Amanda Rose Riley
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Amanda Rose Riley

Lincoln Park, New Jersey, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2016 | SELF

Lincoln Park, New Jersey, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2016
Solo Folk Acoustic

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"A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Woman"

"Someday I’m gonna sing a song that’s not in G, and like it / Someday I’m gonna do those fancy pickings at speed / Someday I’m gonna look an audience in the eye, and not stumble / Maybe even tell them something I haven’t memorized / But I’ll get there, I’ll get there, I’ll get there, I’ll get there / The fun’s in the journey anyway."

Those are the lyrics that kick off Secrets I Told To A Sound Hole, the debut studio album by Morris County singer-songwriter Amanda Rose Riley. It’s a fun, quirky look at the life of a musician from the very beginning of a career. In many ways, all of the songs tell the same story from different angles. The end effect is similar to a concept album.

“When I released the album, I did think of it as a concept album,” said Riley. “I was very careful to try to order the songs so they sort of tell the story of my journey with music. But when I was writing songs, I actually stumbled on the theme by accident. I was just thinking a lot about music, my relationship with it, and my ambitions. I realized I couldn’t write songs about anything else. The only thing that was coming out was stuff about music. I was actually kind of annoyed at myself at first, but I eventually decided to go with it because I realized it could be interesting.”

Her journey is definitely interesting as it provides insight into the mind of a young artist. Riley is not your typical artist either. She created an entire marketing plan from scratch for this album - spending time to create lists of publications, radio stations, and blogs who might be interested in her work. While many artists can’t wait to record their first record in a real studio, Riley spent two months rehearsing her songs before entering the studio for the first time. For someone excited to move forward as a musician, she was also careful to take time with each step of the road.

Riley was not merely patient; she loves every aspect of the business. She enjoys reaching out to people, researching, reading books and blogs, and simply soaking up every aspect of the music industry.

“I think I’m lucky in that none of it was boring or tedious for me,” said Riley. “I was very motivated because it’s a lot of money to invest for somebody that’s on a budget. So, I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t just throwing my money into a void. I wanted to do everything right.”

This means being proactive. Riley has done everything from open mics to livestream acoustic concerts on the web. She has performed abroad and busked in public, performing for strangers with just her guitar. Locally, she has performed as part of NJ Transit’s “Music In Motion” program, which auditions musicians to be able to play in major train stations and terminals. She has performed in a few different stations in North Jersey and New York City, but generally returns to the Secaucus Junction station where she has received the best response (both tips and applause).

Her first experience busking was rather nerve-wracking, but she fought through it. “It was funny because I was nervous about people hearing me, but, at the same time, nobody was even hearing me!” she recalled. “Everyone was into their own business. It’s very loud in the stations and I don’t use an amp or microphone, so people only hear me when they’re right next to me. I like it that way because the only people who stop to listen are the people who are interested. That way I don’t have to annoy a lot of people and make them cranky on their commute.”

Riley has also busked a few times in England. Her favorite artists include Frank Turner and many who are also on the same Xtra Mile Recordings label as Turner. She has gone to England several times to see artists in concert and has made many British friends during her travels. In addition, her love of Turner has also led to some of the biggest steps in her career.

She was able to perform in the middle of an impromptu set Turner was playing during a Flogging Molly cruise, which led to several new fans. Turner has also helped promote Riley’s music on social media. Riley says getting associated with larger artists has helped her career more than anything else.

“I think the key thing is to find a place where there is a lot of people who would potentially like your music such as fans of a similar artist,” said Riley. “That’s the kind of exposure I think is important. Everything I do has helped me. Some things are better at bringing in new people and other things are better at keeping people engaged. Even if people listen to you at one place and they like you they won’t necessarily follow you. And, if they do follow you, you might bore them if you don’t keep doing different things.”

Doing new and different things has never been a problem for Riley. Unlike many artists, her first studio album was composed of completely different songs than she had been playing. Often, a debut album contains songs written years earlier and performed dozens or even hundreds of times before ever being recorded in the studio.

“I wish I could write all of the time,” admitted Riley. “I always try to put myself on a daily or weekly schedule to write a little, but, for some reason, my brain just works better if I give myself a time to just hole myself away for a couple of weeks. When I wrote the album, it was basically within a month and a half. I took breaks when I got burned out, but it was pretty much several hours a day every day. That just seems to work well for me.”

