Check out our interview with Australian born, Boston resident singer-songwriter Al Riordan who is releasing her first single “The 17th” of her upcoming EP Thursday, 9/17. The upcoming track perfectly juxtaposes AL’s lush, electronic vocals, and a triumphant tune to show the complexity of emotions survivors face in the aftermath of sexual assault.
AL Riordan was born and raised in Australian and later moved to Boston to study Songwriting and Electronic Production Berklee College of Music. She began her musical career training as a classical vocalist, performing multiple times at the Sydney Opera House, but quit in order to pursue more modern forms of music-making. Although she has released five tracks this past year, she sees her upcoming self-written and produced EP, “No,” as her debut project.
Follow Al @al_gal_pal_
Hi AL, please tell us a little about you?
My name is AL Riordan and I’m an Australian Electronic Producer and Singer-Songwriter making music in the States. I’ve been studying Songwriting and Production in Boston for the past few years, and have just finished writing and producing my Debut EP NO that’s coming out the end of this year.
I am incredibly tall, have a slightly diluted accent, I sit in the sun for hours and hours, and I love making music, art and telling stories.
Describe yourself in 3 words?
Open, loving, uncompromising
We’re sure you have been asked this million times but how did you get in the industry?
I started singing at the age of 7 and spent 10 years training classically before realizing that my passion in music lies with creation. I moved to America from Australia in 2017 to study Songwriting and Music Production at Berklee College of Music. Since coming here, I’ve moved further into songwriting and producing for other artists, but truly love for doing it for myself and my own music.
Describe your sound in 3 words?
Heartfelt, Futuristic, Introspective
Do you play any instrument?
I’m predominately a vocalist, but I play piano and guitar, and play electronics. I perform with electronic and MIDI instruments to create a whole audio visual experience. I use harmonizers to create 10 of my voice and play it across a keyboard, while launching video animations and playing drums on launchpads. It’s not traditional instruments, but I am able to play all sounds of a real band by myself using electronics that I program and map to be customized to my material and skillset.
Do you ever get nervous?
All the time – but I mainly get nervous if I’m trying something new. If I’m using a new instrument or technique on stage, I get shaky because I’ve never done it before and seen how I handle the pressure. I’m really nervous about this song and my upcoming EP, because I’m exposing myself and my experience to the world in a way I never have before.
I’ve always tried to be open with my experience, so I don’t convince myself that I’m wrong or that people don’t care. Being honest has kept me accountable to my treatment and healing of myself – but it makes me incredibly nervous that I am allowing myself to be completely bare in front of strangers and opening myself and my experience to scrutinization.
Tell us about your new single “The 17th?”
“The 17th” is the first single off my upcoming EP – “No”, which is a body of work that depicts my experience of life after being raped a year ago through layers of lush electronic vocal production and heartfelt songwriting.
The song is a juxtaposition between the content and the sound. The track sounds like a celebration, with upbeat drums and triumphant vocals. Sitting between Kimbra and Casey Musgraves, it feels up-lifting. The content, however, describes the turmoil of recovery on the year anniversary of being raped. Mixed together, the content and sound of “The 17th” show how strong and beautiful you can be, in the face of trauma.
What’s the story behind this song?
I wrote this song and started the foundation for the production on The 17th of February – the 1 year anniversary of me being raped. That morning, I had gone and gotten a tattoo of the word “survivor” on my ribs, and the word was running through my head the rest of the day – hence the first and repeating lyric “it’s been 12 straight months of surviving”. Every month, when the 17th rolls around, I find tension building and building within myself. For the most part, I am amazing at functioning in daily life, by placing less importance on what happened to me, and more importance on how strong I am, and what things I’m able to create. But, I can’t ever do that on the 17th, the numbers just hold too much pain and fear and sorrow. It’s my one day every month, where I can sit and remember and cry and scream into pillows. It’s the one day where I won’t burden myself with being productive or
I think the reason I produced it to sound so joyous, is because at the heart of everything, I survived and I succeeded in making my experience matter for me, despite everything that I had gone through in that year. I went through systems that I felt I personally needed to feel safe, believed and validated. I didn’t take any courses of action out of spite, or out of the need to prove to people that I was in pain. I was able to succeed in so many ways that I thought I would never have to, and I worked my way through so many obstacles to be at a point now where I am still triggered, traumatized and mourning what happened, but where I’m still able to trust people, where I love and appreciate myself and where I’ve been able to find a partner who I trust and love wholeheartedly.
