Riva Taylor Interview: “It’s an exciting time for women in the music industry”
Riva Taylor is certainly no stranger to the industry.
At the ripe age of 12, the British singer first appeared on the scene as Becky Jane Taylor and was the youngest ever signing to EMI Records. Now 28, and after some soul searching, Riva is ready to return to audiences with her gospel sounding anthem “Deeper” and a brilliant comeback album.
Your current single “Deeper” has a spiritual, gospel sound to it. What inspired that?
I think the warm, soulful sound of the track was determined by the sentiment! It’s a song that’s full of hope and optimism. The arrangement needed to feel like a warm hug to complement the lyric!
What was it like working with Jamie Hartman (who co-wrote the Rag n Bone Man hit “Human”) on “Deeper”?
Jamie was so great to work with. It can sometimes feel like a slightly unnatural process being introduced to an award winning songwriter with the view to write ‘a hit’ and you have to be realistic about these things… you can’t nail it every time! But Jamie has a really relaxed approach and I loved every moment of it. It helped being in LA – a place I feel really creative!
A lot of the songs on your upcoming album sound like they’re about heartbreak?
It’s funny; the tracks I wrote/recorded first are! Those that were written last are more optimistic. The album has taken a good two years to make so, naturally, life has played out and inspired the sentiment behind many of the tracks.
“Remember (Heartache)” in particular is a real tear-jerker. Who is that about?
A past love. That’s all you’re getting! Very much a thing of the past now and a positive spin on heartbreak that it was absolutely right for the relationship to end. That’s how you remember the sunshine as opposed to the rain!
Video game soundtracks are often quite theatrical, as I’m sure you heard while performing at the Video Games Live tour. Has this impacted your sound at all?
My sound has width! I love the warmth of film/game music and the drama so, in a sense, yes. But I have listened to orchestral music my whole life just as much as I’ve listened to pop and indie music. I get my inspirations from everywhere – they’re not genre or decade specific.
Your song “The Creed” is the theme tune for the multimillion dollar video game franchise Assassin’s Creed. Is this the type of music you saw yourself releasing when you ventured into music?
“The Creed” is a standalone track. It’s not on the album but as I say, I love a soundtrack and was excited to sing this! I hope I can sing plenty more sound tracks in my career! If you look at artists as big as Adele, Rihanna and Justin Timberlake – they’ve all recorded soundtracks to movies in parallel with their albums.
You opened the BAFTA Game Awards in 2015 with an elegant performance of the song “Earth to Earth.” But would you ever consider a Britney/Janet-esque dancer-who-sings revamp?
I am a dancer as well as a singer… and what’s to come is a pop album. Me singing video game music was a moment in time and one dimension of who I am, and admittedly a small one.
Would you say video game fans are just as overzealous as pop music fans, or are they a bit milder?
Absolutely! I have never experienced such a buzzing audience as I did in Madrid and Stockholm in particular! They are incredibly passionate and dedicated fans of that genre of music which was lovely to be a part of.
Do you remember how you felt when you signed with EMI Records at the age of 12? What did you learn from that experience?
It’s funny, as a kid you take everything in your stride! It was an amazingly exciting time for me but it also felt like another natural stepping stone as a kid who had already sung in the West End and on TV! It’s only afterwards I’ve realised how lucky I was! Those years signed to EMI and the experiences were both amazing and eye opening. They have certainly mounded me into who I am today and how I approach my career.
After taking time out to study history and work jobs at a bank and legal firm, what adversities did you overcome when re-breaking into the music industry in 2014?
The challenges were the changes that had occurred during my time out of the industry! When I was first signed there was no such thing as social media (in the Facebook/Twitter/Instagram sense) and YouTube was just starting! You sold physical albums and used TV, radio and print press to market yourself. That all changed in my ‘wilderness’ years. In a sense, I had to educate myself as an independent artist which is something I’d never had to do or think about before! It also took time to break away from being the singer I once was and start afresh as Riva Taylor.
Could you elaborate on your encounter with Hans Zimmer? What came of that?
I have industry friends who know his team well. We were all in his offices in LA, an amazing place, and our discussions there carved my path for the next year – recording the official Assassin’s Creed theme and touring it.
Your music has been particularly well received in Asian countries, such as Japan and Taiwan. Are you familiar with any East Asian pop stars, and would you collaborate with any of them?
I’d love to!! The prospect of being back there and touring really excites me. I especially love Japan! I’m a fan of Charice Pempengco’s amazing talent I’d love to see us do a collaboration! I was also lucky enough to perform with Lea Salonga as a kid and would love to see us do that again!
What issues are women facing in the music industry?
It’s an exciting time! Some amazingly respected female music industry executives, managers and global artists working it! If we’re talking about sexism [or the] over sexualisation of established artists to complement great music… I also don’t think that’s an issue. You only have to look back in history to realise dancing around in a leotard, if done so creatively and feeling confident in your own skin, is nothing new! I think emerging female artists (and those who are fearful of submerging!!) however need to be a little careful of not using their image as a driver to acquire/retain fans and let their talent and originality be the driver of that. [Lady Gaga] has proven recently she can. Let the image complement your craft and, if it’s authentic, it should work!
What’s your ultimate aim for your music?
To keep making music and evolving my sound, and to take the audience on a journey! I hope everyone enjoys what’s coming!