Chris Riffle
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Chris Riffle

New York City, New York, United States | Established. Jan 01, 1999 | SELF

New York City, New York, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 1999
Band Folk Singer/Songwriter




"New York's unlikely mellowcore champion of the year..."

Chris Riffle could be New York's unlikely mellowcore champion of the year. A mix of folk authenticity and offbeat sentimentality, Riffle has just released his second full-length 'Another Dream' that charts many of his unrequited hopes for love, with topics ranging from his wishes for the shapes of stars, to his wishes for the names of stars. In songs like 'Kiss On The Cheek' and his fantastic cover of 'And I Love Him,' Riffle proves New York is still a home for hopeless romantics at heart. Like Bright Eyes and M. Ward, Riffle's tenor brings home passionate urgency to matters of the heart. See the troubadour when he plays this Thursday, August 23rd at Spike Hill. - Mike Levine - The Deli

"John Norris - Review"

The singer-songwriter-boy-with-guitar may not be a new pop template - and God knows for troubadours from the Pacific Northwest there is that lingering shadow of Elliot Smith to live under - but Washington state native Chris Riffle is something special.

From his early, cheeky folk pop fare like “Brief Love Song” and a bouncy boycrush ode called “Wonderboy” to moodier, more delicate songs – “Kiss on the Cheek” and the samba-flecked “Younger Years” (a personal favorite) there is much to be discovered in the ever-evolving Riffle.

In fact, I myself only discovered it recently. Fortunately for us New Yorkers, a while ago Chris made the move from the upper left hand corner of the country to the upper right, and at first I only knew of him as an East Village neighbor. That’s until he told me to check out his music, which I did – first on record, going back to his 2004 album “The Sun Is Up”, as well as newer material – much of it remarkable in its honesty, fragility, even wit. And live, at a recent show at the Living Room on the LES, Chris and his backing band impressed with a solid set that, while it had moments of melancholy, was more often a breezy good time.

Heartfelt and fractured – but still sunny, smart and sweet. That’s Chris Riffle. I’m eager to see where he goes next. - John Norris

"FAME Review: Introducing Chris Riffle"

The fact that Chris Riffle chose to cover Donovan Leitch (Catch the Wind), one of my all-time favorite folkies, is revealing. However, it's how the guy's interpolated Nick Drake into his mode that really intrigues, even to the point of incorporating the beautiful embellishments John Cale brought to Nick's superlative oeuvre. Now toss in the fact that he imported Jimi Zhivago (last seen in the stunning Perfect View release by Libby Johnson) along with a cellist and others, and you have an unbeatable combination.

Playing a toned-down acoustic guitar beside lazily encanted vocals, embodying a sentiment that's concurrently entranced and world-weary, the ambiance of the entire CD is one of gently ringing tones, softly flowing understated melodics rich in foggy texture, rustic afternoons, and ancient airs kept alive via memory and sideways sight. Zhivago is a crucial element in the work, as he seems cut right from the composer's heart, complementing Riffle's complicated subtleties in finely honed sensitivities and abstract extensions. Because of that, there's more than a little of the marvelous Leigh Gregory (here) present in spirit.

Yes, Donovan couldn't have been a better choice, as more than a small portion of Riffle's vocals squarely reflect the celebrated Welshman, though Chris remains constantly in the threnodic mode, laying out entablatures of anguish and ecstasy. Ghosts meet flesh in his songs, and the acquaintance is well consummated, resulting in a deceptively hypnotic milieu that is the stuff of literature and worthy of comparing to Richie Havens, Iain Matthews, and even the achingly gorgeous refrains Mickey Newbury showed with In a New Age. Gorgeous, deep, and affecting.

by Mark S. Tucker - A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange

"Artist of the Week: Chris Riffle"

Lately, our Artists of the Week have taken a turn for the acoustic, and this may change soon. But this week's featured artist is the super-strummy, slightly-weepy Chris Riffle, armed with his six-string and a host of rather obvious influences like Elliott Smith and Conor Oberst-- the original teary-eyed indie singer-songwriters. But Riffle is redeemed by his unimposing voice; while a bit emotional, he's never in-your-face or very demanding with his emotional phrasing. His lyrics, on the other hand, are quite sensitive and simple with lines like "It don't matter if I want you back, I always want what's bad for me." He has more in common with Nick Drake's sparse style than Oberst's dense lyric sheets.