It’s not like she didn’t have a collection of songs previously written to choose from. In another nod to planning out a musical career, Riley spent a full year releasing new music via the Throwaway Song of the Week. None of these songs appear on her album, although the best of the 52 songs are available on her Ultimate Digital Collection (2015-18), which she sells on a USB stick.

“I had only written a handful of songs before starting the Throwaway Song of the Week,” recalled Riley. “The reason I did it is because I knew I would have to write a lot of songs before I starting getting good. So, I told myself I was going to do a full year of weekly songs. By the end of that, I was going to be proud of my songwriting skills and it pretty much worked!”

Her plans for a career in music also led Riley to make the leap from working full-time to part-time. This was done for two main reasons: it gives her more time to focus on music and it also forces her to find ways to make money from her music.

“I think it helps me mentally because it makes me feel like I have to try harder to build income streams and build a career,” she explained. “If you have a stable job and you don’t have to worry about money, I think it’s a lot harder to make yourself take risks and everything with music.”

None of the work and plans made by Riley would mean much if the songs aren’t good, but they are. Secrets I Told To A Sound Hole is a wonderful folk rock album with songs that often share Riley’s love of music with inspiration as a whole. Listeners are welcomed into her dream of being a musician and we follow her heartbreaks and successes only the way. Most of all, Riley shows that there are more successes and joys in life than people generally see. In fact, one of her lyrics has even spawned its own movement.

The line, “I will choose love and music is enough” led Riley to create the hashtag #IWillChooseLove — something that inspired a music video and led to a page on her website that seeks to fight the negativity in the world with positive vibes. She describes the page on the website as “My little corner of the internet that focuses on the good in the world, and positive responses to all the bad. I’m far from perfect, but I want to see a better world, so I’m attempting to be the change.”

“I didn’t write that song for other people, I wrote it for myself,” said Riley. “Last year, I was going through a period where I was having some personal issues and I was also getting down about some of the problems going on in the world and all of the negativity. So, I was thinking how music is enough for me. When I’m having a bad time, music pretty much always makes me feel better about everything. I was also thinking about positivity in general - how behind every problem that people argue and complain about, there are good people trying to make things better.”

The web page contains links to websites with good news, places that promote random acts of kindness, organizations Riley likes, and links to charities and places where people can find volunteer opportunities.

Amanda Rose Riley knows that even with the best planning, the music business is one without guarantees for success. For Riley, music itself is the success. She cannot see herself apart from music and the fun is in the journey, wherever it takes her. - New Jersey Stage


"AMANDA ROSE RILEY: Salty Dog Songs & Secrets I Told to a Sound Hole, 2018"

The DIY spirit in relation to art, more specifically, music has always been a focal issue for most music lovers, even though it has been misrepresented and distorted many times along the years. However, that esprit is found on the American songwriter from New Jersey, Amanda Rose Riley, who armed with her acoustic guitar plays and sings songs that despite being a bit light-hearted, are none the less very special due to their originality and inventiveness.

Salty Dog Songs is composed by three short songs that were inspired by a cruise that Amanda sailed on. It's indie folk without pretension, with simple but fresh lyrics that surprise us at each chord being played. Produced in a modest yet competent way, it's a sample of the work of this young songwriter.

Secrets I Told to a Sound Hole (2018) has fourteen songs that fill us with optimism and translate the love and dedication that Amanda Rose Riley feels towards Music. An inclination that is pretty obvious, especially in the song that names the record.

"Music was my only definition of cool
Wether a dorky music teacher
Or a rock star"

As she refers in one of her songs, the guitar is not merely a musical instrument but a company or a faithful companion.

The highest point is reached in I don't want to play Sudoku anymore that is an authentic hymn against procrastination of rhythmic folk with somewhat caustic lyrics in which the chorus stays in our heads. Next up is "Music is Enough" a manifest of optimism and of how music can fill the void that sometimes exist in all of us. Amanda Rose Riley ensures that music is enough. That love is conjured in "I Want to Marry Music" that through straightforward lyrics paints the picture of a young songwriter and her guitar, in love by what she plays. An example of how love and dedication to an art can and will always bear good fruit. - Acordes de Quinta (Portuguese blog English version, pasted as is)


"Bands Interviewing Bands: Amanda Rose Riley & Lyra Star"

[Note: Portions unrelated to Amanda Rose Riley were removed from this article when it was pasted.]

