Musical Notes: Chris Riffle Emerges as Musician with a Unique Perspective. #withabullet

Unless you are a die-hard Alt music aficionado (or are based on the east coast AKA NYC), Chris Riffle might not be a name you recognize. Or maybe you heard him but didn’t remember his name but the haunting sound of his music matched with his lyricism definitely “struck a chord” with your musical heart.


Chris Riffle is musician ready to break out to national and international success. His unique styling of folk mixed with various genres is telling about his life and his perspective of life in general. His musical attitudes and perspective is both familiar and exceptionally new. While it feels like a fabulous old fave of a sweater, the themes he write and features are definitely different.


Here’s a Soundcloud stream of Nothing But the Waves

Chris Riffle’s bio:

Born in a one room cabin in the woods of Bothell, Washington, Chris Riffle has lived in and around the Northwest most of his life. Growing up with no electricity or running water in the mountains of Washington State and spending summers living in a teepee, Chris learned how to live simply. There was no shortage of music in his formative years. His dad played guitar and sang original songs and his mom was always the first to get out the guitar around the campfire at night.

Chris’ interest in music didn’t begin and end with folk music. Throughout high school and into college, he was a founding member of Chrysler-Stewart and the Stewartesses– a lounge pop ensemble influenced by Sergio Mendez and Brasil ’66, the B-52s, Jan & Dean, and Combustible Edison.

And yet it’s the other side of the country, on New York’s famously gritty Lower East Side, where Chris has found a second home, becoming a mainstay performer at the venerable Living Room, collaborating with members of The Mars Volta, Ollabelle, and Antony and the Johnsons and musicians that have backed Bjork, Feist, Imogen Heap, Glen Hansard, Martha & Rufus Wainwright. On the touring front, Chris’s travels have taken him to both coasts, as well as a trip to the Last Frontier – Alaska. Chris’ last EP Another Dream was in rotation at over 150 stations & featured on Sirius XM.

His new full length, Out of town, recorded at One East (Rolling Stones, Lou Reed), produced by Jimi Zhivago (Ollabelle, Kim Taylor) and mastered at the Magic Shop (David Bowie, Arcade Fire) just came out April 7th. Chris has been busy releasing accompanying music videos and planning upcoming tours to promote.

Shake Me Up Video

I was able to snag an email interview with Chris Riffle. Me asking someone “20 questions” is a LOT of questions. So I figured out a way to cut it down to 14. Please note there is a stream of one of Chris’ newest songs as well as videos and lots of photos. Check out his social links at the bottom so you can see MORE content!

1) While you were a child, was music the driving force for you? Were you engaged in any other artistic pursuits?

Chris Riffle:
As a child I was very inspired by my dad who was a part time folk musician… He would play shows around town and was always writing songs and playing around the house… I used to love falling asleep listening to him singing… He has an amazingly soothing voice… He lived in a cabin in the woods with no electricity and I spent a lot of time there in addition to my mom’s house which had more modern conveniences… I used to walk around the woods singing and writing my own songs… I got a little child’s guitar at an early age. Then when I was in high school I really started pursuing music more in a band and then later solo… I’ve always loved being active in many ways. If I had more time in the day I would be doing so much more! For a while I was very into photography… I was the photo editor of the school paper in high school. I also always loved acting… I was involved in plays through writing and acting. I loved debate. For such an artistic person I actually really enjoyed high school. I felt like I was always busy doing and creating something. I had a great group of creative friends…

2) Did you feel that your life was so different from the mainstream of most families? What kept you busy (besides homework) at night and on the weekend?

Chris Riffle:
Well for starters I was always really bad at doing my homework! I guess I always thought my life wasn’t so different than anyone else. It wasn’t until later in life that I branched out of my family and met so many other kinds of people and realized that the fact that my divorced parents got a long so great and were always supportive of me and my endeavors was quite a rarity… I really had a wonderful encouraging upbringing and I guess in someways I’ve always been surprised how many people haven’t. Being gay was never an issue.

3) Who taught you how to play? Did you have more formal music theory lessons? Did you play other instruments?

Chris Riffle:
I tinkered with the guitar here and there from and early age… Took piano lessons for a couple years then continued on my own. I always liked to play by ear. I studied the saxophone in school then the french horn. I had a drum set at my house for a year and loved playing that whenever I could! Played the bass off and on with other people. The guitar has always been my main love though. I was very fortunate to be spending summers with my dad during a time in high school when I was really focused on the guitar. He had two musician roommates that both loved teaching me different chords. Inspired by a lot of jazz and brazilian music like Jobim… I loved spending the summers playing guitar.

4) What did you want to be when you grew up?
Chris Riffle:
I always felt an affinity towards being a musician but in fifth grade we had a “career day” where we had to spend the day with someone in a career that we wanted to be and I was torn between being a lawyer or hair dresser… I decided to spend the day in a salon in a slightly more metropolitan town nearby.

5) What was your focus in high school?

Chris Riffle:
Did you major in music in college? If not, what major? Was college a change for you in terms of personal evolution?
I was all over the map in high school… In college I narrowed my focus down to audio recording. I studied for two years going into the studio as much as humanly possible and loved it… College was the first time I felt like I got recognition for my music from a radio station and the public… it was very exciting!

6) Clearly you had a life that has been a different path. Do you have end goals for youself?

