Riah was a tiny figure all in purple at The Shrine Auditorium. She was opening for LANY and the packed house sang her lyrics back to her. That same day Riah dropped her debut EP 'Heartbreak Magic' a five-track wonderland filled with intricate dreamscapes and an undeniable honesty that cuts to the bone. She's had a whirlwind of attention surrounding her music and this show solidified her claim as one of the biggest breakout artists this year. After her set, we sat down on the stage where Judy Garland once performed and where "A Star Is Born" premiered to talk about music and how to push past all the "no's" in life.
How did you get started in music?
Riah: My brother was in a band, and I'm obsessed with my brother and I wanted to be like him. He was in an emo band so I wanted to start a band with him probably now it would be bad, but we played a lot of shows in LA and I was super young so I couldn't get into any of the venues. They'd have to sneak me in and I knew all the bouncers. Eventually, I moved to Nashville and I wrote country music but mostly music for like licensing and TV/Film.
A lot of people romanticize the industry but licensing is really one of the only ways artists can make money.
Riah: It's a really lucrative thing to do, but it's more of a task. It's awesome that artists can do music and make money doing it. I loved doing that, but I didn't really like certain aspects of it. I didn't start doing music again until four years ago, there was no rules and no one telling me what to do. It felt different.
How did you get from that to 'Heartbreak Magic'?
Riah: A lot of that was doing my song with Shallou, that was around the same time as "Prom," and it was something completely opposite from my music.
The people in the audience were stoked. How does it feel to be recognized for your work?
Riah: [The audience] here was so excited and engaged. It's also different because I'm from LA and people in LA catch on fast and they gravitate to hometown things. It's just little things, little pieces, it's literally person by person that comes on board.
What's been one of the biggest challenges for you?
Riah: Asides from everything, people believing in you. It takes one person saying 'yes' to change your entire life but also so many other 'yes's.' I think you'd put so much weight on certain things or certain people then you have to actually build it brick-by-brick. I've been told 'no' so many times in my life. It's really easy to not get past the 'no' and every time I'm like, 'I'm done, I have no time for this I don't want to do this why do I spend my life doing this?'
How do you push past that?
Riah: Part of me thinks it's building the story, and the 'yes' will be a way bigger payoff. The 'yes' when it comes will be special and sometimes it's hard to identify.
How does it feel to release 'Heartbreak Magic'?
Riah: I don't really show anyone anything, I don't know there's something not being able to keep it. I've been sitting on it for a long time. It feels like the secret's out.
What's your favorite song to perform?
Riah: Today, "Heartbreak Magic" and "In My Dreams" but I've only done that one like two times, once was tonight.
What else inspires you? I know you're a big fan of Bjork, why is that?
Riah: She's insane, she's totally nuts. There's something about being as crazy as you possibly can. I grew up listening to her and I hated her, for a kid you're like…' what is going on?' but I stared appreciated that I could never find something similar. It didn't feel contrived, it felt natural. What inspires me though? Just people.
What's like the weirdest thing you've been listening to? What's something that you wouldn't expect?
Riah: I love country music in the Summer. Especially Keith Urban. He has so many good songs. My favorite thing about living in Nashville was driving in the country. My car only had a radio and I never listened to country music in my life. I have very fond Keith Urban memories.
What's your best advice for a young woman who wants to be in the music industry?
Riah: Don't do it alone. Honestly, there's like 30 girls here who ran backstage after I was done. It took me 27 years to build my relationships. I don't just want to make myself proud but I want to make them proud.