Amanda Riley has a special way of cutting through the noise of everyday life with her music. Guided by a career-defining persistence, determination, and an appetite for making her dreams her reality, the New Jersey-born-and-bred artist has spent the last few years showing the world what she has to offer, creating eclectic acoustic songs and playing numerous shows throughout NJ and NYC. Comforting, calming, and, at times, even cathartic, her upcoming album release, Secrets I Told To A Soundhole, is an insightful collection that draws on the experiences she has lived on her musical journey so far, a journey that has taken her on the seas two years in a row aboard the Flogging Molly Cruise, to the stage at Asbury Park’s famed Stone Pony, and that has allowed her to perform with one of her biggest artistic inspirations, Frank Turner.

We introduced Amanda to Lesley Greer, AKA Lyra Star, an independent yoga-loving dreamer, currently based in San Francisco.

The two artists got to know each other through our latest Bands Interviewing Bands. Check it out below.

Lyra Star: Do you consider promoting your songs and playing music to be your main job or do you have another job or jobs that you do? I am getting ready to quit my main job in order to pursue my songwriting, and it is scary because I’m not sure how I’m going to make money if this is my main focus. What has been your experience with this aspect of the music industry?

Amanda Rose Riley: I try to think of it as my main job as a mental hack! I stopped working full-time about a year ago, and luckily I have supportive family that I get along with helping to keep a roof over my head. I currently still make the majority of money off my part-time non-music admin work, though I do seem to spend much more time on music. I try to take it one step at a time, at least laying the groundwork for as many different musical income streams as I can and keeping the faith. You never know if it will work out, but the more positive I am, the better I will be at making music and building essential relationships!

Lyra Star: I can definitely hear the influence of punk rock in your songs. I’m curious as to what made you choose to have a gentler sound by using the acoustic guitar rather than electric? Do you usually perform with an acoustic guitar or do you sometimes use an electric guitar? Have you ever dabbled in playing other instruments?

Amanda Rose Riley: I always preferred electric guitar when I was a teenager, I wrote punk songs (though I didn’t perform publicly at the time), and my dream was to front a punk band. I still love punk music, but at a certain point I just fell in love with acoustic guitar music and that’s what I’ve been interested in playing ever since. I see the acoustic guitar as a much more interesting and versatile instrument in many ways. I do enjoy playing piano/keyboard from time to time to get out of a creative rut, but I’ve never had enough motivation to master it!

Lyra Star: What are some of your main musical influences? Are there certain albums or artists that inspired you to start creating your own music?

Amanda Rose Riley: Well, everyone who knows me knows that my primary influence is Frank Turner, of course – I do have an impulse tattoo that says, “WWFTD?” after all. Frank is on a British label called Xtra Mile Recordings, and they release more than their share of music that inspires and influences me. I have eclectic influences though, from punk – The Bouncing Souls have probably had the biggest impact on me in that genre – to some nostalgic ’90s pop and country (I grew up listening to a lot of country), to contemporary folk and indie music that I like to explore when I have the time. In general, live music is a big inspiration for me, whether it’s one of my favorites or a local artist I’m hearing of for the first time. One of my biggest inspirations in the world is seeing a talented artist absolutely rock a show when only a handful of people are watching.

Lyra Star: Your website looks very professional. Did you create it yourself or did you hire someone to help with website design? How important do you think it is to have a really nice looking website for marketing yourself and your music?

