But celebrating his own work isn’t something Dex Riley is totally comfortable with yet, and he admits it’s taken a while for him to prioritize himself. He’s spent the past few years honing his craft in the shadows, lending it to others as a songwriter, producer, session player, visual artist, etc. But everything lately has been falling together, and he’s decided now it’s his turn. He’s ready to show us, and himself, what pushing all of his creative energy in the same direction can look like... even if he’s still not totally sure why it all works so well together.
H&L: Here’s the softball, who is Dex Riley?
Dex Riley: I primarily write and compose music, so I’m a musician in that sense. I also produce, engineer and do my own visuals, so maybe I’m more of an artist? Who knows. If I had a publicist I’m sure they would answer this question in a much more succinct way, haha.
H&L: Purple Bruise itself isn’t necessarily a straight up pop song, but it obviously doesn’t shy away from it either. What role does pop music play in your own life, and was it a conscious decision to move more towards that with this song?
Dex Riley: I remember loving NSYNC and Backstreet Boys as a kid. Their music was all over the radio when I was young and I had a couple of their CD’s, so it was influential by proximity. Then the internet happened and I started listening to all kinds of stuff. Lots of Hip-Hop and Alternative/Indie Rock. I never consciously decided to go in a pop direction — making catchy songs is just what I’m interested in at the moment.
H&L: As someone who writes, produces, plays your own instruments, etc. You really aren’t reliant on others to put anything together, so how does that mold your approach to finding others to work with on your projects?
Dex Riley: I try to keep most of the process in-house because it means I can work more efficiently. In 2016 I wanted guitars on my songs, so I learned guitar. That’s usually how I operate. I’ve seen how slow the process can be when everything is split-up and everyone is on different schedules. Collaboration is so important, though. Working with other songwriters or producers can be unpredictably rewarding. There’s a lot of really talented people out there.
H&L: Leading off that question, we have to mention the OG Factor Chandelier, how did that relationship come about, and without talking out of school too much, what’s been your biggest takeaway from working together.
Dex Riley: In 2016 I started directing and producing music videos — one of them caught Factor’s attention and we started working on visuals together. Over time our relationship developed into a close friendship and naturally, music came into the picture. My biggest takeaway from Factor is his enthusiasm for art. We both share a strong work ethic and we’re always thinking about the next thing. He has an incredible ability to execute. A lot of people talk, but he gets it done, and it’s inspiring.
H&L: Sort of off that question, I’m always interested in where the creativity started. Do you even remember what came first? What struck you as a kid? Like why did you start creating anything at all?
Dex Riley: Ideas almost always start with “wouldn’t it be crazy if I...” and from that point on I’d be dumb not to follow through with it. I used to make these weird comedy videos with my friends when we were young, and we did it only to make each other laugh. I try to keep that energy. I want to make stuff that I want to listen to.
H&L: Who were those early influences musically? And how have your influences evolved as you grow as a person and refine your taste.
Dex Riley: Eminem’s older stuff and all of Kanye West’s work has been very influential. Kings of Leon, Jack Johnson and The Beach Boys were big for me. Frank Ocean changed things with Blonde and Endless. I could go on forever, even the sounds of a city can be inspiring. Recorded audio seems to be everywhere these days.
H&L: Outside of music, what influences you to create what you do?
Dex Riley: Stuff in life, mostly. People, things, places, experiences, times, colours, etc. Making music to accompany those experiences is what I’m after, as a way of capturing a moment in time, or something cheesy like that.
H&L: Last one, what’s next?
Dex Riley: The next 25 years. Haha. My notebook is always filled with album concepts, song titles, lyrics or random chord progressions. I passed 100 new voice memos the other day, and I archive those every few months so that’s only been since July. I’m excited to keep moving forward and get all this new music out into the world.
--------Dex Riley’s new single "Purple Bruise" is available now wherever you stream your music. Special thank you to Toria Summerfield & Gavin Baird for providing the photography