it is right now, the fear, the unknowing, the changes to our daily lives and routine and the resulting anxieties surrounding all these things. Or perhaps it’s my heart calling to me for music that is so deeply emotive, that I can do nothing but truly feel the music in that moment that I tune into it and tune out to the world. Whatever it may be, despite my incredibly broad taste in music, my main genre and style that I have been tuning into and yearning for the most for the last month or so is Folk, Alternative Country, Storytellers, Singer- Songwriters and anything that is chock full of amazing lyrics and emotive depth. Music that quite often has me in tears because it almost feels like a release of sorts. I am so eternally grateful for this music.

Fortunately, I have had a lot of this kind of music come into my world. ‘Ask and ye shall receive’ or whatever that saying is. I got a press release recently for Riley Catherall’s new single, Leave Me Out To Dry. From the moment I clicked the link and tuned in, I knew I needed to know more about this talented musician and I immediately listened to all the music he has available to date. For me the immediate thoughts were that there was a similarity to some of my most favourite artists within his genres, Josh Pyke, Angus and Julia Stone and many more. Riley’s vocals are so crystal clear, articulate and emotive, his guitar playing, so delicate and precise and his band are equally as wonderful, with backing vocals from Gabrielle Parker that are just like honey and give off that Angus and Julia Stone vibe and feel.

I had the absolute pleasure of chatting with Riley recently about the new single release, his upcoming album, his fortunate time ‘under the wings’ of Bill and Kasey Chambers, his move from Canberra to Melbourne and being addicted to house plants.

I recently got a press release about your latest single, Leave Me Out To Dry. I stopped and tuned into the new song and I was hooked. Such a beautiful song, with storytelling lyrics and beautiful harmonies too. So let’s talk about the song! Tell me about it? When did you write it, what’s it about? 

“The song I guess is a bit of a sequel of sorts to a previous release of mine called Watered Down Man which I wrote in the first few months of living in Melbourne. And the only friends I had were people that liked to drink a lot. So I found myself spending a lot of money that I had saved to move to Melbourne on having friends essentially *laughs*. I got out of that state and focused on my music and then I wrote this song towards the end of last year, in between tours. You sort of have a ‘hangover period’ from driving around doing shows and when you’re out on the road I guess you don’t tend to eat to well and you drink a little too heavily *laughs* So this was a song about reminding myself not to slip back into all that I guess.” 

The song comes with a lovely music video too. It’s got a very homely and comfortable feel to it, filmed in a backyard, I love that. Tell me about the process of the video? When and where did you film it? 

“We actually had a plan to do a rather elaborate music video but then once we actually recorded the song, we did everything in one take with everybody in the room, so we did it very quickly I guess, imperfections and all. So I think when we went to do the music video it was decided that it would be better if we just somewhat went to the scene of the crime *laughs*. It was out the back of my guitarists house. Which is a share house in Brunswick, which is all run down and disheveled. And I said ‘this is like sort of where we would be on a night, so why not just do it here?’ I think it captured it a whole lot better. It’s more genuine and a little bit more vulnerable. It also allowed me to get some time in with the band before we were not allowed to see each other for a while.”

The single comes from your forthcoming debut album, tell me about the album! What’s it called? When will it be released into the world? 

“It’s very much in the genesis. I would love it to be further along, but it is really hard to even be in the same room as each other, to even record the rest of it. All the songs are there and we’ve made a start. But we are sort of at the mercy of restrictions and actually being allowed to see each other. We were hoping for the end of this year. But realistically it might be further away than that. I wouldn’t say it’s a conceptual album, but there are definitely some scenes that sort of get revisited. I think the whole alcohol thing is one of them, so expect to hear, I guess some of the same stuff *laughs*”

Yes, it’s really hard for a lot of bands and musicians at the moment, my heart goes out to you. I was chatting to a local band here the other night and they are holding off on releasing an album that’s ready to go, so they can tour with it…

“One of the things I guess, with this single, I was expecting to release it earlier in the year. But then when everything started happening, I thought well I don’t want to go at this half assed or something *laughs* and it’s the same with the album too. But at the same time, I feel as though this has forced a lot of people to rejig the way they release music. I would usually tour a new song. But it’s nice to see this song getting into people’s ear holes without me having to be out on the road slaving away at it.”

I read that for your debut EP, ‘Venture In Vein’, you worked with Bill and Kasey Chambers! That must have been amazing, tell me what it was like working with them?

“Yeah I was lucky when I first sort of got into the Country music world, that I crossed their paths and they kind of took me under their wing in a sense. It was really nice for me to sort of fast track a lot of the things I needed to know, they showed me who to listen to and who not to listen to and all that sort of stuff.” 

Tell me about the beginning. When did you first discover you could sing and when did you first start to play guitar? Has music been with you from a young age? 

“Yeah I think so. Mum was a piano teacher when I was younger and Dad always had the guitar out, he was self taught. I remember taking Australian classics into show and tell in kindergarten. I was always a bit of a show pony. *laughs* And you know I went through the stage of being real sporty. And then, I have a younger brother who got a whole lot better at all the sports and I think that was where I started focusing more on music rather than sports *laughs*. I think it has always been there. It took me awhile to come back to the sort of Country music, singer songwriter scene that I am in now. Just ‘cos you know, you grow up, in your teens, everyone wants to be Slash, so *laughs* So, yeah I am glad that I am here.” 

Who are some of your biggest influences? And who is an influence or a band or musician you love that people might not expect you to? 