Best of all, Riffle's website hosts a lovely, modernized rendition of Donovan Leitch's "Catch the Wind," adding to it some percussive flourishes, enhanced by Riffle's gentle, unimposing voice.

Catch him before he's a big deal-- he's not even on YouTube yet. Seriously.
Posted by Caroline at 3:28 PM - WGTB -

"CMJ Spotlight"

The slow melodies and elegant simplicity of Chris Riffle’s folk music could take the most stressed New Yorker to a tranquil mindset. A current resident of Manhattan’s East Village, Riffle sees the city and its inhabitants “in a constant struggle to stand out or make it,” which is apparently very different from the one room log cabin in which he grew up in the Washington state countryside.

That’s right, a one room log cabin. While many New Yorkers will hear someone from New Jersey whine about how hard their move to the big city was, nothing of the sort will ever be heard from Riffle, who grew up in a cabin without electricity and only a wood stove for a heating source. “Growing up without a TV, music was about something else to me,” says Riffle, who cites his greatest musical influence as his father singing and playing guitar as he fell asleep. The big location change affected the singer-songwriter, who told CMJ that his upcoming I Am Not From Here EP is mostly about “living in New York City, but daydreaming about the countryside.”

Riffle just finished the mastering process for this forthcoming EP, which is set for a mid-February release. He is currently putting together a tour in support of it, and as of right now will be flying out to Hawaii with Jimi Zhivago, his producer and bass player, for a string of performances. Riffle’s shows are constantly changing. Some he plays solo, some feature him and a bass player, and some have full bands including organ and cello. From a log cabin to New York City, Riffle seems to like constant change. The singer-songwriter applies the same philosophy to his live performances. It “keeps it interesting,” he says. - CMJ

"Chris Riffle - Introducing..."

Chris Riffle sounds young, but certainly not inexperienced. He is the kind of singer/songwriter who is a natural at making music. Introducing... is not the accustomed album of your typical man with a guitar. Rather, it sounds like the collection of his most well received coffeehouse songs, recorded with an array of extra instruments, all carefully constructed and layered. Chris Riffle immediately lets you know this is a personal affair; his voice is delicate yet inviting, his guitar plays gently enough so you can hear every little texture in the background. His songs feature piano, cello, and many layers of vocals throw in to put you right at home. The lyrics often feel like snippets of diary entries, perfectly fitting for the personal aspect of the album. “Simple” is perhaps the most encompassing track on the album. The vocals are just above a whisper, there is consistent percussion keeping the track from seeming flat, and the chorus hits with catchy lyrics while still keeping a calm atmosphere. Chris Riffle does justice to the singer/songwriter genre with Introducing…, and is sure to be a name people will be proud to know before he makes it big.

RIYL: Sufjan Stevens, Daphne Loves Derby
Recommended Tracks: Simple, Roll Over, Everything You Need Is Here - Voilà! (music blog)

"John Norris Q&A"

INTRODUCING Introducing…Chris Riffle
A conversation with the Seattle-by-way-of-East Village singer/songwriter

By John Norris

I have my morning coffee and muffin run to thank for my introduction to Chris Riffle. You see, Chris’s day job requires that he contend with rush hour queues of hurried East Villagers (and their dogs) looking to sate that AM latte jones at The Bean, our corner java joint. For us Bean regulars though, it means that over time we get to learn of Riffle’s true passion: creating quiet acoustic folk gems that are by turns wistful, wounded, firm, tender, smart, and utterly personal. Riffle’s been at this for a while. Growing up in the opposite side of the country, in the land of cycling, recycling, flannel and troubadours, the Washington state native (born in a one room cabin, no less) released his first album nearly seven years ago – a quirky collection of bouncy boycrush pop called The Sun Is Up. He made the move to New York in 2007, where he’s won over a growing host of fans with regular gigs at the venerable Sidewalk Café and The Living Room. As evidenced on the new full-length Introducing…Chris Riffle, over time Riffle’s music has gotten, if less in-your-face, considerably more nuanced and ever more compelling. I recently sat down for a chat with Chris at his place, only a stone’s throw from The Bean.

JN: So I was telling someone about you the other day, I described you as an acoustic folk dude, singer-songwriter, from Seattle, who works at my coffee place. And they said, ‘wow that’s kind of a cliché’!

