More and more musicians nowadays are opting to sign to major record labels, but Riah finds liberation and comfort in being an independent artist. Still, performing has never been smooth sailing for Riah. As a matter of fact, the introverted songstress admits that she continues to struggle with stage fright. Regardless, the dream pop stunner works tirelessly every day to overcome her obstacles, and she has even managed to release her mesmerizing debut EP, Heartbreak Magic all the while doing so.
Appropriately titled Heartbreak Magic, the impeccable six-track collection is a paradox in itself. Although the dreamy EP focuses on painful heartbreak, it’s more of a light reminder of the unexplainable and positive forces that accompany heartache. The title track sets the tone for enticing electronics layered with saddening lyricism, which is exactly what Riah intended for this glorious project.
Directly referencing her tendency to be inspired by dreams in the opening line of “Prom,” Riah channels her most vulnerable self as she reveals her lingering feelings for a past love. In the synth-heavy “Wildlife,” Riah treats us to groovy bass lines drizzled over her lush vocals. The dream pop goodness continues in “Nice” and “Growing Up,” which features glittery chimes that shimmer just as brightly as Riah’s smooth voice glides. Heartbreak Magic closes with “In My Dreams,” as Riah once again has dreamt up a gorgeous storyline and captivating soundscape that fades into blissful silence.
Get a taste of heartbreak in LA with Riah’s Heartbreak Magic below:
With Riah’s major accomplishments over the years, it’s about time we chatted with the rising dream pop songstress about stage fright, love in LA, and of course, Heartbreak Magic.
OTW: How’s your morning going?
Riah: It’s good. Just hanging out. Worked out, got some breakfast. How about you?
OTW: I honestly just woke up. But I’m proud of you! Love being productive.
Riah: I was so jet lagged so I was determined to wake up early and get out of it.
OTW: That’s great. So when you were still only playing the drums, what pushed you to pick up a microphone and attempt singing for the first time?
Riah: Dang, that’s a throwback. I had written songs since I was really little and the idea of someone else singing them while I’m behind the drums was difficult for me to process. So I was like, “Well, if I’m going to write songs, then I want to sing them.” That sort of pushed me out of my comfort zone. I’m pretty introverted and I have crazy stage fright. I just thought it was more important for me to say what I had to say than hide behind something.
OTW: How do you deal with your stage fright? That’s something I struggle with too.
Riah: I don’t know if I’ve gotten over it. I think over the years I’ve been able to harness it into something positive and something that motivates me. My mom and dad would always tell me it’s a good thing if I’m nervous because that means I care. I’ve always taken that as like, “I have to care 100%.” And if that means being nervous, that’s never going to stop me. I’m just going to push through. So I sort of just deal with it and know that whenever I’m going to step onto the stage, I’ll feel like I want to crawl underneath a rock or I’d rather be anywhere else. But I know it’s bigger than that feeling so I need to push through the fear to get through it.
OTW: You can cope now.
Riah: Yes! I have a relationship with this fear that motives me and drives me to be better.
OTW: How do you transport yourself and listeners to another world when they listen to your music specifically?
Riah: That’s a good question. When you’re writing, you have to envision who you’re singing it to. I think that automatically takes you out of where you are and where you want to be or where you’ve been. It has to pull people who want to go with you. The way that I see the future and the past is different than the way I experience it. Looking back on it as a tool as a way to create another world. It’s just something I have to do because I want people to come with me and feel that. I feel like I just have to pull part all the things I’m going through and find what else everyone is going through. Everyone at the core may be having the same struggle, and it may look different for different people. When you strip things down to the core, you can make people want to come into your world when they see themselves in you. Maybe someone who’s been where I am and came out through the other side.
OTW: I feel like your music is all about human connection. You’re not singing about getting drunk and going to parties.
Riah: Yeah, for sure. At the end of the day, that’s what anyone wants. To be connected, understood, and loved by other people.
OTW: How does it feel to know that everyone can listen to Heartbreak Magic? I’ve never put out an EP myself, so I was wondering how it feels for you?
Riah: To be able to pour your soul into something and show people like, “This is all of me. You can tear me apart. You can love it. You can hate it.” The idea of that is so scary. But it’s been so important for me to share that. I’ve kept it a secret for so long and it’s great to finally take people on this journey with me through the music I’ve created. That’s all so exciting. It makes me nervous when people tell me they’ve listened to it.
OTW: Not only do they listen to it, but they love it too.
Riah: Thank you!
OTW: How does love and heartbreak in LA compare to other places?
Riah: Maybe it’s just the drama of it.
OTW: I feel like more people get involved.
Riah: Yeah. When you’re in it, the community is so different because it feels like such a small place because when you’re connected to just one person, you’re also connected to so many other people. It’s a good thing and a bad thing. When you have a good community around you, you build stronger relationships and you start to see the goodness of the people around you. If it’s not a good community, you see that as well. It’s so hard to fall in love in LA because on the outside of it, it can be a safe place. But it takes a while to get to the core of people’s goodness.
OTW: What was it like working with Chad Copelin on Heartbreak Magic?
Riah: He’s the best. I wrote my first song for this project with him like four years ago. We’ve built this relationship that’s created this space for me to experiment and figure out who I want to be and who I am in music, and outside of music. It’s been a gift to be able to do that. I think it’s so special when you’re nervous about getting someone who you feel comfortable with that creates a space for you to confidently walk in. I love him. He’s the best.
OTW: Right now, you’re an independent artist, right?
OTW: Do you see yourself joining a label any time in the near future?
Riah: I don’t know. I don’t necessarily have a plan. I think there’s pros and cons to both. I’d love to have the option to do both or to do whatever. I don’t want to be an independent artist because I have to be, but because I choose to be. Same for a record label. I’d love to be part of a label, but right now I love being independent. I love the freedom of that so that’s why I started doing it. I just wanted to get stuff out of my system. There’s beauty in that and there’s also beauty in having a team behind that pushes everything you create. I think they’re both great situations.
OTW: If you could sell out a massive show anywhere in the world, where would you pick and who would be your openers?
Riah: I think because I’m from LA, it has to be the Hollywood Bowl.
OTW: Yes!!! How crazy would that be?!
Riah: It would be craaazy. Who would my openers be? We’re talking dream world, right?
Riah: Right now, maybe Anderson .Paak because I’ve been listening to him a lot.
OTW: How can anyone NOT be listening to him?
Riah: I know right. I don’t know if he would open for me, but I’d LOVE to open for him. I don’t know who the other would be. I can only think of the people I’ve been listening to right now. This is going to be the weirdest show, but Bjork because I’m obsessed with Bjork.
OTW: We ask this last question in every interview. Who are your Ones To Watch?
Riah: I have a friend named Nachbi. He’s amazing. He only has one song out right now, but it’s the coolest thing. I have some friends in a band called Sports.
OTW: Wait… I know Sports!
Riah: Sports is awesome. They’re on the come up right now. Chad worked on their stuff so I know them through him. There’s a band called The Break Up that I also love.