Chris Riffle:
Makes me think of the last track on this new album, “Less Traveled.” I do think more in terms of the ‘way’ you live your life versus ‘the end.’ But I definitely would love to keep making music that I am proud of. I really love playing shows and the interaction with people that happens at them. From the way it changes every time with great musicians backing me up to the way that people come up to me after and remember different lyrics that I was singing. I get so much out of that experience and I feel like I’m contributing to something greater than myself. I would love to be able to sustain being a musician without having to keep another job.

Far From the Sea Video

7) What has been your musical evolution? How much have you changed since
a) high school
b) since moving to the east coast

Chris Riffle:
A lot since high school! I used to be in a lounge pop band that covered songs off of sesame street and Jan & Dean and performed in sequins and was almost always sarcastic. Fast forward to now… very honest mellow folk songs! Also moving to the East Coast was very inspiring for me. I think that anytime you move and change your surroundings you force yourself to grow and think about things in different ways. Before I was mostly singing a lot of love songs… mostly sad… but I’ve definitely grown from there. I still get inspired by love but it’s a little bit more universal.

8) For many musicians, they drive the music. Yet for others, the music drives them. Which is your style and where it is going?

Chris Riffle:
I would definitely say the music drives me. I really let go and sort of get hypnotized by the guitar and the mood presents itself… then words kind of start from there… it’s very much stream of consciousness like poetry. I really don’t like to overanalyze the words. Hard to say where it’s going… I guess it’s out of my control 😉 I’ve been loving playing with the band I’ve been playing with lately though so writing sometimes that is a factor… I think about how this will sound with the drums and bass…

9) NYC and the east coast seems to have really revved the motor of your musical career..
What are the high points? Low points? Any frustration or pivotal moments for you>

Chris Riffle:
I think in someways knowing that NYC is supposed to be so hard and intense is motivating. Moving here I knew it would never be easy so I prepared myself for failure. I have been so surprised by all the support though… From the amazing musicians I’ve met and played with to the great venues I’ve been able to take the stage at! Opening for Patti Smith at a benefit earlier this year! Playing packed houses and sold out shows… But there’s always plenty of moments where it seems like I’m working so hard on all the parts besides the music and it can be frustrating… Hard to stand out from the pack especially when that’s not at all my style… I just love being around so many talented musicians and considering myself a part of that scene is very rewarding.


10) How would you describe your current sounds/styles? What genres or musical trends is where your music is rooted? (this question and the one above might be the same question.. or not. )
Who (musically) or what trend is the most influential on your musical journey currently?

Chris Riffle:
Mellow is the first word that comes to mind… folk is definitely in there somewhere as well… It also has an ambient electric feel with the guitar/organ work that Jimi Zhivago lays under the tracks… very ‘Eno-esque.’ I tend to like music that floats and doesn’t just have hook after hook… perhaps doesn’t even have a chorus… I like to get drawn into a song without being too aware of the structure or obvious words… I like lyrics that make you think you know what they’re about, but you’re not 100% sure. Somehow that can be easier to draw into your own life. I don’t think there’s one or even two artists that are really the most influential in my music. I pick up things along the way from so many different kinds of music… From listening lately to Years and Years on a road trip and thinking about making a song that moves like that. To a blend of Nick Drake, The National, Leonard Cohen, Bon Iver, Sufjan Stevens, Paul Simon, The Shins, Belle and Sebastian, The Velvet Underground, Mississippi John Hurt, etc, etc… Sometimes I get more inspired when I’m not listening to music. My husband is a painter and sometimes when he puts music on first thing in the morning I remind him it’s like waking up in the middle of a museum when you’re your lost in your own head with inspiration.

11) How many instruments do you play? What are they?

Chris Riffle: See “#3” mostly guitar though…

12) Do you like going into the studio to record? It’s always a process but is it easy for you or is every recording a different experience ?

Chris Riffle:
I love going into the studio… wish I could do it everyday! It’s an amazing process… the songs take on a whole life of their own.
I love seeing how after each instrument we lay down the songs start to tell us what to do. I’ve seen songs change from a mellow Mazzy Star like folk piece into an upbeat Fleetwood Mac 70’s song… I love the flexibility of it and I love the way I push myself to sing my best and play my best.

13) What goals have you set for yourself.
Who currently do you really like to be playing with?
Who would you like to tour with or play with (inspirational musicians..)

Chris Riffle:
I am so happy right now with the band I’ve been playing with! These musicians are so good. Jimi is always amazing on electric guitar… he makes it sound like an organ at times with his pedals… Rob Jost is incredible and always holds down the low end on the bass… Bill Dobrow has been the latest addition and really has completed our sound… he’s so talented on the drums. I really look forward to playing with these guys! Would love to be able to tour with them someday. You grow so much together on a tour. I would love to be touring more and playing all the time! We’re gonna start work soon in the studio on a new single that I’m excited about as well…

14) How much has your life changed ?

Chris Riffle:
New York has really shifted my focus to music. I wanted that to happen with this move. It’s been the main focus for me and not just a hobby that gets pushed to the back burner. I also got married a couple years ago and having a strong healthy relationship really helps me feel grounded. It gives me the time and energy to invest in my career. It’s so nice in this city to have that support.

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Thanks to Chris Riffle and his organization for the interview! It’s always great to feature a stellar new artist that is garnering attention for a unique presentation!

Stevie Wilson,

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