Playlist placement, a social media presence, and other marketing methods all have significant roles within the music industry, but what defines an artist is their songs. In country music, it’s that real-life authenticity through personal perspectives, clever wordplay, and memorable hooks that resonate with fans. Without the right song, an artist has nothing. Riley Green seemingly has everything.
When he took the stage at the Vanderburgh County Fair in Evansville, Indiana, Riley ignited a bond with the audience that will last long after the final notes fade. You immediately feel a connection like you know him. But maybe even more so because with every song he sang, it felt like he knew you and your life’s story. It’s an instantaneous realization that kept the crowd engaged and hanging on to every offering in his 13-song set.
Riley’s strong storytelling nature contributed to the evening’s pinnacle. The stirring and powerful, “I Wish Grandpas Never Died,” was an acoustic highlight. It’s the kind of song that the genre’s foundation was built upon. And no matter what small-town map dot you call home, there’s a little piece of everyone’s life in that song. This song is the reason we listen to country music - to find ourselves through chords and rhyme.
His set consisted of material from his latest EP, “Get That Man A Beer,” - a collection of songs featuring some of Nashville’s prime writers. Rhett Akins, Marv Green, and Jonathan Singleton all had a hand in writing the tracks; Dan Huff and Jimmy Harnen produced the project. Plus, well-chosen covers like “In Color” from fellow Alabama-native Jamey Johnson captivated the crowd and prompted singalongs.
Propelled by his debut single, “There Was This Girl,” the rising momentum continues to swing upward. He topped the Mediabase charts earlier this year (not bad for your first single, right?) and has spent the majority of the summer opening for country music’s ultimate spokesperson, Brad Paisley. And judging by this crowd’s response, headlining arenas someday himself would come effortlessly with his well-suited style of country music. Undoubtedly, being true to yourself and singing about what you know is the ultimate way to solidify your place in the country music scene.
“I wish country music still got played on country radio.”
While there are no set rules on what country music is or isn’t, let’s get something clear here. This is what it is. Riley Green proved that this is how it should be sung.
As passionate music fans steeped in tradition, we all want our country music to sound country. And we can debate, analyze, and read a million think-pieces about what qualifies, but Riley is carrying that vision out. Those hard-hitting lyrics and guitar sounds are reminders that good (beyond good, actually) remain. If an audience feels it, you win. And Riley Green won over every single person that stood in the grandstand or danced on the dirt track that Indiana summer night, turning concertgoers into fans and believers.