Artist Spotlight: Risa Binder
Most rising country stars aspire to climb the charts, but perpetually sunny singer-songwriter Risa Binder is committed to touching hearts instead.
"I’m on a mission to bring my own style of happiness to the world,” 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, who splits her time between Brooklyn and Nashville, brings a background in musical theater to her pop-country endeavors, as well as a love of classic singer/songwriters like James Taylor and Loretta Lynn. The result is a unique sound that has Binder entering heavy rotation on Sirus/XM radio, accepting Emmy nominations and touring with country legend Ronnie Milsap.
We checked in with Risa to talk about how she got her start, the connection between musical theater and country songwriting, and why she's excited for Bear Music Fest:
So, what IS the connection between musical theater and country songwriting?
Well, there are a lot of similarities between a musical theater song and a country song - at heart, they’re both storytelling! I played Loretta Lynn in a college production and I fell in love with her story and the great stories in her songs. Her music helped me understand how powerful a song can be. And then, being onstage and performing your own songs - it’s kind of like, for 45 minutes, you’re performing your own little piece of theater. It’s an intimate feeling, and my favorite feeling.”
How is it that you got started in both theater and music together?
I grew up doing community theater in Maryland, and - I never did sports, but theater is my group sport. I learned self-esteem and how to work in a team from being in shows. When I was about 9, I started doing professional dinner theater in my hometown of Columbia, MD, with my family and I continued doing that all through college. But I was always writing songs, too. I actually started singing not too long after I started to talk, and I used to sing in my family room using an ear of corn as my microphone. I moved to NYC to pursue theater and music and then I started going to Nashville for the songwriting - I guess I feel a little bit like a gypsy!
What’s more fun, songwriting or performance?
Hearing a song come to life - especially recording it in Nashville, with the musicians that are there. When you’ve only heard that song with maybe a guitar previously, the experience of having seven world-class musicians in a studio getting ready to bring your song to life - it’s magic! Even so, I can say for sure that the most exciting part about writing songs is the connection with the live audience. I get so excited about it that sometimes after a song, when people are clapping, I’m clapping too, because I’m having just as much fun as they’re having, and that’s because I can feel that connection. I think music is a universal unifier; I believe in writing songs that lift people up and make them happy, and I love that I get to perform them!
What’s got Risa excited about coming to the Bear Music Festival:
Well, I’ve never been to that part of Northern California before, but everyone tells me it’s so beautiful! Also, there are so many different genres of music; it’s going to be exciting to be onstage for my set, then hop off and go see, say, an electronic set - so different from what I do, and from what I’m used to. And then, of course, the festival vibe sounds great. I think it’s going to be like a bunch of living room concerts, only outside! And I’m excited to get a chance to get to know the audience apart from just being onstage.”
Living room concerts, only outside?
Couldn’t have put it better ourselves. Can’t wait to get together with Risa Binder - and you - in our outdoor living room at the Bear Music Festival!