CR: Yeah I guess. It’s funny I never worked at a coffee place until this one. I actually worked at a pizza place in Seattle. But you know I don’t want to sit at a computer all day, and I just love the interaction with people. It’s a great job, when I have a show I can network it, talk to people. It’s always entertaining!

JN: You’ve been here a couple years now. Does New York feel like home, or are there things you still miss about Seattle?

CR: I think that the East Village is something pretty special. I think there’s a real community feeling here and I like that. I think in some ways it’s almost better than the neighborhood I lived in, in Capitol Hill. Because that was getting super hip. And the East Village is hip too but in Seattle you wouldn’t see a bunch of grandmothers in the neighborhood, whereas here, there’s like all kinds of people. And I really appreciate that, and working in a coffee shop I feel like I know all these people.

JN: Well I feel like most of them have been turning up at your shows, because at each one I have been to the crowds have gotten bigger, especially the recent record release party at the Living Room.

CR: Yeah that was a lot of friends and their friends and about ten members of my extended family, some people flew in for it. It was wild. It’s interesting, I went back to the (smaller NY club) Sidewalk last night, to play on open mic night, and you just draw a number out of a hat, and I drew number 49. And, so you don’t go on until like 2:30 in the morning and by that point nobody’s there, and it was definitely a drastic change from that release party.

JN: Your band these days includes Jimi Zhivago, who produced your album. And in the thank yous, you say that he helped you realize how essential a producer is. Is a producer something you wondered whether you even needed?

CR: Yeah completely. Because I studied audio recording, and I enjoy the production side of it and I actually thought in the future I would like to be a producer. But it’s really nice to have somebody else there who hasn’t been as involved in the songs coming into it and trying to make it into a record, a compete album. His input and experience was really valuable. I think I had to let go a bit, and that was a good thing.

JN: How long have you had the songs on the record? Have they been around a while, or are they more recent?

CR: Well most except for “Everythin - John Norris

"Chris Riffle Plays a Charming Set at The Living Room in NYC"

Mellow and eloquent singer-songwriter, Chris Riffle performed an excellent show at The Living Room in New York City on Thursday. New Yorkers filled up the inviting music venue for an hour of beautiful and engaging songs. Riffle was accompanied on stage by performers, Jimi Zhivago (guitar, bass, and organ), Miranda Zickler (backup vocals), and Julie Kent (cellist). With high ceilings and hanging colored glass lamps, the space’s artistic ambience seemed to embrace Chris Riffle’s performance with beckoning arms. Each song performed by Riffle was done with sweet sincerity and quiet elegance that is achieved by so few. His songs are simple, so each instrument whether it was voice, cello, or guitar, had it’s moment to shine. Consequently, this is all apart of Chris Riffle’s attention to detail and objective to allow each listener to hear the quality of every instrument. All this I learned by sitting down with Chris and having a very engaging conversation with him.
After his performance, Chris and I got to talk for quite some time. I learned a lot about the nature loving folk musician, and found out that his writings are largely influenced by his Pacific Northwest upbringing. According to Riffle, his childhood was filled with “mountains, tree, building forts, and camping in the woods.” At the age of two, Chris’ parents divorced, leaving him to shuffle back and forth between city and mountain life. While Chris’ mom lived in the more city-like Mt. Vernon (a small city 1 hour north of Seattle), he spent much of his time in the mountain region that inspired his simplistic sound.
At a young age Chris’ folksy father was one of the first people to leave an impression on him. With nothing but an acoustic guitar, Chris’ father used this as a main source of entertainment in their one room cabin in the woods. In it there was no running water or electricity, so an acoustic guitar was a fitting and organic choice. As we talked about those times, a fond expression masked Chris Riffle’s face. He recalled a time when playing in the woods, and embracing the nature’s playground was apart of the simple pleasures in life. While in his father’s care he was also exposed to music like Donovan, Joni Mitchell, The Beatles, and Fleetwood Mac. When I asked Chris what his Top 5 desert island album picks would be I could tell that he was not only excited by this question, but wanted to give a very thoughtful answer. His response was the both folky and mellow, but a bit surprising. He named Nick Drake’s Way to Blue, Leonard Cohen’s Song’s Of, Kristin Allen-Zito’s The Atlas, Bjork’s Homogenic, and Nina Simone’s Here Comes The Sun as his ultimate picks.
It is no surprise that Chris has covered Donovan’s “Catch The Wind” on his latest album Introducing… Although Riffle’s version seems to include a bit more instrumentation, his take on it sticks closely to the original. We spoke about his style of music and it is his intention not to inundate the ears with with too much noise. Chris says that he “loves the individual sounds of instruments, and I really love to hear them play out in each song.” From watching Chris Riffle play, it was evident that he is purposefully minimal when it comes to songwriting. At no point in the night did the music feel overwhelming, and I believe the rigid NY audience was put at ease by Riffle’s folky sounds.
Although most of what Riffle played was mellow, one song in particular that really stood out was “To a Dream”. A bit more edgier then what we have heard from Introducing…, “To a Dream” has a rhythm that most of Riffle’s other songs lack. Not that Riffle’s other work is rhythm-less, but this song in particular has a catchy thump. One should not think pop-music-dancehall but more of a sensual slow drone that is one part low-fi, and another part radio-ready. The lusty beating heart rhythm of the bass really puts into perspective how Riffle is beginning to allow his residence in New York City affect his songwriting. While most of his work was written on the West Coast, this song, “To a Dream” was written while he was here in New York City. The song was definitely a crowd pleaser, and will be appearing on his upcoming EP. If “To a Dream” is a reflection of what’s to come, then exciting things are indeed in store for Riffle.
Riffle’s performance we undoubtedly beautiful. His accompaniment with cello, bass, and backup vocals were a tasteful touch to his simplistic stylings. Many of the songs performed from Introducing sound very similar to the recorded version’s despite the fact that Riffle was not playing with a full band. Much of the performance had a very even keel tempo and tone. Some could argue that there should be more conflict or tension to his songs song’s but after speaking with Chris I realize that is not what his music is about. It is about passion, love, beauty, and our ability to adapt our human heart to a very modern world. - Culture Mob

