“I know it meant more to me, and I’m setting you free...” honest and disarming declarations like this fuel singer-songwriter Ashley Riley’s upcoming new release. The album is rife with songs about holding on and letting go, giving in and giving up, and the peace that comes from making it out on the other side.
The 10-song collection, due out in the spring of 2021, finds Riley stronger and wiser than before, her down-to-the-bone vulnerability on display, tempered with an understanding and sincerity that only comes with time. The gritty, rootsy moments that garnered favorable comparisons to Patty Griffin and Stevie Nicks remain, backed by lush instrumentation that incorporates genres such as indie rock and pop into her folk niche. “This album really encompasses everything that I do, from the really slow ballads to full on rock songs,” says Riley.
Riley has been slowly chipping away at her upcoming album for the last 2 years, taking a slightly different approach. After the release of her last full band album in 2017 Ashley returned to her solo songwriting roots. Riley says, "I went back into my own little shell of singer songwriter-ness, and started enjoying that space again. After awhile I wanted to capture some of the songs and felt like I had an opportunity to be a blank slate again..” Ashley reached out to James Treichler at Wave Upon Wave and headed into the studio in early 2019. Since then she's been working with James and dialing in the sound for the upcoming album, titled Set You Free. "It's been an interesting process, really digging in and choosing the palette for each song. It feels really good to be giving each song a bit more consideration and time. I didn't realize how heavily I had relied on different players in my previous bands to help pull out the sound, and it's been really fun to step into that role more fully myself. James has been incredible to work with especially considering that because of the pandemic the process turned remote, with us sending tracks back and forth to complete the songs. This is the first time in my career that I’m working with a producer on my record and I think it’s helped to serve the songs to their best potential. I’m really excited to share these new songs!”
Riley has been a staple in the music scene of her hometown Decatur, IL, where she got her start hosting open mics in the Decatur area around 2008, helping to revitalize and nurture the underground singer-songwriter scene in town. After starting as an acoustic-based songwriter on her first record, Riley realized by her second album that her songs begged for a band, and her subsequent albums got the full-band treatment to glowing reviews.
New Noise Magazine called her “one of the best obscure female artists I've heard in, well, ever,” and In- Forty.com declared her a “female songstress everyone would be wise to spend time with.” Women of Substance Radio noted: “Ashley's songs have an ethereal and delicate quality... Her reverence for Americana artists like Neil Young and Patty Griffin is unmistakable. She pens lyrics that are unsettling and sometimes even disturbing, as all good lyrics should be.” Illinois Entertainer trumpeted: “Make no mistake, Ashley Riley has an utterly gorgeous voice and a sound all her own.” Seven of the nine songs on her third album, All The Pretty Things, can be heard in rotation on Starbucks in-store airplay.
Riley's latest single, Close to Me, is a sneak preview of what she's been working on lately. Close to Me won the Midwest Music Expo listening panel in May of 2020 so Ashley decided it was high time to put it out into the universe. “The past year, as we all can attest, has been sad and strange and full of challenges. We've all had to adjust and figure out how to keep moving forward, what can take a backseat, and what we can let go of altogether. Music and art, now more than before, offers us a way to connect and feel less alone as well as some hope and relief. It can serve as medicine for the soul. With her latest album, Set You Free, Riley made the decision to plant both feet ﬁrmly into the more hopeful side of her sound. The result, a gorgeous and heartfelt collection of songs that pulls you in close and holds your attention.
“ one of the best obscure female artists I've heard in, well, ever..”
— New Noise Magazine