Interview: Toria Richings on being fired up for Nashville’s AMERICANAFEST

Credit: Peter Metro

Travel opened her eyes to roots music and Australia helped develop it into her own style.

Inspired initially by Neil Young and Joan Baez, Toria Richings always knew she was a songwriter but it took a tour of America and a move to Australia from her home town of Stroud for her to decide what her own style of music would be. Americana UK’s Martin Johnson caught up with Toria Richings over Zoom as she caught her breath in San Francisco on her way to Australia to discuss her new single ‘Fire’ and her EP ‘The Nashville Sessions’. While she loves Australia and the country music scene there, she admits she still thinks of the UK as home. She explains that ‘The Nashville Sessions’ was recorded remotely due to the pandemic restrictions but that ‘Fire’ was recorded live in the studio with her Australian road band and while she was initially nervous about recording live, it turned out really well. While she may have found her musical home as a roots and americana artist, Toria Richings admits that she is a big fan of Metallica as well.

How are you and where are you?

I’m a bit jetlagged as we’ve just flown from Heathrow to San Francisco. We fly back to Sydney  tonight, so we just had a quick stop-off.

You’ve described your music as mixing blues, folk and country, what drew you to that mix?

Starting off growing up I really got into Neil Young and then Joan Baez. So, I’d always been kind of around that kind of music, and it was a few years ago when we were moving to Australia we did Memphis and Nashville, and something just went off in my head and I started writing bluesy country music. I just really love doing it, I feel really comfortable. I think I had those earlier influences with music, and then with the later experiences has led to what I write now, I guess.

You were born in the UK but moved to Australia, would your music still be the same if you had stayed in the UK?

I don’t know really. We did this really big road trip across America before we moved to Australia and I got really inspired, so I  guess if we hadn’t done that my music may have taken a different turn if I’d stayed in the UK. I’ve always written songs, and I’ve always been kind of singer-songwritery, but travelling around has definitely added a lot of influences to my music.

How important is the UK to you today?

The UK is my heart, it’s proper home for us. We’ve just spent a month there now, and the UK will always be my first love, it is where I’m from and I’m very proud of that.

What’s it like being a musician in Australia these days?

I love Australia as a musician, my sort of music seems to suit Australia and there is a huge country scene over there. From my music’s point of view, and meeting other musicians, there’s been a lot more happening while I’ve been on the Australian country scene.

What is behind your new single ‘Fire’ and how did you record it?

I wrote and recorded it in Australia. I tend to just get tunes in my head and they just seem to grow from there. I started getting a tune for ‘Fire’  and I wrote it about different levels of love. It is about two people in a relationship and one person is absolutely infatuated, and the other doesn’t really know whether it is going to go anywhere and is scared to put anything into it. So, ‘Fire’ is all the different layers you can find in love. I recorded it in Sydney, and it was the first time I’d done a live band recording in a studio, and it was great, a whole new experience for me and I absolutely loved it.

Who was in the studio with you?

I had my manager, pedal steel player and producer Jy-Perry Banks, and yes he is pretty important, and then I had the rest of my Aussie band who do things with me when I’m over there.

What did it feel like recording live?

It felt amazing. I was quite nervous going in, and I’m kind of a nervous artist but when I’m doing something I absolutely love it, but I get a lot of nerves beforehand, and because I’d never done this before I was very nervous as I didn’t know what to expect, but it was just an amazing experience to be playing at the same time as everybody else. We built real energy in the studio, and it was great to see everybody smiling, and we did a video at the same time so you can see the setup.

What was it like recording ‘The Nashville Sessions’ EP?

Unfortunately, we were in COVID times so I couldn’t go over to Nashville and do my parts in the studio. So, I recorded my vocals and guitar in Sydney, and my producer Bill Wence, who does my PR stuff in America, said he would put a band together for me. This band blew my mind, you had Johnny Cash’s guitar player and Dolly Parton’s drummer with Garth Brooks’ pedal steel player, it just went on and on, and it is the one time I couldn’t get on a plane and be in the studio with them. It was still an incredible experience, and I’m back there next month so I will be in the studio with these guys. I will get to do it for real this time.

How important are your lyrics, and who are your biggest lyrical influences?

