EMMY-NOMINATED COUNTRY ARTIST RISA BINDER’S NEW EP NASHVILLE CAPTURES A CHARISMATIC TALENT ON THE RISE
Produced by Luke Wooten (Brad Paisley, Dierks Bentley, Kellie Pickler), EP’s first single “Gotta Have You” debuts at #26 on the iTunes new country releases chart.
Most rising country stars aspire to climb the charts. But perpetually sunny singer-songwriter Risa Binder is committed to touching hearts with her new five-song EP Nashville.
"I’m on a mission to bring my own style of happiness to the world with these songs,” says Binder. “I’m a person who does what her heart tells her to do, and my goal is to make music that will get people pumped to follow their dreams.”
Binder’s pursuit of her own dreams led to Nashville’s Station West studio, where she recorded the follow-up to her 2011 debut album Paper Heart with producer Luke Wooten (Brad Paisley, Kellie Pickler, Dierks Bentley, Dustin Lynch) and a group of top-notch session players that included pedal steel guitar legend Dan Dugmore.
Binder also drew on some of Music City’s most talented songwriters including Matraca Berg, Chuck Jones and Phil Barton for Nashville. But mostly she relied on the dynamics of her powerful, clear-toned singing and her gift for soaring melodies to make the EP both a perfect blend of country and pop and an arresting and poetic evolutionary step in her artistry.
The proof is in the tracks. The first single “Gotta Have You” debuted at # 26 on the iTunes new country releases chart and quickly entered heavy rotation on Sirius/XM Satellite Radio’s “The Highway” channel. It’s an unabashed portrait of head-over-heels love with a big, joyful chorus buoyed by chiming guitars — a perfect reflection of the buoyant energy and charisma Binder projects from the stage during her concerts.
The opening “Burning Down the Dark” captures the soul-deep power of a first kiss, with its lyrics conjuring a romantic sunset over a slow Southern river. “Ready To Fall,” which Binder co-wrote, seems like her mantra as she sings about her willingness to fearlessly leap into whatever life brings, perfectly supported by Dan Dugmore’s equally openhearted steel playing. And the title cut, also co-written by Binder, describes her experiences coming to Nashville and finding her creative home. With its myriad songwriters, studios and world-class musicians, Binder describes Music City as “the Olympics of what I do, with plenty of gold medalists who I want to learn from.”
“Easy To Remember” represents a new, more emotionally nuanced turn in her singing. “My songs are usually really positive, but this one captures someone wondering how an ex-flame might think about her today, wondering if she’s still easy to remember as the years have gone by,” Binder explains. But her gorgeously arcing melody and the song’s reflective lyrics ensure that its beauty outweighs any sense of loss.
In addition to helping her grow as a singer and songwriter, Binder credits producer Wooten with honing a sound on Nashville that she’s been looking for since Paper Heart — which garnered an Emmy nomination after the song “Just Like That” was used in a scene on General Hospital. The new EP’s arrangements strike a perfect balance between the guitar-driven palette of country music and a subtle architecture that reflects Binder’s longtime singer-songwriter heroes, who include James Taylor, Loretta Lynn, Diane Warren and Matraca Berg.
Binder is a city girl with a country heart. Although she’s recently relocated to Nashville from Brooklyn, she was born in suburban Columbia, Maryland, where she used to run through farmlands and deserted barns as a child. “I was always drawn to rural life,” she recalls, “although my grandma is a painter and I grew up in the theater with my family, and my town was really supportive of the arts. There was a perfect balance for me.”
And she’s always heard music’s call. Binder started singing soon after she began to talk. “When I was growing up I used to sing in my family room using an ear of corn as my microphone,” she recalls.
The first songs Binder wrote were about boys she had crushes on. “But I was too shy to tell them, so I’d sit down at the piano and tell my folks, ‘Listen to this!’ And my parents would wonder who it was about.”
Binder inherited her joie de vivre from her mother and followed both of her parents into the theater, where she discovered her passion for country music.
“I played Loretta Lynn in a college production and I fell in love with her story and the great stories in her songs,” she says. “Her music helped me understand how powerful a song can truly be.”
Although she moved to Brooklyn to pursue her career, Binder soon found herself saving all of her money from waitressing to finance trips to Nashville, where she attended songwriter nights at the legendary Bluebird Cafe and immersed herself in the city’s sights and sounds.
“Nashville became my grad school,” she says, “and every time I’d come here something magical happened, from meeting Alison Krauss to attending a songwriting camp where I met Allen Shamblin, who co-wrote Bonnie Raitt’s ‘I Can’t Make You Love Me.’ ” The latter experience set her on the path to recording the Marshall Altman-produced Paper Heart.
Magical things happen to Binder for a reason. Her unflaggingly positive personality is magnetic, on and off the stage. She was one of the most popular new artists at Nashville’s 2014 CMA Music Festival, signing a constant flow of autographs at the Farm Boy/Farm Girl brands booth. After every show she hosts a “Sweet and Greet” for fans, where she chats and signs autographs and serves her guests cupcakes or other treats procured from local purveyors. Binder also hosts her “Be the Change” blog on Facebook, where she celebrates acts of kindness and public service by her fellow New Yorkers. No wonder her legions of fans — especially mothers and daughters — consider her a role model.
“For me,” says Binder, “what’s happening now, with my new EP and finding my new home in Nashville, and my ability to reach so many people, is part of a series of meant-to-be’s. So far it’s been an amazing adventure, and I can’t wait to find out what’s next!”