"Introducing... Chris Riffle"

In 2007, Bellingham, WA singer/songwriter Chris Riffle headed east to the other side of the country, taking up residence on New York's Lower East Side and plying his songcraft in the numerous pass-the-hat music clubs in the area. With a remarkable "old soul" folk style that belies his boyish looks, Riffle has evolved from the poppier exploits of his earlier songs into a writer and performer of uncommon depth and intimacy -- Nick-Drake-meets-Eliot-Smith influences that make his recent self-released album Introducing a rewarding, revealing listen. Riffle excels, says John Norris, in "creating quiet acoustic folk gems that are by turns wistful, wounded, firm, tender, smart, and utterly personal." We couldn't agree more.

One of the smartest things Riffle did for his new songs is to work with producer and multi-instrumentalist Jimi Zhivago, a master of creating drifting aural landscapes of pure organic quality: subtle hints of guitar washes, echoing piano chords, Hammond B-3 textures and lovely string backing (featuring Antony and the Johnson's cellist Julia Kent). Against this understated backdrop, Riffle's wispy, whisper of a voice remains the album's most telling instrument, a plaintive presence that makes songs such as the gorgeous acoustic hymns "Just Assume" and "Walk Away" breathe -- literally -- with an unhurried elegance. Also of note is Riffle's riff on the classic 60's Donovan chestnut "Catch the Wind", a song he says his parents used to sing to him as a child.

Article originally appeared on Direct Current ( - Direct Current

""a youthful and endearing spokesperson for the gay community""

“Chris’s music mirrors his personality; he exudes honesty, romanticism, intelligence, and optimism. Through his music, Chris somehow conveys even the most morose thoughts in an uplifting way. The end product: a youthful and endearing spokesperson for the gay community.” - Jaimie Donatuto, What’s Up! Magazine

"The return of Chris Riffle"

Over the 12 and a half years of running What’s Up!, I’ve had the pleasure of hearing, befriending and knowing countless bands in the Bellingham music community, been to more than 1,000 sets and have heard more demos and CDs than I can count. Some you remember, some you don’t.

Singer-songwriter Chris Riffle captured my heart with his stunning melodies and sweet vocal delivery. For the few who’ve been in Bellingham since Chris Riffle first graced the pages of What’s Up! Magazine back in March of 1999, the name has a wonderful, though elusive connotation. You see, with the story of Chris Riffle, comes the story of a young man who captured a local scene’s heart, and slipped away. - Brent Cole, What's Up! Magazine

"Sounds Great!"

