By: Laura Bennett
Nashville-based artist Riley Clemmons has been writing and performing since she was 13 after being discovered at a school pageant.
At 23 she’s already spent a decade in the industry, accumulating over half a billion global streams and 85 million YouTube views.
Riley’s journey hasn’t been easy though, with bouts of depression and anxiety taking their toll, and a niggling identity crisis reaching its peak. After pulling back from work to reset and recover from years of writing and touring, Riley’s returned with Church Pew – an album that pulls faith out of a “religious box” and confronts how it relates to the highs and lows of life.
For the first time in Riley’s career, Church Pew also sees her credited as executive producer, giving her more space to craft an album that fully reflects her artistic intentions.
“It’s a lot of responsibility, but from day one it was something I was intentional about earning,” Riley said in our interview.
“Because I was coming from such a season of burnout, I felt a strong calling to take full ownership of this new chapter.”
The title song is a standout for Riley, speaking to the heart of the album in inviting everyone to experience faith in Jesus.
“The title grabbed me for a long time,” Riley said.
“If church pews could speak, what would they say? What have they seen? What have they heard?”
Sometimes it may be the person coming into church in their “Sunday best”, and other times it’s the sadness of a funeral or the vulnerability of an AA meeting.
“We wanted to really write a song that encompasses the full range [of experiences] because my belief over everything is that Jesus saves room for His people,” Riley said.
“No matter what they’ve been though, no matter what they’re going through, no matter how messed up or broken they might feel Jesus is incredibly inclusive.”