Did you have plans/concerts planned and cancelled because of COVID? If so have you done any online concerts or interaction with your fans?
I was planning to move to a big city in September to begin immersing myself in the music industry, but with the virus, I had to postpone my final classes in college and am moving in with extended family for a few months before committing to a place. I had gigs and travel and opportunities lined up, but this time has really given me an opportunity to look at my past year and heal, and use that healing to create music. I’ve cultivated more skills than I would have without the time, and I’ve also learned a lot about myself and what happened to me. With the time I was able to ignore music for a while and look at myself and the social change taking hold in our communities, I got to spend time figuring out exactly who I’ve become and exactly what I want to portray in my music. I was in the polishing stages of my music, so I haven’t been performing online as much as I would have normally, but I’ve really enjoyed having the time to engage fully with other musicians, people and fans online, that normally I would have found difficult to give my full attention to with my schedule.
What is fun and rewarding about what you do? And what’s not?
I enjoy trying to make new things and to push my brain and creativity into finding new ways to present songs. My writing style is quite folky, but my production style really pushes the conventional sounds of modern day production. I don’t necessarily enjoy having to promote myself or perform on my bad days, because I don’t like feeling like I’m being ingenue. But it also sometimes feels quite nice to push myself.
What are the five things you can’t live without?
My computer – for music making and tv shows. My mask – I found a beautiful pink one that is reusable and has a removable filter that moulds to my face. It is the best accessory, because it saves peoples lives and looks really cute as well. A ring I got when traveling in India six years ago – I’ve always believed the blue stone on it holds all my thoughts and memories. A wool jumper my mother knitted for my birthday last year for the Boston winter – it’s so warm I can barely wear it, but I put it on when I really just want a hug from her and am feeling the miles between here and Australia. My “loved” chain necklace that I have worn everyday since I got it last year in the month after I was raped. My therapist sent me a story that was written from the point of view of the sister of a survivor, and it was a series of letters from the sister to the survivor. It said a bunch of things that I was always wishing someone would say to me, the most important one being “you are loved”. The day after reading it, I found and purchased a necklace in TJ Maxx for mothers day that is small and says “loved”. And I haven’t taken it off since.
What’s next for AL Riordan in the last months of 2020?
I’m going to be really focusing on the release of this body of work, it’s so important to me and I’ve also put so much work into it thus far that i really want to give it the attention and nourishment it deserves. Apart from that, I’m going to be finishing up my last classes for my degree, songwriting, producing and animating for other artists, and sitting outside and away from other people – doing my part to stop the spread of this virus.
What is your favorite song? And why?
Olivia – by Canyon City. This song is the bonus track on their album Midnight Waves, and it’s the most beautiful song I’ve ever heard. I listened to the song on repeat my whole 28 hours of flying home last year, because it gave me the strongest sense of nostalgia and feeling like I was seen and understood. It’s the song that I was listening to when I figured out that I love the man I’m with now who has been there for me through my healing process in a way that is truly above and beyond what I could have ever wished for in a person. This song will always mean the world to me.
What is the toughest decision you had to make in the last few months?
I had to decide on whether to go home during the pandemic, and give up on graduating from my degree and on all my dreams here, or whether to stay and be isolated from family and a support system for, potentially, years. As you can tell, I decided to stay and believe in myself and everything I’ve worked so hard for.
Any loves other than music?
I love swimming and the ocean. I grew up swimming from the age of 3 and spent most of my life in the water. I miss living near the beach and having access to water every day.
Best advice ever given?