Very, lyrics are everything to me. I was a wordy person growing up, I love books, I love language. The music is important and they go hand in hand, but I must have the right lyrics. I can’t just throw anything out there, it has to have meaning. I have so many influences it’s hard to pick one person, as I’ve said I love Neil Young’s and Joan Baez’s lyrics, Neil Finn from Crowded House is a phenomenal lyric writer and when I was growing up at thirteen and fourteen, he heavily influenced my lyrics and opened my world up quite a bit to seeing how you can write. So, I think those three are probably my biggest influences and still are I think, but I can’t stop. I love Metallic, so I go in all directions when it comes to music.

You’ve had some success with your EPs and single tracks, are you firmly in the streaming world?

Streaming is everything now, and I don’t think I would have had the opportunity I’ve had if we couldn’t distribute our own music nowadays. I’ve done well, ‘The Nashville Sessions’ did really well in America on the roots music charts. I got number one positions for some of the singles off there, which is great. So it is all building slowly, but it is definitely a streaming world and there is an awful lot of competition out there.

Do you have plans for an album?

I’m doing another EP next month in Nashville, so that will probably be six songs. I don’t know, I toyed with doing albums but a lot of people are telling me to just stick with five or six songs these days. When it used to be CDs being put out it was very much an album world. You’d do singles off the album, but everybody in the music business who speaks to me is telling me I’m better doing an EP and putting a few singles out, so I’ve just been sticking to that method. I don’t rule out doing an album because I’m a prolific songwriter, I’ve got hundreds and hundreds of songs. It is possible, I just haven’t done it yet.

How is the Australian music scene post-pandemic?

I think it is just now coming back to life a bit. COVID had a massive impact, and I think it just killed it. Me and my husband spend a lot of time going out to see live music because I love hearing music and meeting people, and it is a great way to network, and it was just gone. It is only now we are beginning to see things open up slowly. There are more opportunities, more people are starting to play again, and festivals are waking up again, but it is only now that things are beginning to get back to somewhere it previously was pre-pandemic.

You are off to AMERICANAFEST in September, how excited are you about that?

That is just a dream come true, I didn’t think I would ever be playing showcases at AMERICANAFEST in Nashville, I’m just pinching myself. I’m doing some for my publicist Bill, and then I’ve got Sounds Australia, and I’m doing some showcases for them. My head is still going, what, how have I managed this? I can’t wait, I think the experience will be amazing, meeting people, I can’t wait to hear other music, it is just going to be great.

Are you playing with a band there?

I’ve got some songwriter solo in the round stuff, and then I’ve got a couple of showcases with my American band, one for Sounds Australia and we are just looking for some more venues now. So, it is still growing.

You are coming to the UK as well.

Yeah, next year, and that’s why I’ve been in the UK. We are just building a tour in the UK, and it starts in my hometown, Stroud, in the Subscription Rooms, which is an iconic music building. Again, I can’t believe I will be playing there. We are then going up North and probably finish around Manchester or somewhere. We are still trying to get into Ireland and some other places as well, so it is on the grow at the moment. But yeah, I can’t wait to come and play in the UK, and I will be bringing my Aussie band with me.

That will be expensive.

It is expensive, and we are just trying to work all the logistics out now. So that’s the plan at the moment. The band were quite excited when I mentioned this is what we are thinking of doing.

At AUK, we like to share music with our readers, so can you share which artists, albums or tracks are currently top three on your personal playlist?

Liz Stringer is my current fave. She is an Australian singer and she is not particularly country, and I think she is going to do some UK tour dates this year. I’m quite into Lord Huron at the moment, who are an American band. I’ve also gone all old school and I’m listening to a lot of John Hiatt. It is very varied, and I still go back to my old favourites, so I still listen to Metallica and a bit of hard rock.

What do you think of John Hiatt?

I love him. He’s been around for such a long time, and I don’t think I’ve ever listened to all his stuff, but a few months ago he came up on one of my Spotify playlists and I just started playing it. I’m really, really enjoying his music.

Finally, do you want to say anything to our readers?

Check out my music, and come and support me because I may live in Australia, but I’m still very much a UK artist. Look out for the tour and come and see some of my shows next year.

Toria Richings ‘The Nashville Sessions’ and ‘Fire’ are out now as independent releases.

About Martin Johnson 401 Articles
I've been a music obsessive for more years than I care to admit to. Part of my enjoyment from music comes from discovering new sounds and artists while continuing to explore the roots of American 20th century music that has impacted the whole of world culture.
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Ben Maine

Great interview I just love Toria’s music, exciting to hear about a UK tour too ❤️

Sally

I really enjoyed this, Toria Richings is one of my new favourite artists, I don’t there is one song of hers I don’t like!!! I also love John Hiatt too!!

Ryde

Nice read she’s a great new artist