New York City might not necessarily seem like a hotbed for country music, but newcomer Risa Binder has found a big appetite for it in the Big Apple.
“There are so many country fans in New York that it would surprise you,” the Brooklyn-based singer tells Billboard. “Whenever a major act comes to Madison Square Garden, it sells out within an hour, and there are also a few bluegrass places here that are real popular.”
Yet when it comes to the name of her debut five-song EP, which she releases on Tuesday, Aug. 5, she was inspired by Music City. Billboard.com has an early exclusive premiere of Binder's Nashville disc.
Check out the stream below:
The Maryland native, who worked with producer Luke Wooten on the traditional-minded project, first started performing the songs live a couple of months ago. "It’s been really exciting because they’ve got some great harmonies, and the band is coming together well, so I’m excited to get it out where other people can hear it,” says Binder.
The first time Binder heard "Gotta Have You," the lead single from Nashville, on SiriusXM she was driving. “I literally had to pull over to the side of the road. There’s a picture of me on Twitter that I took of the receiver," she says. “It was such an awesome feeling.”
Another track, “Ready to Fall,” is particularly close to her heart. “As an artist, what we choose to do is such a roller-coaster ride. It’s all about following your dream and your heart -- and where it takes you. That song is about learning to let go," says Binder. When you hold on to something so tightly, you might not get the results you want. There’s something really freeing about letting go. When I sing that song live, I get so emotional at the end.”
Music was something that touched Binder from an early age. “I always would write songs about boys I had crushes on, but I would keep the names of the boys a secret,” she says with a smile.
Performing in various stage productions growing up, she got the opportunity to portray country music legend Loretta Lynn. “I was in a show about the women of country, and I researched Loretta Lynn. Her story was so fascinating to me,” she explains. “I began to realize that country songs told a story that really moved people. I wanted to learn how to do that. That was around the time I discovered what I really wanted to do. Then I moved to New York, and I said a prayer that whichever one took off first, I would go in that direction. Music took off faster.”
Though based in New York, Binder would make occasional trips to Music City. “I used to come to Nashville and watch my friend’s cat for free so I could stay in the house while I recorded. Each time I would come to Nashville, something synchronistic would happen to me. There are so many creative writing minds that the energy is contagious," she says. "I will sit at the coffee shop, listening to the conversations, and they all revolve around music. You’ll go out and hear so many incredible writers, and you leave so pumped and determined to better yourself and your craft. I call it grad school because you really do get an education. You never stop learning, because you’re never finished writing your best song.”
Binder is enjoying each step along the way -- and feels grateful for the opportunity she has been given. “I’ve learned to appreciate all the moments that are going on, and to be thankful for them," she says. "I do feel like I’m floating a little bit, but I just want to make everyone who has been a part of this record proud of me.”