The "In a Truck Right Now" singer's love for country music was instilled by his grandfather and has grown to include songwriting.

By Opry Staff • March 18, 2018

Opry: So much of country music is about heritage. Your grandfather owned a music hall. How did he shape your love of country music, and what does it mean to now be an Opry NextStage artist?

Riley: I think my granddaddy had more of an influence in my love of country music than I even realize. He was such a fan of music that it made me become a fan of music and probably a lot older music. I don’t think many of my friends would listen to Roy Acuff when I was. I am sure that comes out in my songwriting and comes out in what I listen to. I’m glad that I was fortunate enough to have him and to have that music hall to kind of cut my teeth on starting out. It probably gives me a little bit more of a unique sound to grow up on stuff that came out 50 years before I did.

For those just getting to know you, how would you describe your musical style?

My musical style, I guess if I had to describe it, would be traditional. I’m definitely about the songs. I enjoy the words when I listen to songs that are not necessarily the top song in the country, but there are album cuts on records that are some of my favorite just because of the story they tell. That’s what I try to do. I try to write songs that make somebody get some kind of emotion and take them to a certain place with the story that I’m telling.

You’ve said before that you’re a songwriter first and a singer second. How does that shape your music, like your song “In a Truck Right Now”?

I feel like I’m probably a songwriter first and a singer like, third or fourth. It’s cool that I get to write my songs and perform them, but I feel like I’d be almost as proud if I could write them and somebody else sang them. That was kind of always how I judged my own songs — if I would listen to them on the radio, somebody else sang them. I don’t ride around listening to a CD of myself because I can’t stand to hear my own voice. All that being said, it’s cool to write songs people relate to, like “In a Truck Right Now.” You really didn’t have to learn how to drive in a truck. It could’ve been a Honda Civic. It was the fact of being there with your mom or dad or whoever it was and them showing you how to do it … and just kind of growing up with that same vehicle and those types of memories.

Now that you’re a part of Opry NextStage, do you look to any Opry members for advice and inspiration?

There are a lot of members of the Opry that I’m just a huge fan of and have grown up listening to. Not only that, but [I’ve watched] videos of them play on that same circle that I’m going to get to play tonight. It’s been pretty cool to see those people, and I’ve been fortunate enough to get to know Chris Young. He had a video that I remember watching as a kid of him singing Keith Whitley, playing on Keith Whitley’s guitar on the Opry stage. Stuff like that was probably what gave me things to dream about as a musician. They were where I was at some point, and they got here.

Now it's time for some rapid-fire questions. What was the last dream you remember?

I imagine it was about chasing turkeys around. Turkey season is coming in Alabama — yesterday, so I’m a little bit behind on that. I think about turkeys this time of year pretty regularly.

How spicy is your hot chicken order?

I’m a mild guy, ya know? They usually give me a hard time about it, but I don’t like to injure myself while I’m eating.

What’s your favorite scent?

It’s probably going to be somewhere between the beach and pine needles. Depends on the time of year. Right now I’m starting to get cabin fever, so I’m ready to get down there and smell some salt air.

Puppies or kittens?

That’s an easy one. Puppies. I don’t even feel like that should count. Puppies. Sorry to all the kitten people out there.

What’s your least favorite word?


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