Meet Lou Ridley, Nashville’s Rising Star Making Anti-Country Country Anthems
Unapologetically honest, singer-songwriter Lou Ridley places authenticity before anything else both in and outside of her work. She made waves across the South through singles such as “attention of any kind” and “self care,” which further laminated her name as an exciting musician to watch. While most of today’s country music artists seemingly fall off from lack of progression, Lou thrives in existence as she pulls elements from R&B and gives the genre a much-needed overhaul.
Towards the tail-end of 2021, Lou released her eagerly-awaited project Angel/Outlaw, which delves into the duality of being a woman while exploring romance and self. The 6-track effort boasts songs including the fan-favorite “Hellfire” and “Dirt” to name a few. It serves as Lou Ridley’s first full-length release since making her formal introduction to the world with 2019’s cowgirls don’t cry. Paying homage to her Texas roots, the EP would later get a ChopNotSlop rendition by OG Ron C and DJ Candlestick who also appears on her newest release. Although Lou is a relatively fresh face to music, she is undoubtedly a vibrant persona that draws you in for more.
In our latest interview, Lou Ridley gave us the inside scoop on her recent EP Angel/Outlaw, redefining the country genre, and human rights amongst other topics! Check it out below.
From singing and songwriting to blending different genres, when and how did you discover your musical talents?
I didn’t start making music until after college. I’ve always been told that music isn’t a real career and don’t waste your time so I didn’t have a chance to explore it until I got older. I decided to play around and people told me that I was pretty good so I started pursuing it and writing any chance I could. I really didn’t start perfecting my graft until I was out of college.
Music was my first choice but I always pretended to be into other stuff. My dad is like “you can be an attorney,” and I love arguing so I’m like maybe I can just do that. When I wasn’t able to pursue music, I was angsty because I wasn’t able to be creative in a way I felt I was creative at being. There was never anything else, but I just bipped and bopped around.
I believe that there’s one beautiful thing about the world and that’s that it always pulls you towards your purpose no matter how far you stray away or wherever you go.
Yeah! There was this time where I was in a relationship for many years and I stepped away from music for a long time because the relationship wasn’t serving me and it made me question my value and worth in music. It just kept popping back up, that’s how I learned how to produce when I learned that I can’t live without music. I didn’t want to work with anybody because a lot of times it’s about stuff beyond the music and I was in a relationship so my friend and I built a studio in my house.
I would always have him come over and teach me how to use Logic, and that’s what made me fall back in love with music. I didn’t have to wait for a producer to send me anything or wait for an engineer to record me, I just sat there and would get these eight-bar loops going. It was just me by myself and I discovered that’s how I would prefer to do things.
What is it about music or songwriting that allows you to express yourself in ways that you wouldn’t be able to in person?
I’m very good at being authentic to self, but in romance, I’m horrible at being vulnerable. The moment you do anything, I’m an icicle, I completely shut down. That’s why I’m perpetually single because I’m such a little monster. Music for me has been a way to tell someone how I feel without having to verbalize it. It gives me the time to craft the words I want to say in the best possible way. That’s where writing really helps me because I have a lot that I want to say, but I need time to process these emotions and write them out.
“Blind Eye” off the new project, the person who I wrote it about and I were not talking. When he heard the song, that was one of the reasons we started talking again because he had realized how he hurt me and I had never been to articulate it until then. I’m so vulnerable and have no fear in life, but when it comes to romance, I have a lot of luck. If you ever want to know how I feel about you, piss me off and let me write a song about you!
A lot of the records on Angel/Outlaw are personal and delve deeper into your life—what song off the project meant the most to you?
Honestly, “Blind Eye” was the one that I wrote last. All of the songs were done already and I made that song after I moved to Nashville. That to me, was the first time I had been in love since my big relationship some years ago, so that one really sat with me. The other songs were about whoever and whatever, “Blind Eye” was about somebody and I just have an attachment to that song because it was one of the most vulnerable songs I have to date.
I have another project, but the songs on Angel/Outlaw were started during quarantine. I’ve been perfecting them over the last year here in Nashville so I had these for a while minus “Blind Eye.” They were written two years ago but you know you sit with them, flush them out, and so on. I had to listen to them with an open mind that way I can craft them to be relatable because sometimes I’ll get really specific.
Why do you label yourself as an “anti-country” artist and what does it mean to you?
Ha! I grew up listening to country and I don’t want to be labeled as one because I feel like there’s a lot about the genre that’s inclusionary and not relatable to now. It’s boring; like everyone is writing about whisky, their truck, and their dad on the front porch! That’s not everyone’s experience and there are so many talented people in country, but it’s like how many times are we going to redo the same country song before we fucking get the point.
I want to be the person to push the conversation forward and even calling myself “anti-country” country upsets people and that’s what I want. I’m interested in being less palatable for the sake of starting conversations of inclusion and representation because country music as all music is derived from Black people. When you depart so severely from inclusion, I have a problem with that. There are a lot of people of color in Nashville making incredible music and they deserve the platform and I just want to bring that forward.
As far as your music goes, what type of emotions do you want to elicit within your listeners?
What I really want to do with everything that I do is connect with people in general. In interviews, I’m very vocal about things that I want to see progress in the country music space. However, when it comes to the music, I’m just writing about my experience and hoping that it reaches people who feel sometimes unseen because I think these are very common issues. All I want to do is upset the people that I want to upset and connect with the people that I want to connect with.
Is there anything outside of music that you’re really passionate about?
I’m part of a non-profit in LA that helps people battling addiction. Through that non-profit, I’ve built a relationship with Mark Laita who runs a YouTube channel called Soft White Underbelly. I work with him closely and when he has people that are ready to get off the streets or off drugs, I do my best to support them and find them a bed or get them a detox. The all-encompassing thing that matters to me the most is rebuilding community within Western culture. We’re incredibly divided for a bunch of reasons that are stupid so everything that I do outside of that is to establish community and giving a shit about each other.
At the end of the day, we’re all trying to figure this shit out and there is a small group of people that cause all the pain and those are the ones we need to hold accountable. They won’t be held accountable until we figure out how to get together and stop the division. We have to come together and that to me, in different ways, is what I’m striving to be. I’m not in any way a deity but I want to be someone who brings that forward as much as I can.
You’ve had a pretty good run this year, are you excited about anything in the coming months?
Yes! We are planning a tour so I’m really excited to connect with people. I’m going to put out some new music as well. I’m really just hoping that we get out of the little hole that we’re in with the pandemic. I can’t wait to connect and meet people.
If you enjoyed our interview with Lou Ridley, check out our interview with Grace Davies!