Stop worrying about the future, and think about what you’re doing now.
How’s a typical day in your life?
At the moment a typical day for me is staying inside my apartment the whole time, and going for short walks away from people every couple of days. I normally wake up and drink water, and then do stretches and exercises for my knees that I injured at the beginning of the year. Then I’ll eat some avocado on a bagel with a coffee and watch my latest tv show or listen to a friend’s song/ album that has come out that day. Then I’ll work on my own projects for a while and build up to working on other people’s projects. Then my partner and I will make dinner and show each other our music and watch the next episode of New Girl or Community.
Name one your strengths?
I’m incredibly intentional with everything I do, I strive to be genuine and honest with who I am and what I do, because then I can hold myself and others accountable for how we move through life.
Idea of a perfect Sunday?
If I were home in Australia and near a beach, it would be waking up and walking to the beach, drinking a coffee and swimming, and then sitting on the sand and reading or writing. However, at the moment during my current circumstances, it would be sleeping in, and then my boyfriend and I making breakfast and eating it in bed while watching ‘Community’, and then spending the day helping each other make music.
What is your favorite song to belt out in the car/for karaoke?
I love “Bleeding Love” by Leona Lewis, the whole discography of One Direction and the soundtrack to all three High School Musical’s.
What is your own definition of happiness?
I think my happiness is defined by loving myself and who I have become, being surrounded by family – whether that is my family from home who I miss every day, or the handful of people that I’ve found here that truly support me and encourage my quirks, and feeling connected to the earth or to people.
Do you support any charities?
Throughout the past couple of months, I have been moving from one cause to the next – trying to support the needs of what I am seeing happen around the world. It began with the natural disasters that took over Australia, then moved to Covid-19 relief for homeless people and victims of domestic abuse who needed help removing themselves from dangerous situations in our mandatory quarantining, and then to the Black Lives Matter and Defunding the Police movement that truly hit home and the affected people that I love, to the crisis in Beirut, Lebanon. I don’t have much to give, but have been doing my part to support each cause through both money and awareness.
The cause that I resonate with most, that lines up with my experience and with the content of this song and my upcoming EP, is Victims and Survivors of Sexual Assault and Rape. I haven’t aligned myself with any single charity or organisation, because it feels too raw and personal, but I do my very best to create awareness, understanding and support for people like me. Trying to educate the community on just how difficult the system is for victims, and being completely transparent on my hardships and the most difficult parts about trauma that people would never even think of nor consider in their daily lives. During my experience, I was supported by many causes in the Massachusetts area, and I will forever be grateful for having my struggle lightened slightly by the efforts of health care workers, BARC employees and people in the Judicial system.
What is your favorite healthy food?
I’m obsessed with fruit – peaches, mangoes, strawberries, oranges…
And your favorite cheat food?
I love Hot Chips from Australia, with Chicken salt. But over here I was pretty obsessed with Cheetos for a while.
What would be a deal breaker on a first date?
If my date refused to let me split the bill with them.
If you could meet someone living or dead, who would it be and why?
Probably Harry Styles, not only for the satisfaction of my 17yr old self, but also because I admire and support the conversations that he opens up in the media. I love seeing him openly support and advocate for the rights of the LGBTQI+ community, for the Black Lives Matter movement, for voting and politics, for his open discussions on drugs and mental health, for both femininity and masculinity being equal parts of his style and portrayal as an artist. I admire him as a role model and for his music and artistry.
How do you see yourself in 5 years?
I see myself having multiple albums out and people knowing the name AL. I also picture myself with my own home studio space, a dog, a swimming hole near by and constant Moscow Mule ingredients in my fridge.
How would you describe your fashion style?
Vibrant without being obnoxious. Lots of high waisted and colorful, mismatching pieces.
What do you think of Social Media?
I think it can be a useful tool for art, expression and exposure, but toxic if thought of as an accurate representation of peoples lives.
Where can we follow you?
Movie: The Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Travel Destination: Valencia, Spain
Sports Team: The Wallabies, AUS