With a rich, nuanced mix matched by Riffle’s strong-yet-delicate voice, this album is impressive from the beginning to the end. While somewhat reminiscent of Iron & Wine and the strings-laden work of Nick Drake, this album has just enough modern sparkle and production technique to not sound like a nostalgia trip or just an homage to Riffle’s musical predecessors. With cello by Antony and the Johnson's cellist Julia Kent, and the mix by three time Grammy winner Steve Rosenthal, this album sounds great and will stick with you. - CD Baby Editor - Peter

"Chris Riffle - The Sun Is Up"

Some kids post long-winded and dramatic entries in their LiveJournal as they steer through their turbulent life of teenagedom, but Chris Riffle has taken his everyday experiences and thoughts and turned them into songs. Charming, acoustic songs, actually, that are completely honest and unedited like any private journal entry... - The Stranger

"The Return of the Amazing Chris Riffle"

A little more than four years ago, I turned on KUGS and fell in love. No, the object of my affection wasn't some raucous band churning out punishing rock. Nor was it some throaty and clever DJ who won my heart. What I heard that made my heart beat a little faster was a tiny bit of pretty pop genius, a love song from one boy to another. The man responsible for crafting this tune was none other than local singer/songwriter Chris Riffle...

...Evidently, I wasn't the only one enamored of Chris. Through my incessant phone calls to KUGS to demand they play one or the other of the two songs they had in their rotation, I found out that his songs were among the most requested. It seemed his music, sweet, smart and hooky as hell, managed to achieve the near-impossible: it was able to break through the hipper-than-thou musical apathy that afflicts most listeners of college radio. - What's Up Magazine - Carey Ross

"CD Baby Customer Reviews"

author: Odile Gagnon
"The sun is up" is a sweet, sunny and refreshing cd. This music is like a cool wind on a hot summer day.I can't imagine stopping listening to it !I go to bed with one song in my head and wake up with another one!!I'm really happy to have this album in my collection! Buy it you'll never regret it because Chris Riffle has a unique voice and his cd is a sweet way to hear about love!!

author: zl1
Let me say Chris Riffle rocks. This music's fresh, catchy, honest,he has no problem singin' his heart out. Keep on rollin' Chris......

- CD Baby


"Introducing..." Charted #5 at WECS
Top 20 at several others

"Another Dream" EP
currently spinning at 150+ stations!



A native of the scenic coastal towns around the Pacific Northwest, Chris Riffle started making waves on local radio stations while still in college, ultimately landing gigs opening for Death Cab for Cutie, Mary Lou Lord, and Dub Narcotic Sound System. More recently, moving to New York City, he has worked & toured with members of The Mars Volta, Ollabelle, and Antony and the Johnsons and musicians that have backed Bjork, Feist, Imogen Heap, Glen Hansard, Martha & Rufus Wainwright. On the touring front, Chris’s travels have taken him to both coasts, as well as a trip to the Last Frontier – Alaska. Chris' last EP Another Dream was in rotation at over 150 stations & featured on Sirius XM.

Chris’ new album "Out of Town" is a tale of two coasts- and two lives- coming together. Artfully uniting his roots in Washington's mellow core scene with the gritty vibrance of New York's Lower East Side, Out of Town explores the dichotomies of life: the struggle to grow independently while establishing an identity alongside his new husband, the love he has for living in a city that inspires him while also yearning for constant escape, and the implicit ups and downs that accompany being an artist. Stylistically bringing to mind Elliot Smith, he writes in an achingly beautiful way, at the same time tinged with an air of hope and inexplicable despair.

Out of Town was recorded at One East (Rolling Stones, Lou Reed), produced by Jimi Zhivago (Ollabelle, Kim Taylor) and mastered at the Magic Shop (David Bowie, Arcade Fire).

"Chris Riffle could be New York's unlikely mellowcore champion of the year" - THE DELI MAGAZINE

"A writer and performer of uncommon depth and intimacy -- Nick-Drake-meets-Elliott-Smith" - DIRECT CURRENT

"The slow melodies and elegant simplicity of Chris Riffle's folk music could take the most stressed New Yorker to a tranquil mindset" - CMJ

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