“When I was a kid, I used to have these really bad night terrors,” says Riah. “They were so vivid that I’d wake up screaming, not sure what was real and what wasn’t.”
While those harrowing nightmares helped inspire Riah to become a songwriter, these days her career feels more like a dream come true. Just three years after releasing her debut single, the breakout star-in-the-making has already racked up nearly 50 million streams on Spotify, placed songs on hit television shows like Grey’s Anatomy, and performed for thousands at Coachella, all as a totally independent artist. Hailed by the New York Times for her “crisp songwriting” and praised by The Line of Best Fit as landing "somewhere between the Tove Lo, Broods, and Phoebe Ryan realm of atmospheric alternative pop,” Riah is a force to be reckoned with, the kind of mesmerizing vocalist whose sheer magnetism is matched only by her remarkable versatility. She writes with a piercing clarity and commands the stage as if she were born for the spotlight, but the truth is that it actually took a tremendous leap of faith to get the naturally introverted Riah near a microphone at all.
“I learned to play drums before I ever sang a note,” she explains. “Once I got serious about writing my own songs, though, it became difficult for me to imagine someone else singing them. I decided that if I wanted to share my heart in my music, I’d have to find the confidence and the passion to move to the front of the stage.”
That confidence and passion served Riah well in the studio, too. Recorded and written with longtime collaborator Chad Copelin (Sufjan Stevens, Ben Rector), her forthcoming debut EP is as honest as it is adventurous, mixing raw vulnerability with effortless swagger and bold, unpredictable arrangements. Lead single “Heartbreak Magic” is a minimalist pop masterpiece, one that’s equal parts haunting and playful in its delivery, while “Growing Up” boasts spellbinding vocals on top of a hypnotic groove designed to pull you straight out onto the dance floor.
“When I play these songs live, I want them to be as fun and funky and full as possible,” Riah says. “I want to bring people the kind of sounds and textures and experiences you can only get from having real instruments and a live band that’s living in the moment together onstage every night.”
In the end, that’s what it’s all about for Riah, chasing those singular moments when the artist and the audience are at once transported to another world, a world that blurs the lines between joy and sadness and ecstasy and heartbreak and fantasy and reality. Riah’s living in a dream these days, and she wants to take you there with her.