Managing to break through as an artist during the pandemic is less than ideal, and the traditional gatekeeping measures in place have vanished. While almost every artist has uploaded an acoustic cover onto social media at some point over the last twelve months, few have caught flames in the same way as Rianne Downey.
Before the pandemic struck, Downey built up a local reputation in Glasgow. She learned her trade busking on its famous streets and now looks set to be another star from a city with a truly impeccable musical heritage. Her rise looked improbable when lockdown hit; Downey had to use her intuition and built up a cult following of adoring fans on social media, who sought solace in her putting her take on tracks in her record collection.
At the time of writing, she currently has over 14,000 followers on Twitter alone, and her covers caught the attention of Run On Records & Modern Sky, who she is releasing her debut EP through on August 15th. Sharing versions of other people’s songs is one thing, but taking the plunge to share original material that is personal to you is an entirely different beast, and Downey has been thrilled with the reaction to her debut single, ‘Fuel To The Flame’.
“It was better than I could have ever imagined,” she told Far Out about the reaction. “So many people downloading & listening to a song I’ve written myself is very surreal. I have had so much love and support surrounding the track as well as being played on BBC Radio 6. I’m still buzzing!”
The track takes heavy influence from the golden age of pop, with Downey explaining how that era of music is one that she finds utterly captivating and equally inspiring. “The 50s/60s were so crucial for music, especially singer/songwriters,” she passionately notes. “That was when people really began to experiment and properly express themselves. Music back then was sung from the heart and with beautiful but catchy melodies. It was so complex in its simplicity.”
Working with the right producer is critical. Downey has teamed up with The Coral’s James Skelly, who is not only the frontman of one of the most proficient alternative acts of the last twenty years but an acclaimed producer with the likes of The Lathums and Blossoms.
“James Skelly is someone I grew up listening to,” Downey reveals. “His music played a crucial part in growing up for a lot of people my age and older. To work with someone like him has been a blessing. He is so good at what he does, and the passion for music is pouring out of him, and that brings out the best in everyone around him too.”
The 21-year-old singer-songwriter has managed to secure herself a record deal off the power of social media as well as her music, and by putting so much out there, she is living proof of the rewards that are on offer by using it as a tool to find music lovers.
“Through posting online, I have introduced myself and my music to an insane amount of people as well as built relationships with the people who like my music too,” Downey admits. “Although it has its downfalls, social media is a great thing, and I would encourage every musician to use it as a platform to put themselves out there.
“It’s hard to pinpoint when I realised that something special had been created. I am always so grateful for every bit of support I receive, but the music industry is so temperamental; I always thought it was just my luck and that all the following I had could disappear at any point,” she adds.
Downey’s story shows there’s nothing to lose by using social media to your advantage as a musician, but there’s everything to gain. Her two singles so far show she’s much more than a covers singer and is a true artist in her own right. Considering how far she’s already grown in the last twelve months and the loyal army of fans she’s built up, who knows just how bright the future will be following the release of her debut EP this summer.