Amanda Rose Riley: Even though people probably spend more time with artists’ social media posts than with their websites now, it’s still really important to have your own space online that looks and behaves exactly how you want. No ads, no competing messages trying to steal the visitor’s attention away. For me, it’s a great place to blog about my news, let people easily access music and videos, see where and when I’m performing, and buy music and merchandise. It is actually a website I recently made myself using a hosted WordPress.org, I like that, being on a budget, because you can play around with so many free themes and plug-ins to get nearly limitless customization with a relatively small amount of effort, and the only cost is the web hosting. - Cliche Magazine


"Amanda Rose Riley: The Acoustic Girl Who Rocks"

It all began with a wry sense of humor and a year’s worth of “Throwaway Song(s) of the Week.” That’s how 26-year old Jersey native Amanda Rose Riley broke out of her shell and into the world of hustling, busking, planes, trains and automobiles. The songs were so well-received that Amanda was inspired to posit herself as the second annual Flogging Molly Cruise’s “Resident Iterant Musician,” where she not only became Will Varley’s unofficial opener, but landed herself a guest spot during Frank Turner’s atrium set. Since then, she has been busily honing her craft bi-coastally, securing a steady New Jersey Transit “Music In Motion” gig, along with several “bootstrapped” performances throughout England last fall. She is planning an “epic” three-part DIY tour, as well as continuing to write songs for her first official album release, but, as a longtime friend, Amanda was kind enough to spare Jersey Beat a few moments to chat over vegan nosh.

Q: Welcoming Jersey newcomer Amanda Rose Riley onto the scene – please tell everyone a little bit about yourself.

ARR: My tagline is “DIY Acoustic Girl With Guitar Rock” because, well, it’s just me…and an acoustic guitar, trying to make stuff happen. (both laugh.)

Q: That’s a very good reason.

ARR: I’m also very influenced by punk and rock, so there’s kind of an edge to my music.

Q: Awesome - Jersey Beat readers are punk fans! Who are some of your influences?

ARR: Frank Turner is a huge influence, and The Bouncing Souls. Skinny Lister is somebody that I’m starting to get into now. I also like a lot of classic punk from the seventies and eighties, and some country and folk - a little bit of everything.

Q: Very cool. What are some of your career goals in the coming year? What would you like to see happen, musically?

ARR: I just want to get my music out there. Right now, I’m learning how to balance the dual priorities of performing as often as possible (I’m planning an ambitious DIY tour around both the United States and England this year – hopefully with help from both friends and strangers) and strengthening my songwriting so that I can record my first proper EP (possibly a full-length) by the end of this year. I also have stuff from 2015 and 2016, which I released during my “Throwaway Song of the Week” project. I made a little “Best Of” album out of those, all recorded in my bedroom: fifty-two songs in all.

Q: Wow, that was ambitious!

ARR: Yeah, I’d like to go into a real studio and write some better songs this year (laughs.)

Q: So, where can somebody find these “Throwaway Songs?”

ARR: You can find them on Soundcloud, Bandcamp and YouTube – the good ones anyway.

Q: Have you made any videos for the songs?

ARR: I have made some very goofy DIY videos, yes.

Q: Those are the best kind.

ARR: I made a video for my two – I guess singles? I posted one for my song about wanting to live in England, “The Wrong Side of the Pond.” Then I did another for “Do Do Do,” which is about following your dreams.

Q: So, why England?

ARR: I just feel like that’s where my soul belongs.

Q: Do you have a favorite lyric right now?

ARR: The new Skinny Lister album is really good – they have a song called “Charlie,” which is about going out there and making stuff happen: “Don’t think twice, go and find your future; you know that fortune favors the brave.”

Q: If you had to pick a line that describes you, what would that be?

ARR: Aside from “DIY Acoustic Girl,” you mean? I do have a second one - a sub tagline: “Equal parts dreamer and doer.”

Q: Which parts are you doing right now, and which ones are you still dreaming about?

ARR: I think it’s just the way that I approach music. I have really crazy dreams that I don’t even know if I’m ever going to grow into, like: I just want to take over the entire world, musically – no big deal, right? (laughs.) But I don’t just sit here dreaming all the time, I actually go out and do stuff, even when I’m not ready.

Q: What have you done so far that you didn’t feel ready for?

ARR: The first was the Flogging Molly cruise.

Q: Let’s talk about that.

ARR: It was in March 2016; I’d decided to bring my guitar along on the cruise and try to win people over.

Q: How did that go?

