Risa Binder is a rising star in country music and the recent Nashville transplant took some time out of a busy schedule to sit down and answer some questions. In seventeen questions she dishes out her thoughts on Taylor Swift, her latest Netflix discovery and which Nitty Gritty Dirt Band classic is her favorite. Risa's Nashville EP, which was produced by Luke Wooten (Kellie Pickler, Dustin Lynch, Brad Paisley, Dierks Bentley, Toby Keith) was released yesterday.
You relocated from Brooklyn to Nashville. Do you feel that was a necessary move? That is to say, do you think being a country artist in Brooklyn was too much of an uphill climb?
I think you can be an artist in both places. I wanted to make my record with Luke Wooten so I knew I had to be in Nashville. I absolutely love both Brooklyn and Nashville.
What’s your favorite thing about Nashville?
My favorite thing about Nashville is the creative energy in this town. Its incredible.
Do you have a favorite venue in Nashville? A favorite place to eat? A favorite place to get away and reflect?
I pick up the Nashville Scene and love jumping around to different venues to check out all kinds of music. I would love to perform at The Opry. My favorite place to get a coffee and dessert is Hot & Cold and I'm excited to find more and more place. The Nashville food scene is really good! My favorite place right now to reflect is the little deck attached to my apartment. In Brooklyn I never had outdoor space so I enjoy unwinding in my little outdoor space.
The lyrics on the Nashville EP, most notably on “Ready to Fall,” and “Gotta Have You,” are very heart-on-sleeve and bare. Do you prefer to write that way, or do you find it more of a necessity for the country genre, which embraces songs that are historically simple in their message and tone?
I love writing songs based on true stories and on this record I'm also interpreting other peoples songs which I love to do also. "Ready to Fall" I co-wrote with Alan Bennett and its about finding the strength to let go. It's a super personal song. I still can't finish singing it live without getting emotional.
The EP has a very polished, crisp, radio-ready kind of sound. Was that intentional or was that accidental?
Thank you!! The process of making a record is so magical, and my hope was that we would have songs that could go straight to radio and I'm so pumped that Sirius XM The Highway is playing "Gotta Have You" right now on their station! A dream come true.
What was it like working with producer Luke Wooten? What did he bring to the table that caught you by surprise?
Working with Luke was amazing. He challenged me to use a bigger tone and sound in my voice that I hadn't used yet. He produced these large beautiful anthemic tracks and I had to rise to the occasion with a bigger presence and I'm thankful for him for helping me reach this next level.
What was the biggest hurdle in making the EP?
This record was honestly made in pure joy. My face hurt from smiling so much.
Did your approach to Nashville differ from your last record Paper Heart? If so, how?
Each record is its own adventure. The only difference between the two records was that I have had a lot of touring in between making Paper Heart and Nashville so I thought about what songs would work well in a live setting when I was recording Nashville.
You have prided yourself on writing mostly uplifting and hopeful tunes in a genre historically known for heartbreak. Was that a conscious decision? Why do you prefer to write uplifting and hopeful tunes?
I love how powerful music is and writing uplifting songs comes more naturally to me. I do have heartbreak songs as well, but I love hearing from fans how the uplifting songs help make them feel better or happier. I feel like that is what I was born to do: make people happy through music.
You are the latest signee to Warehouse Records, a veritable unknown record label. What made you choose them?
Warehouse Records has believed in me since day one, and that was many years ago. You wanna go with a label who is your greatest champion. And they are.
Pedal steel legend Dan Dugmore plays on your CD. In your opinion, are steel guitars essential to a country music song, or are they just a nice accent?
The sound of a steel guitar is one of my personal favorite sounds ever. I was star struck when I met legend Dan Dugmore.
What to you best represents a country song. Fiddle? Steel guitar? A bit of twang?
The lyrics. A great story.
You have frequently been compared to Taylor Swift, is that a comparison you prefer to embrace, or is there somebody else you think you sound more like? If so, who?
I love so many country artists and Taylor Swift is definitely one of them! I think its a great compliment to be compared to her. She writes relatable songs with great melodies and there is no stopping her! I love that.
New York City used to be a deathbed for country music, but in the last half-decade country artists headline at MSG regularly. Do you think this is a trend that will continue or do you think the trend will die down in due time?
Country is alive and well and always has been and always will be. There were always country fans in NYC and I'm so excited that there are more opportunities now for those fans to see great country music artists in NYC.
You started the Be the Change Blog in New York City but have yet to resurrect it since arriving in Nashville. Are there plans to bring it back and/or re-invent it?
I love Be The Change Blog!! I do hope to continue it. It inspires me greatly. Right now I'm focused on my new EP "Nashville" coming out Aug. 5th and taking the show on the road.
List three records and five movies you’ve enjoyed this year? If you can, list a brief reason why you’ve enjoyed each.
For music, Brett Eldredge's "Bring You Back," his voice is killer; Miranda Lambert's "Platinum," great songwriting; and Lady Antebellum's "Hey Bartender." One of my dreams is to open for them. For movies: Wolf of Wall Street, Spike Jonze's Her and anything by Judd Apatow. I've been on the road so much that TV series on Netflix have been my thing this year. I'm a little late to the game but I've watched the whole series of Arrested Development and it is amazing. Oh, I also watched all of Breaking Bad.
Which is the better Nitty Gritty Dirt Band song. “Mr. Bojangles” or “Fishin’ in the Dark?” Why?
They are both great. Mr. Bojangles is one I hear alot in the honkytonks in Nash. When everyone in the audience sings along to "Mr. Bojangles," I think that makes the song stand out a bit more. I love a good sing along.