“What if every broken place I’ve been was a Godsend.” This lyric from the title track of Riley Clemmons’ second full-length release represents the core of a creative vision that came to her nearly two years before the arrival of her new album, Godsend. The thought-provoking concept sent Riley on a journey through a twelve-track realization that with each of life’s challenges comes a gift and ultimately, a Godsend. The new record is a meticulously crafted, authentic album, with soundtrack-worthy production that features Riley’s skyscraping vocal performances—an undeniable pop sound that fits seamlessly with its overarching theme.
Riley collaborated over ZOOM with producer Tedd T [for KING & COUNTRY, Mutemath] during the album’s creation and soaked up inspiration from numerous co-writers such as Emily Weisband, Paul Duncan, and more, working to retrofit the music to the title it spawned. She set the stage for Godsend in 2020 with “Healing” and “Over and Over,” and in early 2021, she welcomed audiences into the album’s world with her fastest-growing single to date, “Keep On Hoping,” which amassed 1 million streams in the first two weeks of release and has quickly climbed the radio chart. The bold ballad, her current single as of April 30, “I’m Not Alone,” pairs her raw vocals with resounding piano.
In this TCB Exclusive, Clemmons opens up about the journey of creating her new record, her progression in writing/recording as well as her newly announced tour plans for the fall. Godsend is available now to pre-order/pre-save ahead of its release this Friday, June 4th.
Congratulations on the upcoming release of your album titled Godsend! Can you share the inspiration behind the title and your choice of the pre-released singles?
I’m so excited! Godsend is my new album coming out on June 4th. Fun fact about the title of the record – I had the word ‘Godsend’ saved in the notes section on my phone for probably the last four years. I knew that I wanted to call my record Godsend, and I knew I wanted a track on the record to be called Godsend as well, but I didn’t know how to write it. So I saved it and held on to it because I wanted to do it justice. So in April 2020, just pulled off the road, the world is shutting down, no one really knows what is going on, I was sitting on my bedroom floor. A busy year had suddenly turned to dust, and I just remember staring at my little dinky keyboard that I’ve had since middle school and thinking, “okay, I think now is the time to write it.” So I hopped on a Zoom write with Emily Weisband and Colby Wedgeworth, and it all started with the line “what if maybe every broken place I’ve been was a Godsend.” And we built the song on that idea and concept. And from there, the rest of the album was created with that as the foundation. We would pick singles as I was writing them. So a song like “Fighting For Me,” which is a single off the record, we would put it out quickly, and same with “Over and Over” and “Healing” just felt timely then. And “Keep On Hoping” is my single at radio right now, and that was another one we wrote in 2020. At that time, I was struggling with feeling weighed down by the weight of the world and the amount of voices from TV and my phone and all of it. I just needed to hear God’s voice speak, and I needed to listen for it. “Keep on Hoping” felt like the reminder I needed, so I figured I would write it because maybe someone else needed it too.
Thinking back on the process of creating Godsend – is there a moment that stood out to you most, perhaps that solidified your resolve to release this music?
I have been writing for this project for years now. As soon as I released my first record three years ago, I was immediately back in the studio because I wanted to figure out what I was doing next – what it sounded like, what it felt like, what it looked like. And I wanted to be intentional and take my time figuring it out. So I started writing and over the course of the past two years, I would collect songs and want to put them on the record, and keep them on a board of cuts that I wanted to put on Godsend. And it was really a natural process – as I was combing through these songs, I would see so much of my experience and story from the past couple of years. And as I looked back on them, I realized how human they were. Everybody has been in a lot of these similar situations of humanity and feeling broken, and healing and learning and growing. And so I knew that was an album that I wanted to put out into the world, and especially in 2021.
Which track’s lyrics do you think the world most needs to hear now?
I’m biased because these songs are all my babies, and everything I need to hear and remind myself of. But the first that comes to mind is a song called “When Nothing Hurts.” I think coming out of a painful season in life and stepping into something that feels more normal, for me personally, back in the heat of everything, I was constantly going to God and asking for help. And that was all I could do, and in the past little bit as things get better and busy again, I tend to check in less and less with God when nothing hurts. So there’s a track on the album called “When Nothing Hurts” and it explores that idea. I’ve never heard a song about that before, so I’m excited for the whole world to hear it.
There’s another track called “Headspace” that I’m so excited about! Heading into summer and the world feeling somewhat more normal again, I’ve had to remind myself not to stay stuck in the weight of the world from the past months. So “Headspace” is about choosing what you’re going to give your headspace too.
How did you approach creating this album differently than your previous projects?
I wrote most of my first record when I was 17 [years-old]. So there’s a big difference between being 17 and 21 – a lot happens in those pivotal years. Especially being a new artist in the music industry, and putting out a record when you are 18 [years-old]. I would say looking back, I leaned super heavily into the creatives around me who are experts. I really leaned heavily into watching what everybody was doing because I needed to. I was trying to be a sponge and soak it up. But for this record, I’ve been so much more involved in the details because I’ve experienced them before and know how much they matter. I’ve been a big part of sitting with my producers and telling them the sounds I want to hear, and how I wanted the vocal stacks, and which hooks to add. Even down to what the album looks like – the packaging and the color scheme. I just have been in every single detail and have loved every single second of it.
How are you looking to define success for this project?
Starting out day one in my career, I held on to some really good advice. “If you set your mindset when you play a show, release music, or do anything else, open to the public or a consumer, it is hard to go wrong and feel like you’ve failed if your goal is simply to impact somebody’s life for the better – just one person.” If one song deeply helps one person get through a hard time, then I really feel the music has been successful.
You frequently collaborate in creating your music. Why is it important to you to have that personal connection with songs from their inception, but also create with others and incorporate multiple viewpoints?
I love collaboration! I think it is a creative superpower in so many ways. I learned early on – I was born and raised in Nashville – and I started cowriting around town when I was 13 [years-old]. I quickly learned the power of taking in your ideas and using other people as creative collaborators and soundboards. I think that for me, I’ve really enjoyed the process of starting a song in a place that is really personal and then using other people’s skillsets, along with my own, to create music that means something and communicates well and has multiple perspectives. For me, I’ve seen a lot of good come from collaborating and being able to listen and learn from others.
It was recently announced you will be on tour this fall with Tauren Wells and Andrew Ripp. What does it mean to you to be able to have that in-person connection to look forward to again?
This is one of the first times for me to be able to talk about this tour, since we did just announce it. But I’m so excited! It has been a minute since we’ve been able to play live music for an audience, which is crazy! I’m just excited to take the new music out on the road and bring it to life with lights and staging and movement and sound. And be able to connect with an audience in that way, and see their faces engaging with the songs and the music. I’m also really excited to be hanging out with Tauren and Andrew and the rest of the crew that is going to be out on the road. That is always going to be fun – it’s the best!
What are you most expectant for in 2021?
I am expectant for meeting fans and meeting listeners, and just getting to share the music with as many people as possible. Honestly, that has been the dream and such a goal over the past year, so I’m excited to hopefully see that come to fruition.