ARR: It went great! I actually had a little catalogue; a list of my original songs, plus some covers of songs by other artists on the cruise. Since nobody knew my originals, I put descriptions next to them, so that people could choose them based upon their mood, or whatever. I would just ask people if they wanted a free song, and yep! I got to play for a lot of little groups of two and three people, and I ended up playing for Beans On Toast. I wound up becoming the unofficial cabin opener for Will Varley, and then I got to play with Frank Turner. He had broken a string during this little atrium set that he was doing, so I gave him my guitar - and then he let me play one of my songs for him and his crowd. I had written three songs especially for the cruise, one of which was about the friendships that I had made with the people there, (“Not Your Mama’s Bahamas Cruise,”) so I played that one in front of his crowd - a lot of people! And then I got to stay up there and sing some of his songs with him.

Q: That is so badass! Did he like the song?

ARR: I have a video up on YouTube, where you can see him laughing at it and singing along on the last line!

Q: Cool! Do you think he’ll cover it?

ARR: Probably not, but you never know.

Q: Where would you ideally be now with your music, if you could wave a magic wand?

ARR: I want to be the sober, American, female version of Frank Turner (laughs.) I just admire the way that he is always working, and in a different city every day: touring, doing charity gigs, recording and writing.

Q: Are you involved with any charities, Amanda?

ARR: Not as a musician, but I’ve done regular volunteer work.

Q: For whom?

ARR: I used to work with New York Cares. They have a charity registry, where charities can ask for a few hours or days of help, and volunteers can just sign up for whichever ones they want to do.

Q: What are your other passions, outside of music?

ARR: I like history a lot, and languages; traveling.

Q: Can you speak any other languages besides English?

ARR: I speak some French and Spanish, and a little bit of German.

Q: Wow! Can you give us a lyric in one of those languages?

ARR: No… (both laugh.)

Q: Is there anybody that you would love to play with?

ARR: I guess I would like to play a real show with Frank Turner, not an impromptu atrium gig where I only get to play one song.

Q: How are you getting your music out there right now?

ARR: I usually do a live Facebook stream on the second Saturday of every month, and I’m playing with New Jersey Transit’s “Music In Motion” program, which certain stations are a part of. I’ve played at New York Penn Station, Secaucus Junction, Hoboken Terminal, and the Rock N’ Joe Café at Union Station.

Q: So wait, the people that you see busking in the train stations are actually commissioned?

ARR: It depends. I know that the MTA has a program too, for which you can audition and get sanctioned to play. I think that you can always take the risk and play without permission, but it’s much better if the people who own the property are organizing it.

Q: Can you give us a line from a song that you’re working on right now?

ARR: Yeah, actually, and I don’t know if this is bad: you can tell me before we put it on the record (both laugh.)

Q: Okay.

ARR: The line is “I’ll carry this guitar to my own crucifixion – the destruction of all of my real world ambitions.”

Q: What made you compare playing music to a crucifixion?

ARR: It’s just about how, for most of my life, up until maybe two or three years ago, I had internalized people’s cynicism and negativity about the music industry, and how impossible it is to make a career in music. They’d say “In the real world, you can’t follow your dreams like that; you have to get a real job." So, the song is basically saying “If I’m carrying this to my own death, that’s fine, because I really have to do it.”

Q: That’s deep. How did you know you could play? When did you realize it?

ARR: Oh, you mean like, that I was good at it? Well, I couldn’t play at first, and, arguably, I’m not very good now - a lot of my songs sound the same (laughs.) I spent a lot of years doing nothing but playing music all the time, and my rhythm did get a lot better. I think I’m passably a songwriter now.

Q: Do you remember what made you first get into music? What made you think “I should do this for a living”?

ARR: I kind of always wanted to. When I was like three or four, when people think it’s cute to ask you what you want to do, I would always tell people that I wanted to be “A singer, a writer and an artist.”

Q: Do you have a lot of support from the family about it?

ARR: Not at first, but I think they’ve decided that I’m pretty good, and they’ve seen me making stuff happen, like with the cruise, and playing at train stations, and how hard I’m working. So, they are more supportive now, and they think it’s going to work out. I actually feel pretty grateful for that. Some people, no matter how hard they work, their families never really think that it’s going to work out.

Q: Are they nervous about it?

ARR: A little. I think they know that, no matter what the risks are, if I want to do something, then I’m going to do it, so they’re not trying to stop me (laughs.)

Q: Any message to some up-and-coming artists out there looking to get started?

