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Ashley Riley is a young, blonde lady whose instrument of choice is an acoustic guitar, so the comparisons to Jewel are ready-made and lazy, but she doesn’t reject them. Just getting her feet wet in the regional music scene, Riley will be appearing on WEFT Sessions tonight at 10 p.m. on WEFT, 90.1 FM. Her debut CD, Last One Standing, was released last month and is available on her website and on iTunes.

Ashley was kind enough to answer some questions, and we’d like to call the results an “interview.” This ground-breaking format is shared with you, the reader, after the jump.


Smile Politely: Have you played in Champaign-Urbana before? Have you always lived in Decatur or did you move there at some point?

Ashley Riley: You could call this my Champaign-Urbana debut. I did come over and play at the Cowboy Monkey open mic a few weeks ago and that’s how I ended up getting the radio show. I’ve basically always lived in the Decatur area. I went to school in Mt. Zion which is a small town east of Decatur, but to me it’s all pretty much the same thing.

SP: How has the response to your debut CD been? Do you have any other appearances scheduled in the area?

AR: I’ve had a really good response to my CD, Last One Standing. I kind of feel like there’s something on there for everyone. Right now I don’t have any appearances scheduled in the Champaign-Urbana area, but I’m working on it!

SP: Have you played live for a radio show before? How do you anticipate it being different from a regular live gig? Will it be just you, or do you have other people that will play with you?

AR: This is my first time to play a live radio show. I’m not sure what to expect, but I’m excited. It will be just me for the most part. I do have a friend of mine, Jessica Jolly, coming to add harmonica on a song and tambourine on another.

SP: How would you describe your sound for someone who’s never heard your music before?

AR: I like to call my music alternative folk. It’s mainly acoustic, finger-style guitar, very lyric driven. I sometimes say I’m a strange mix of Sheryl Crow and Jewel.

SP: Was there a moment when you realized that you wanted to be a musician? How did that come about?

AR: I’ve always been into music. I did the show choir thing and played the piano growing up, but I think the point where it really became clear that this was what I wanted to do was when I got my first guitar and started writing my own songs. That was about five years ago.

SP: What’s a singer or band that you’ve been compared to that you don’t think is representative at all, and why not?

AR: Iron Maiden. Just kidding… Actually lately I’ve gotten Stevie Nicks a lot. I don’t really hear the similarities but I’ll definitely take it!

SP: What is the greatest album of all time? Why?

AR: I love live albums, so I’m gonna go with Neil Young’s Live at Massey Hall 1971. I love his songwriting and playing style. I always connect more with a live recording. There are some moments you capture live that you just can’t reproduce, it’s the energy, I think.

SP: What was your favorite band when you were in junior high?

AR: Wow…I was kinda all over the place in junior high. I think I was obsessed with the Counting Crows and The Doors and also Aaliyah.

SP: What do you do for a living to fund your music habit?

AR: I’m a hairstylist. It’s a pretty fun day job. I get to make people feel good about themselves all day long, and then write about them at night! Just kidding on the last part. I only write about my friends, they love it too. They think every song is about them!

SP: What do you like to do in your spare time?

AR: Hmmm…lots of things. I like to hang out with my husband and friends and family. I love to sleep. I also like shopping.