Since Melbourne-based singer-songwriter Riley Catherall started releasing songs in 2018 he’s been incapable of putting a foot wrong. Catherall has a rich musical pedigree, with studies in classical and jazz, amongst other things, but part of his brilliance as an artist now is what he leaves out rather than what he puts in. He is a master of refinement and restraint, in his vocals and his songwriting, so that the meaning of his songs is clear to the listener, every time. In other words, if he’s telling us something, we know he means it.
Catherall’s latest release is ‘Leave Me Out to Dry’, a story of heartbreakingly gracious regret. It is a sequel, of sorts, to Catherall’s 2018 release ‘Watered Down Man’, which, says Catherall, ‘encapsulated a version of myself notoriously stumbling my way through Melbourne’s streets heralding a warning not to get too close. It’s a bit of a mantra for myself to ensure I’m not slipping back into the same state.’
The song was recorded in Melbourne by Damian Cafarella (of Lachlan Bryan and The Wildes) and will appear on Catherall’s album, which is set for release later this year.
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Riley Catherall has already appeared on this site because of his outstanding singles, ‘Watered Down Man’ and ‘Robin’. He’s an emerging artist who is already a very well-developed musician and songwriter – when we spoke recently I asked about his long musical history and about his introduction to country music. Riley is appearing at the 2019 Tamworth Country Music Festival – dates after the interview.
You started playing guitar at the age of four – did your parents encourage you to start, or was it your own decision?
Dad taught himself guitar. Some of my earliest memories involve him playing guitar for me. Mum was a piano teacher. So I think there was a combination of influences there. Much like a lot of kids get thrown into guitar lessons – and myself being a teacher as well – you see kids who get guitar lessons where their parents have sort of forced them into it, and once they get a little bit of independence they stop doing it. But I was hooked on it enough to continue it. There was definitely good encouragement there with my family, which was fantastic.
Was there a reason why you weren’t put on a piano?
Not really. Because I was the first child I think Dad was super stoked to have a son – ‘This one’s mine, we’re gonna do guitar’ [laughs]. My younger sister plays piano. Maybe Mum got her turn [laughs].
Did you enjoy playing guitar as a child or were there times when you thought, I don’t want to do this – I want to go outside!
From a young age I’d go into show and tell at school and sing a song. I was that kid [laughs]. I always had this entertaining mindset. I went through the stage of learning classical guitar – that’s how I started. Then you discover rock ’n’ roll – you want to be a rock star – and Mum’s getting really worried because I’m playing ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’ in my bedroom at eleven years of age. I’m always inspired by new things, with the change of the seasons, so it’s good that [guitar] is such a vast thing that you can be introduced to new things. Nothing really gets stale; nothing really gets repeated. There’s just so many different versions of it.
Can you remember which songs you used to play for show and tell?
I used to play a lot of bush ballads. ‘Tenterfield Saddler’, ‘Redback on the Toilet Seat’. There was a couple of Australian Classics CDs that we’d have in the car on repeat that I’d then go into school and sing. My nana loved Don McLean’s ‘American Pie’ so I used to go in and sing all thirty verses of that [laughs].
Continue reading “Interview: Riley Catherall”
In May I posted about the single ‘Watered Down Man’ from Melbourne-based singer-songwriter Riley Catherall. He’s now released a second single from his upcoming album and it’s another lovely tune, although quite different in content and tone from his first. It’s also enhanced – as any song would be – by backing vocals from Kasey Chambers.
Catherall’s songs are simple, and that’s meant as a compliment: he is clear in the story he is telling and the emotion and meaning within it, and these are elements that come from authenticity and experience (and, probably, writing lots of songs before you decide on the ones you wish to share). Chambers’s vocals add some drama, mainly because it’s hard not to listen to her and hear a heart breaking. They’re also tonally a great match.
With two for two wonderful songs, Catherall is already on the way to an impressive debut album.
Listen to ‘Robin’: https://dittomusic.lnk.to/RileyCatherallRobin
Canberra-raised, Melbourne-resident singer-songwriter Riley Catherall is a young man with, it may be said, an old soul – if his new song, ‘Watered Down Man’, is anything to go by. This is the tale of a ‘watered down man in a whiskey coat’ who seems to be full of regretful self-awareness, with Catherall’s voice holding wariness and acceptance at the same time – the sort of knowing that tends to come with experiences both good and bad.
But that’s perhaps to be expected, because Catherall started studying classical guitar since the age of six before moving to jazz studies in his teens. That musical background explains the structure of the song, which is simple in the way that usually only comes with maturity: the story is allowed to shine, with Catherall’s voice and guitar in service of it. This is a great, classic country-tinged song, and the herald of a longer release that one can only hope will be available soon.
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