Photos by @svreena on Instagram

Mustard had the pleasure of speaking with Madrid’s riah who recently provided backup vocals on Thorne Malik.’s “back (n) forth.”) Together we discussed their influences, their debut single “love me better”, and so much more! Check it out below!

1. Hello! Mustard thanks you for joining them. They are grateful. How are you doing?

Hello Mustard! Thank you for inviting me! I’m going through a lot of big changes and uncertainties in my life at the moment, but I’m doing well and always using music to ground me through it all. It’s my source of comfort and consistency for sure.

2. Mustard had the pleasure of being introduced to your music via Thorne Malik. How did you end up meeting and collaborating with Thorne Malik.?

He is such a dear friend of mine that I’ve known for almost 8 years now! Thorne and I met at a summer camp I volunteer at in Connecticut. We were both counselors in training at the time. We met completely removed from the context of music, but it quickly came out that it was a passion for both of us. Neither of us had released anything back then. We kept in touch over the years and gradually both got serious about making music. We’ve always supported each other so it just made sense that one day we’d end up working together musically in some capacity. He’s so incredibly talented and I’m so so glad to have met him and to have lent vocals for one of his newest drops, ‘back n for(t)h.’ It’s a summer banger! I’m sure there will be more to come and I’m excited to see what that will look like.

3. You’ve been making music your whole life. Can you remember the first song or album you heard that inspired you to want to make music? Do you still listen to that song or album now?

I can’t really pinpoint a specific song or album that inspired me to create. I’ve had the natural instinct to make music my whole life. I’m the type that’s always humming a melody or tapping a rhythm somewhere on my body. I’ve always built music into my life one way or another, like singing in choirs throughout all my schooling or learning instruments, but it took a long time for me to be honest with myself and admit that music was much more than just a hobby. It’s such a relief now that I’m finally focusing my energy on the craft. It feels right, like it’s always been there waiting for me to make the decision.

4. Who (or what) influences you? 

Ugh, everything. Sound is everywhere!! I’ll do my best to name some of my favorite artists that have significantly influenced me: Snoh Aalegra, SZA, Daniel Caesar, Ariana Grande, H.E.R., Ari Lenox, Summer Walker, Frank Ocean, Jorja Smith and so many more! I gotta include my dad in there as well. Music runs in the family. He released an album when I was a kid, and I know he’s been itching to make another one ever since. He’s the same way I am when it comes to our musical mind. He’s always creating, humming a new tune or annoying us at the breakfast table with his improvised spoon drum solo. Lots of love for that man. His support means the world because I know he truly understands the need I have to create as well as the pure happiness that music brings me.

5. What is your creative process? How do you craft and compose a song?

I don’t have one process that I always follow, but I definitely write as an emotional response to things I’m experiencing. It’s an outlet. My phone is full of voice notes because I try to record as soon as something pops into my head. Lyrics are always the first to arrive. Sometimes it’s spontaneous, and sometimes I’ll purposely focus my energy into thinking of lyrics when I’m in the height of an emotion. The beginnings of a song usually come out one of those two ways.  I’ll often go through ideas that I have saved and build on those later. That said, my favorite songs have been the ones that have poured out of me all at once. That’s actually how ‘love me better’ happened. I was feeling the feelings, and I wrote the song that very day.

6. Mustard loves the covers you post on Instagram. Do you have a favorite cover you’ve done? Who would you like to cover that you have not? 

Thank you! I do my best to post mini covers as often as I can. One of my favorites so far has probably been ‘Sunday Candy.’ That’s one of the first songs I taught myself on piano, so it has a special place for me. There’s so many covers that I’d love to do including some of the artists that I’ve mentioned. I don’t think I’ve covered SZA yet, I’d love to do one of hers – maybe off the new deluxe album. She’s incredible.

7. How has social media platforms such as Instagram helped you as an artist?

The most obvious way would be that social media has given me a space to share what I do with people who wouldn’t otherwise hear me singing live. That’s definitely the biggest way it’s helped, but platforms also make it easier for me to see and be inspired by other artists. It’s really cool to live in an age where we can watch and support other musicians from so far away, and sometimes even end up connecting with them in real life! It’s how I met a producer I’m currently working with – Nachi Moreno (nachi.moreno on Instagram). We’re working on a few things that I hope to share very soon!

8. On your debut single “love me better” you are through putting up with the bullshit in your relationship. Additionally, you go on to say that “romance is not in your cold-blooded, warm body.” Could you share more about the inspiration behind this song? What red flags can other humans look out for to avoid this? 

I’m definitely not qualified to dish out relationship advice, but I can certainly share my experience! As I mentioned before, this song was written in one go. The inspiration behind it was this feeling of just being done with someone. I was seeing this person for a bit and had started to really like them and want to spend more time with them, but naturally that’s when they started pulling away. I took longer than I should have, but I finally cut it off myself, accepting that they were never going to feel about me the way I felt about them. I wrote ‘love me better’ to cope with the hurt I was feeling from this person who had been so intimate with me, yet who had no interest in actually getting to know me. A tale as old as time, honestly. Things mostly go south when I want something enough that I ignore my gut feeling. Listen to your gut.

9. In an Instagram post you prayed for more cheesecake. Did your wish come true afterwards? 

Yes! I went on a bit of a cheesecake hunt when I first got to Madrid (where I’m currently based). Ignoring the fact that I am mildly lactose intolerant, I had many more cheesecakes after this photo, but sure enough that pictured bakery is my #1 cheesecake that I’ve tried in Madrid. It’s from a place called ‘La Prima Lejana.’ Delicious; if you’re ever in town give it a go.

10. What’s next for riah?

Releasing music and performing live. I have so many more ideas that I want to see come to life, but it all takes time. There’s quite a few things lined up, including my first EP which I’m working on now. Once that’s out I want to perform it as much as possible. And from there keep growing! I’d love to keep meeting and collaborating with other artists.

11. Where can readers listen to your music?

You can listen to me anywhere you listen to music! I’m on all platforms, including on Youtube where there’s a video out for my first release ‘love me better!’ I hope to share many more projects in the future with you all. Thank you for this interview, Mustard!


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