Medium Exclusive First Listen: Riley Roth’s “Silver Bells”

Donna Block
Nov 21, 2019 · 5 min read

When Riley Roth was sixteen years old, she began taking monthly trips to Nashville with her mom from their native Pennsylvania. She was enrolled in a unique program at her school that allowed her to attend classes on campus for two weeks and then travel to Nashville for two weeks to pursue her musical ambitions. She continued that cycle for a year and a half, at one point completing an entire semester of English online in one blurry-eyed weekend.

Over time, she built a network of cowriters, contacts, and supporters throughout the Nashville music community and eventually relocated to Music City after graduating from high school early. One day when she was eighteen, Roth got a call that would set everything in motion.

Hit producer and songwriter busbee had heard Roth’s music and was intrigued. busbee, though based fulltime in Los Angeles, had been making his own monthly pilgrimages to Nashville for the better part of a decade. Along the way, he amassed multiple #1 singles as a songwriter and was coming into his own as a producer, having helmed Grammy-nominated projects for Maren Morris and Lady Antebellum, in addition to breakthrough hits for newcomer Carly Pearce and established hitmakers Keith Urban and Carrie Underwood.

Pictured (L-R):Mike Sistad (ASCAP); Ralph Murphy (ASCAP); Stephanie Taylor (Stephanie Taylor Law, PLLC); Riley Roth; Kos Weaver (Executive VP, BMG); Daniel Lee (VP Creative, BMG); busbee

Roth signed a publishing deal jointly with busbee and BMG, working closely with BMG VP of Creative, Daniel Lee. When Lee left BMG in late 2018 to establish Altadena — a label, publishing, and management venture — with busbee, Roth was approached about being the first signing for the new label. She gladly accepted, and the rest, as they say, is history in the making…

“Riley represents every positive trait you hope to find in a young artist and none of the negatives that can so often make those situations challenging. She holds her own in every setting: in a writing room, on stage, and interacting with industry professionals at every level.”

— Daniel Lee, GM and VP of Creative for Altadena

“Riley has that rare ability to communicate directly to listeners at every level, and to her peers in particular. It’s a product of her heart, her dedication, her skill, and her work ethic, and when an artist can marry those traits with the right songs and records, anything is possible.”

— busbee, Founder for Altadena

How did you choose “Silver Bells” as your follow-up to “Friendly” and “I Did This To Myself”?

Silver Bells” is one of my favorite Christmas songs. When I hear it, I get excited for the Christmas season. I can picture the hustle and bustle on city streets, from people out shopping and getting ready for Christmas. There’s a lot of “preparation” for Christmas — preparing for Christ’s birth, preparing for Santa, for the gifts we give each other, and most of all, preparing our hearts. The bells represent to me the ringing of bells by the Salvation Army to help the less fortunate. You can feel it all in the air, just as the song says.

What was it like working with busbee?

Wow! Anyone who had the pleasure of and honor to work with busbee will say not only did he teach us about music, but also about life. busbee was not only a musical genius, but he was brilliant in so many other ways. He was passionate about his family and friends. You could feel it when he spoke of them. busbee was a perfectionist, but also encouraging and motivating. He took time with people. He was a Godly man, and I have no doubt he’s making beautiful music in a much more beautiful place.

Your “Silver Bells” playlist would include which songs?

I’ll be Home for Christmas” (because I will!), “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree”, and “Mary Did You Know” — these are all my favorites!

What traditions do you and your family have?

We go to Christmas Mass on Christmas Eve. We return to eat dinner, then all get to open one present, which is always Christmas pajamas. We grew up having a “PJ fashion show”, then we all piled in the car (in our pajamas), looking at Christmas lights. As we’ve all gotten older, we switched to walking around the neighborhood to look at lights and wait for Santa on a fire truck, that comes through all of my town’s neighborhoods to give the dogs treats and say goodnight to all of the kids.

Favorite holiday foods?

Thanksgiving is the biggest homemade feast at our house. For Christmas, we go simpler, so we can relax in our pajamas all day, play games, and enjoy our family time. My mom usually has all sorts of Christmas “goodies” around the house though, like fudge, brownies, and cookies — yum!

Plans for the holidays?

I’ll be spending several days in Savannah right before Christmas, then going home, where I’ll be until just before New Year’s. I’ll be returning to Nashville for New Year’s and will have family visiting.

What do you turn to when holidays get overwhelming?

Honestly, the holidays don’t get overwhelming to me. I’m just like anyone else, so other aspects of life can get that way sometimes, but the holidays are a time to rest, relax, and enjoy. I LOVE giving presents and shopping for others, so I’d say that it’s all a way for me to find a release from other things that can overwhelm me sometimes.

What’s ahead in 2020?

Well, I hate to be vague, but we have a lot planned for 2020 that I can’t wait to share. I can tell you one thing though, 2020 will be my first time ringing in a new year as a 21-year-old, so it’s going to start off with a bang! :) I hope everyone has a great year!

Instagram Photo Credits 📸: Riley Roth

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Donna Block

Written by

Feature Writer on Medium / Country Music / Wrigley Rapport

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