Photos by Lydia Bell | Interview with Holly Riley conducted by Jordan Miller
Honeysuckle sweet harmonies. Melodies that dance through the night like smoke easing off a half burnt cigarette. The Adventures of Annabelle Lyn honor the heartfelt sound of traditional roots music and it shows on their recent album, Chasing Horizons. The Tallahassee Folk-Bluegrass trio released their newest project earlier this year and I had the opportunity to catch up with their violin player, Holy Riley while on the end run of their tour.
Your schedule shows you were in North Carolina last night, what other states have you visited on this tour?
We were in five different states, so Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia.
How’s the tour been so far? I noticed you posted a picture on the Annabelle Lyn Facebook page standing in knee deep water. What was the story behind that?
Yeah, the weather was mostly pretty good the whole time until we got to Charleston. Early that morning we were supposed to leave, and we happened to be staying at a downtown part of the city that just floods really bad. So we woke up at about 8 or 9am that morning to see everything surrounding us, just completely covered in about a foot and a half of water. All of our instruments and gear were in the car, so we actually ended up having to push the car up a hill to move it to higher ground. We had to take all of the gear out of it so we could push it, and then drive the car to dry ground, THEN carry all of our gear and instruments through about a block and a half of standing water to get back to the car.
Oh wow! The tour life, right?
Ha! Yeah, it was crazy. We were so tired by the end of it.
So I myself used to live in the Tallahassee area, and I’ve had the privilege of catching a couple of The Adventures of Annabelle Lyn shows. So I’m fairly familiar with your music, but I just wanted to ask from your personal perspective how you would describe The Adventures of Annabelle Lyn for listeners who have never heard your music?
Well, it’s certainly changed and expanded a lot over the years. The founding idea or impetus of the band originated from all our of our middle names. Anne, Belle, and Lyn. And the name, The Adventures of Annabelle Lyn was kind of intended to create this fictional character who went on adventures and was really free to explore musically. So we kind of embodied that personality. In those first few years of the band, we did a lot of themed shows. So we would actually base our shows and the outfits we were wearing, or the setting of the show, around some specific themes. We would do a mermaid theme, or an ocean scene. Or even nights that centered around one specific band, such as the Beatles. And what ended up happening was, not only did we get a really cool foundation of music from all sorts of genres and backgrounds, but also a unique and diverse sense of influences. So I think we also started developing a better idea of what we wanted our own sound to be and what our original songs would sound like. During our first two albums, we spent a lot of time focusing on sort of our folk and bluegrass roots, but I think what has come to the forefront over the past few years, is our love for vocal harmonies, along with these interweaving instrumental parts where everybody plays off each other.
That’s pretty unique. I remember reading in your bio about the themed shows. Would you say that doing shows like this inspired or influenced the writing for your albums?
Definitely, definitely. One of the things that has been really special about this band, you know, we’ve all been in all sorts of different types of bands. Everyone of us has a pretty diverse musical background, and we’ve been in lots of bands with other people where we felt there was a really strong expectation to play one genre of music or have a very specific sound. And I think doing those themed shows, where we were free to be whatever we imagined, allowed us to be really creative in the development of doing our own music. So when we did start writing and producing more of our own music, we were less limited and more imaginative towards what we could be and what we wanted to sound like.
So you guys are on tour right now. Is there an artist or band who you have had the privilege of opening up for that you were just blown away by or after hearing them live, they had a significant impact on your music?
Well, at the beginning of this year, we had this crazy, amazing opportunity that we did not expect we would get in a million years. We got to open up for the band America. Which we never expected to happen. It was one of those, completely being in the right place at the right time things. We happened to be playing a show down near Panama City and Lynn Haven. The promoter for their show was there and he loved our music. He ended up giving us a call a couple weeks later and just asked if we’d like to come open for one of their shows. Said he sent the band our music and they loved it. We said “Oh my goodness, we’d love to!” So we got to open up for them at the end of January and it was completely, one of the most incredible experiences we’ve ever had. We all grew up loving their music. Our guitar player, her favorite movie growing up was The Last Unicorn, so we’ve all pretty much been in love with their music most of our musical lives. After our set, the band members asked us if we’d like to sit in on their set at the end, so we got to go back on stage for their encore and played Horse With No Name with them.
How was that feeling?
It was absolutely awesome! Here we are playing the soundtrack to our lives, our musical lives. You grow up listening to this song on the radio and now all of the sudden you’re on a stage in front of thousands of people, singing the song with the people who wrote it.
How would you describe your writing process? There’s three of you in the group. Does one person write the songs and the others write the music? Do you all write?
We’re all songwriters. We all write songs on our own mainly, or at least we will start a song individually, then bring it to the band to finish. On this record, Chasing Horizons, there’s thirteen songs and everyone wrote a third of the songs. Everybody also sings lead on a third of the songs, as well. One of the nice things about this band is everyone has different roles instrumentally, so when we write a song, we’re writing from that instruments perspective. So if I write a song on the fiddle, after bringing it to Kat and Elizabeth, they’re able to make the song come alive by adding in their instrument sounds.
Chasing Horizons is the most recent project you guys have done together. What would you say is the one thing you want listeners to take away from this album?
I think the thing that was really special to us about this most recent record, is that everything on it was creative and specific to us. It was something we sort of decided for ourselves and we knew how we wanted it to sound. We had a great recording engineer who let us have a ton of control over making that sound and what we were hearing in our heads. We put a lot of detail in to the vocal harmonies and how the arrangements would go. So if there’s any take away, I think it’s just, as a musician and especially a female musician, you’re allowed to have agency in sounding like yourself, and in putting out a musical product that is totally yours. Something you feel good about, and you shouldn’t be afraid to take that on an adventure. Make it wild, crazy, and fun. Make it 100% you.
Absolutely. I’d say you guys achieved that on this record. What’s next on the Chasing Horizons tour?
We’re wrapping up the summer tour now, but while being in the van for the past week and a half, we’ve booked a bunch of really awesome dates we’re looking forward to inside and around Tallahassee for the next year. So we will be releasing a schedule here soon. We’re going to be playing at the Suwannee Roots Revival in October. Really excited about that. But we’ve got more dates we’re announcing soon!
That’s exciting. I’m yet to attend a Suwannee event, but being from the North Florida area, it’s on my list. Is there anything else you’d like to mention before we wrap up?
We’re super grateful for our community and everyone around us. Especially everyone on this tour who has hosted and supported us along the way. It’s been really special, just the generosity from everyone that we’ve experienced. The people that make music or love music, that’s what makes this possible. So we’re very thankful.