“I mean, obvious ones probably are James Taylor, Neil Young, Jason Isbell, Caroline Spence. I grew up with a lot of The Whitlams. I really, really love Tim Freedman. It’s funny, when I tell people that, they go ‘Oh what? You’re a folk singer.’ I mean he is an incredible songwriter, just in a different vein I guess. I think that is probably the strangest one you’d probably hear.” 

Tell me about your band, how did you all find each other? I adore the vocals from your keyboardist and backing vocalist, Gabrielle Parker, the harmonies from the two of you are just divine. 

“Yeah. She is phenomenal. My drummer is actually from Canberra. I didn’t actually know him when I lived in Canberra but we knew of each other. We were playing in a few other bands together. I asked him about a bass player, he brought a bass player, Joel, he is absolutely phenomenal. Then Ryan and Gab I actually met through Uni. We were sort of just playing in a couple of ensemble bands that we were sort of forced into *laughs* and then I enjoyed their company enough to ask them to come and play for me. It has been good, it has taken a couple of years to sort of get the outfit right. We have had a couple of guitarists as well. I think it’s a tricky thing for me, being a guitarist in other bands to then hand over that job to other people and just sit at the front and just strum the guitar a little bit. It’s nice to have full confidence in everybody and not have to worry about what they are doing because they are all very good at what they do.” 

I read a quote that said you were a “Young man with an old soul” – do you believe in the meaning of an ‘old soul’? That we’ve all been here before? 

“Yeah, I guess so? I think what I take away from that is like, I was often hesitant to write songs that are heavy hitting or whatever because people might look at me and go ‘Oh, you’re only 20 something, what can you tell me about that sort of stuff?’ So it’s nice when people can recognize that I am singing from the perspective of somebody else and pulling it off I guess? *laughs* So I think that is probably one of the biggest compliments I have got yet.” 

You’re originally from Canberra, but currently based in Melbourne. I am so sorry to hear of the tight restrictions in Melbourne right now, due to Covid. How are you going down there? What are you doing to keep your musical and creative side flowing right now? Has it been a good time for you musically, have you been inspired to write more?

“It’s interesting, you know, when this first happened, me and a lot of my friends were all, at an end, we had lots of plans for this year so it was awfully disappointing. But I think once we realized that it was a forced lockdown and everybody else was in the same position, we sort of came to terms with it a whole lot easier. And also, I was tired, you know? *laughs* So as much as I would have liked to have been overseas, you know three or four times this year touring, I was also like, OK now I get some time to be at home. I can go for a run, I can work on my own physical and mental health for a little while and hang out with my girlfriend and not have to live out of my suitcase for a while. I actually didn’t pick up my guitar for quite a while. Just sort of focused on other things. But then it also gave me motivation to get back into it. So I went from not writing at all and then all of a sudden doing lots of Zoom co writing sessions with some friends of mine overseas and here, like in Melbourne, like people who live down the road *laughs* but I have to do it via Zoom so *laughs* I don’t know. It has actually been sort of nice.”

I lived in Canberra myself a couple of times growing up, I noticed the live music scene was a little bit quiet there, though that was a long time ago, did you move to Melbourne to have a bigger platform for your music? 

“Yeah. There was a little music scene there. But I spent quite a lot of the years there immediately after finishing school, driving around NSW and doing lots of shows in Sydney and stuff. I enjoyed Sydney, a lot of my friends moved to Sydney. But I had heard a lot of great things about Melbourne. I had never actually been there when I moved down here. So it was a bit on a whim. But I had heard it being called the ‘music capital of Australia’ and so I thought well, you know, why not? *laughs* I think the first 18 months of me living here was just sort of going to gigs and watching other people and just trying to figure the industry out a little bit down here, Which was good, and really humbling to see so many great musicians all in one place. You know, going from the small population of Canberra, the tiny little tight knit scene that I was in there. The vastness of Melbourne was really probably a good thing for me I think.” 

So other than your beautiful music, I have noticed in a lot of your photos and live streams from your Facebook page, that you have a lot of plants in the background. Do you have a green thumb? Do you love gardening and plants? 

“*laughs* Yeah, It’s sort of been around a lot for the last few years. It’s sort of a trend that I think a lot of people have jumped on. The live stream you would have seen was actually at my Mum and Dads place. I remember I got my sister into it a couple of years ago and she has just gone out of control. I have never seen more plants in one place. There was some guy on the news for having the most plants and I looked at it and I thought, that’s actually not that much more than what my sister has got going on *laughs* So it’s really nice. I am sure it is good for you. It’s an expensive hobby, especially when I sort of spend a lot of time on the road and don’t necessarily look after them as much as I should *laughs*” 

And I wanted to end our chat on a really beautiful note, in March you released a live version of your Mum’s favourite song of yours for her birthday; Mother Please – first of all, that is just the sweetest thing ever! I bet your Mum was just so happy and so proud. Being a Mum of three myself, I know I would just melt if my son did that for me. Has your Mum been a big supporter of your musical journey so far?

“Yeah, Mum and Dad both. I have been really fortunate. I always had my Grandmother in my ear sort of going ‘ Oh, you know, when are you going to get a real degree?’ But Mum and Dad never questioned my path. I think they believed in me enough and thought that I was doing alright. My younger brother and sister are both getting proper degrees, so if all else fails I can fall back on the success of them *laughs* But no, they were very supportive. Dad was out there getting me my first shows when I was old enough to. Whenever I am back in Canberra they will come and see me. They have actually flown down to Melbourne a few times for album launches and stuff like that. So I am really fortunate. I know I have friends of mine who have parents who aren’t quite as encouraging. So I consider myself very lucky in that sense.”  

Follow Riley Catherall:

With thanks to Wildheart Publicity

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