There are numerous bands that originate from the Twin Cities area due to the
thriving arts and culture scene. For some, like The Nick Riley Band, their goal
is to make an impression in the world of music, but in a different sense: they
want to inspire their listeners to be genuine and true to themselves and to find
their own special path in life. How did they come upon this motivational and
inspirational goal? It can be attributed to the man for whom the band is named:
Riley’s first poignant memory of music happened when he was just 5 years
old—in the kitchen with his mother listening to Michael Jackson and playing with
a broomstick. A few years later on his 12th birthday, his mom gave him his first
guitar (a Starforce 8000) and he’s been hooked ever since.
It definitely helped that music was in his genes. His grandfather was a
talented singer and music was prominent in his household, but Riley learned the
most about music while playing in a band at a church in North Minneapolis. There
were musicians from different backgrounds who were knowledgeable in various
genres including gospel, R&B and the blues. The band would turn up the music
volume to draw people in. “It had to be loud, slammin’ and fun,” Riley says.
While playing at church was great exposure to diverse music, it was also
where he met his drummer, Blayr Alexander. Bassist Matt Call was later added to
the group. Riley is a guitarist and vocalist. “We all come from really different
backgrounds,” Riley says.
The background of each musician lends a unique style to the band. Their sound
can be described as bluesy rock, but the fact that it can bridge genres is
purposeful. “Our style is constantly changing and evolving,” Riley says. “It
keeps the audience guessing and wanting more, which is one of the goals of our
Riley looks to famous musicians like Buddy Guy, Stevie Ray Vaughn and Carlos
Santana for inspiration. But he finds the most inspiration, especially when it
comes to songwriting, closer to home. “I usually write about the things that
mean the most to me and that I think will resonate with the audience,” Riley
says. Family, overcoming struggle and fear, and finding the courage to be
yourself, are subjects he often explores.
“We’re really about inspiring others to go on their own journey. The end goal
is to help people find their calling,” Riley says. “I write and play from this
simple yet powerful statement: ‘What comes from the heart, reaches the heart.’
As a musician and songwriter, I want to be genuine and respectful when conveying
a musical story.”
Motivating people to start their own journey is what inspired the title of
their debut album, The Journey, because, according to Riley, “it’s all about
having enough courage to just put it out there and be comfortable being
This “positive, but not preachy” message has set the band apart, especially
when playing for fundraisers and other service events, he says. Past gigs
include HOPE Hits, baseball fundraiser for Braden’s Hope For Childhood Cancer,
and Tee It Up for the Troops, a golf event that provides support for veterans
and their families.
The Nick Riley Band will continue to carry their optimistic message as they
perform in venues around the Twin Cities this summer to promote their album.
“Be true to whatever’s inside of you,” Riley says. “Just be true to you.”
For more information about the Nick Riley band, including upcoming
performances, visit nickrileyband.com