ARR: Just do what your heart tells you – don’t listen to anybody else. I don’t know if this is too off-topic, but I read about the top five regrets that people have on their deathbeds – I think this was a real survey that was done – and the number one thing that people wished was that they had tried harder to follow their dreams.

Q: And so here you are, following your dreams. What else would you like Jersey Beat to know about you? Who is Amanda?

ARR: (laughing) Let’s put Amanda under the microscope!

Q: Hey, Man, it’s an interview; I’m a journalist!

ARR: I’m just excited to meet more people as I share my music online, and play at train stations, or wherever they’ll have me – anywhere in the world!

Q: Do you think you’ll name your first album “Train Stations?”

ARR: No, but that would be a good thing to put in there somewhere.

Q: Just remember to list me in the credits, that’s all I ask. So what does the year hold for you?

ARR: Get out and play more gigs at different types of venues across the United States and England. Record and hopefully release an album this year – get it onto Spotify, so that more people can check me out.

Q: What would your dream gig look like; who would be in the lineup?

ARR: I don’t want to be too flattering toward myself, but it would be, like, every artist who has ever inspired me.

Q: Like a “Feed the World” thing – just get everybody in the room together and sing one song? Would you rather have a sing-along or a mosh pit?

ARR: Sing-along!

Q: If you could pick one line from somebody else’s song which really speaks to you, what would it be?

ARR: I have so many, but I guess, probably, from Frank Turner’s “I Knew Prufrock Before He Got Famous:”
“Life is about love, last minutes and lost evenings,
About fire in our bellies and furtive little feelings,
And the aching amplitudes that set our needles all a-flickering,
And help us with remembering that the only thing that's left to do is live.”

Q : That’s beautiful. Thank you, Frank, and thank you, Amanda. - Jersey Beat


Discography

Millennials Are Going Gray | DIY album | July 19, 2019

Secrets I Told to a Sound Hole | debut studio album | March 2, 2018

It's About the Mosh | 3-song studio single | December 4, 2017

Best of the Throwaway Song of the Week | DIY album | May 31, 2016

Photos

Bio

All Amanda Rose Riley needs is a guitar in hand and her poignant voice to take you on a beautiful, authentic journey through her love for music. Having performed at a wide variety of venues and festivals across the US East Coast and the UK, Amanda prides herself on an honest song, an open heart, and above all, creating connection.

During the songwriting process, she always thinks about how her songs can touch the lives of others or have a positive impact, for example, by inspiring or comforting listeners. Amanda says the highest compliment she receives is when fans tell her they listen to her music during stressful or discouraging times.

Ever since deciding to pursue music in 2016, Amanda has been the epitome of DIY gusto. Along with releasing albums on her own, she has successfully executed tours overseas and at home in the States, never hesitating to organize a house show, busk in a public place, or hit an open mic to fill in any gaps. Notably, she has established a tradition of performing informally all over the Flogging Molly Cruise for three years in a row, despite never having been officially booked, though it has been a big hit with her fellow shipmates. Her persistence has enabled her to perform alongside the likes of Frank Turner and the Bouncing Souls.

Influenced primarily by quirky indie folk music as well as punk rock, Amanda’s songwriting style is honest, unfiltered, and has a raw storytelling quality that is rare to see in artists today. Secrets I Told to a Sound Hole, her 2018 studio album, featured a collection of songs that served as a diary documenting her artistic journey. Now a year later, Amanda has a new self-produced release, tackling further self-reflective themes, but this time centered around what it means to be a “mid-range millennial” in today’s world.

“I’m excited to be releasing songs on a broader range of ideas and experiences than the last time, while still remaining firmly rooted in my quirky, personal storytelling style,” says Amanda, who’s looking forward to fans hearing this shift, and hopefully relating more to it. “Personally, I find this much more interesting than the tired old love and breakup songs that still seem to dominate every genre of music.”

Millennials Are Going Gray is available now from her website and all major platforms, with more new music to follow in the fall. Fans will be able to catch Amanda this November on the Flogging Molly Cruise once again, as well as on the road back up the East Coast to New Jersey from the cruise’s port in Fort Lauderdale. She also has plans for a European tour next spring. In between, of course, she continues to perform constantly in New Jersey, and on Facebook Live for her non-local fans about once a month.

Band Members