'Music chose me': State High graduate inks deal in Nashville

Songwriter and State College Area High School graduate Riley Roth recently signed a deal in Nashville.
Songwriter and State College Area High School graduate Riley Roth recently signed a deal in Nashville. Photo provided

The State College to Nashville pipeline continues to flow.

Over the past year and a half I’ve either written about or wanted to write about Centre County musicians who have made or are making the trek to Nashville. First, there was Olivia Jones, who is still there doing her thing, and now it’s Riley Roth, a tremendous young singer who is making major waves in the southern fried music mecca.

“I'm so excited to currently be in the studio, working on my debut release with my producer,” Roth said. “I'm also so incredibly honored to have signed jointly to publishing and development deals with hit songwriter and producer, Busbee and international publishing powerhouse, BMG.”

Roth, 19, has a magnetic stage presence and style. It has to do with how young she is, how big and sweet her voice is, how creative her original material is and simply how driven she is to follow her heart, which has led her south to Nashville. You can see her vision when you watch her perform, and you can hear the limitlessness of her ability when you listen to her sing. She’s really, really great, not just for her tangible gifts, but for the spirit that moves her, which is clear to see.

“My parents tell me that I literally began singing before I could talk,” Roth said. “My babbling had a melody, so I often say I didn't choose music — music chose me. I've stuck with it, because it's a part of who I am.”

Even though she’s young, Roth has acquired some wisdom as well, acknowledging the power of the local music scenes in Centre County and in Nashville. She's grateful to many other musicians for their support and encouragement.

“I loved having such support in the local music scene,” Roth said. “I've found that in Nashville as well. We're all working toward the same goal, whether it be in a local bar or having a record deal; we want to share our music.”

Roth has forged particularly strong relationships with a few Centre County acts, such as Eric Ian Farmer and Sons of Resonance. Watching her perform with Farmer at Thon via Roth’s YouTube channel shows her ability to mesh with seasoned musicians, and as well as Farmer’s obvious support of her journey and delight in her music.

“One local musician who was hugely supportive of what I was doing, and still is, is Eric Ian Farmer,” Roth said. “Eric invited me to play his shows, and he has played cajon for me several times. We've played Thon together the past three years."

Roth is a State College Area School District graduate — more specifically a Delta Program graduate — who was also in the ArtsmART program, and was therefore able to craft a schedule that enabled her to simultaneously focus on music and schoolwork. Delta’s online program and the ARTsmART program complement each other because of their systemic flexibility, so, for Roth, they were the ideal combination.

“I was able to make monthly trips to Nashville, beginning at age 16,” Roth said. “I traveled back and forth for two years, doing a lot of schoolwork online, then attended classes when I was home. I finished high school early, moved to Nashville just after turning 18, and was able to return to walk with my class at graduation.”

Since then, it’s been all music all the time. While she is certainly pursuing a professional career in music, there is something very organic about Roth’s approach, in that she’s not pushing too hard in any one direction. She’s simply very naturally focusing her attention on her dhamma, which is to communicate in an authentic way.

“My goal is to create music that really speaks to an audience,” Roth said, “whether that's one person or many. I hope for my music to be relatable and to talk about real and honest situations, letting the listener know, ‘hey, I'm right there with you.' "

It’s all about the music, the performance and the way it feels to walk the truth of her dhamma, which is the real lesson we can all learn from Roth.

“The feeling is really like no other,” Roth said. “I feel so much excitement when I get in the zone and see people really into the performance. It makes all the hard work so worth it.”

Kevin Briggs is a musician, writer and teacher who performs at venues throughout central Pennsylvania. Contact him at . KevinTBriggs@gmail.com