Rising country star Riley Green dismisses pressure, keeps his focus on songs and stories

Riley Green says he didn’t buy into any concerns about having a sophomore slump when he made his recently released second full-length album, “Ain’t My Last Rodeo.”

Far from feeling the weight of expectations, Green found himself able to simply appreciate his success and feel excited to be able to create the next musical chapter in his career.

“I really just try to take a step back as often as I can and look at how fortunate I am to have a career in country music, first of all,” Green said in a late-January phone interview. “And the fact is I get to make a record of songs that I wrote about how I grew up, my family and my home town in Alabama. And the fact that people are coming out to my shows and buying tickets, I mean, I’m taking out Tracey Lawrence as direct support for me on this tour this year. I mean, I’m in such a great place, it’s hard for me to feel a lot of pressure. You just want to try to continue to entertain fans and really just evoke some kind of emotion when you write songs.”

What has also helped Green to stay focused on his music and removed from some of the competitive aspects of a country music career was a move back to his home state of Alabama a couple of years ago.

“It helps us a lot that I don’t live in Nashville the majority of the time. It’s hard to have blinders on (in Nashville),” he said. “It’s so easy to get distracted by what some other people are doing and having success doing. I think the best thing you can be right now is different, have your own sound and things to say. It’s a little easier for me to do that now that I live in Alabama because, you know, there’s not any charts down there.”

Green’s connection to Alabama and his love for his home town of Jacksonville have been common themes in his music for some time. It’s where he began to learn about country music and think about making it his career – and where he got the actual experience he needed to prepare himself to write and perform music.

Growing up in Jacksonville, he spent plenty of time, not only with his parents and siblings, but he grew close to his two grandparents, Buford and Linden.

Buford, in particular, was a big country music fan and introduced his grandson to legendary artists like Roy Acuff and Merle Haggard. As Green explained to this writer in a 2021 interview, it was at Buford’s house-turned-music-hall where his idea of having a music career formed for Green.       

“We’d sit on the porch of that old house and play,” Green recalled. “And he’d get my grandmother to bring down the yellow pages, and he’d call up so and so that used to play the banjo or the guitar or the mandolin or whatever, and these old men started coming over and we started meeting up weekly and playing. Then people started to come to listen. 

“We had a saw mill there, and my dad and his brother, we were always in construction, so we tore the floor up and built a stage and people started showing up every Friday,” Green continued. “We called it the Golden Saw. We painted an old saw blade gold on the front so people could see it when they drove by. It went on for 14 years. They never missed a Friday. It was anybody who wanted to play and sing could play and sing...That was where I got confidence enough to get up on stage and play, and I learned to play guitar by watching how these old men made chords and it was a very accidental thing that turned into something really cool.”

Now 35, Green started writing songs in his early 20s and getting gigs around the Southeast. He posted songs online and self-released several EPs, gradually building a following large enough to allow him to make music a full-time venture. It took about a decade, but he built enough popularity as a live act to get noticed by country record labels Nashville, and he signed with Big Machine Records in 2018.

His career has been on a fast track ever since, as he’s been keeping music coming at a steady pace – with three EPs – a self-titled effort, “Outlaws Like Us” and “In a Truck Right Now” — arriving in 2018, followed by the “Get That Man A Beer” EP in 2019. Material from those three releases made up Green’s 2019 debut album, “Different ‘Round Here.” Next came the 2020 EP “If It Wasn’t For Trucks” and the “Behind The Bar” EP in 2021 and a series of singles in 2022, including his collaboration with Thomas Rhett on the song “Half Of Me.” Those all led into the release last fall of “Ain’t My Last Rodeo.”

Along the way, Green notched a top 5 country single in “There Was This Girl” and a top 15 hit in “I Wished Grandpas Never Died.” Now his lead single from “Ain’t My Last Rodeo,” a new version of the song “Different ‘Round Here,” which features a guest vocal from Luke Combs, has cracked the top 5 on “Billboard” magazine’s Country Airplay chart.

“Ain’t My Last Rodeo” gave Green his first opportunity to craft a full-length album made up of new material. Working with A-list producer Dann Huff, Green was able to pick a group of songs – most of which he had a hand in writing – that made for a well-rounded album that ranges from the spare acoustic sound of “My Last Rodeo,” to twangy full-bodied ballads such as “Mississippi Or Me” and “Ain’t My Damn To Give” to robust mid-tempo tracks like “Different ‘Round Here” and “They Don’t Make ‘Em Like That No More” (a song he’d had in hand for a couple of years). Laced with references to actual places, people and experiences, “Ain’t My Last Rodeo” is in character musically and lyrically with Riley’s earlier releases.

“I try to write songs about things I know and how I grew up and how I see the world. It’s been something that has worked for us, so stylistically I don’t try to change too much from that,” Green said. “But you also want to try to appeal to a bigger audience. As things grow, you start playing in different countries and all over the United States. So I tried to put a lot of different types of songs on my (album), which I think we did.”

Songs from “Ain’t My Last Rodeo” figure to make up a significant part of Green’s headlining shows this year.

“One thing I really enjoy is playing the new songs at my shows and seeing what the reaction is from fans,” he said. “So there will probably be a lot of kind of experimenting with new songs on this tour and where they fall in the set, really just seeing what songs raise their hands. I love to let fans decide that sort of thing, so I’m excited about getting out and playing some of these songs in front of some of these fans on this headline tour.”

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit: https://enmarketarena.com/event/riley-green-aint-my-last-rodeo-tour/

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