Sheldon Riley's new single Left Broken is out now! We chat to the musician about the release and so much more!
Earlier this month, rising Australian singer Sheldon Riley unveiled his sophomore single, Left Broken. We caught up with the musician to chat about the release, his experience on TV talent shows, what he has in store for 2021 and so much more!
The avant-garde track offers moments of introspection and vulnerability, as the singer navigates the uncertainty and residual emotions after a break up. Delicate and intimate, Riley's vocals ring throughout the track, captivating and mesmerising listeners.
Left Broken arrives with a stunning visual, directed and edited by Natasha Jackson and videographer Chris Daly. Riley brings his signature fashion statement masks to the clip, wearing a custom made piece from San Francisco based avant-garde fashion designer Lance Victor Moore.
In 2018, Riley earned a place in the grand finale of The Voice, returning the following year as an all-star contestant. Since then, the singer has become one of the most streamed and viewed contestants in The Voice Australia history, with Riley receiving an invitation to on America’s Got Talent 2020 where he wowed judges Howie Mandel, Heidi Klum, Sofia Vergara and Simon Cowell. The singer released his debut single, More Than I, last year, with the promise of a string of singles throughout 2021.
Left Broken is out now! Read our interview with Sheldon Riley below.
Could you tell us a bit about your background in music and what led you to pursuing a career in music?
I started looking for my own style of music and music that I loved personally from a young age. I didn't have too many musical influences, I never really loved listening to what the other kids my age liked. So for example, I remember hearing the Back To Black album by Amy Winehouse for the first time and I knew that music was going to play a special part in my life.
You started out in the music industry at a younger age on The Voice Australia, later returning as all-star and also appearing on America’s Got Talent 2020. How do you think that experience shaped your view and approach to navigating the music industry?
I always loved music, but my ideas for music always went beyond just the music, I think even as a young artist. When I knew I wanted to be a singer I wanted to be so much more. I wanted to involve fashion, theatrics, drama, excitement. TV has always been a great platform for me. As someone who never had a big budget, these shows really did bring my fantasy to life. I was really able to perform in the worlds that I always dreamt of and even more exciting that people all over the world got to see that.
Your new single, Left Broken, is an intimate and vulnerable release that navigates the uncertainty and residual emotions after a break up. Could you tell us a bit about the song and what prompted you to explore and document these themes on this particular track?
I wanted to write a song from the heart. I know a lot of people have heard my range, heard my covers, really heard me interpret other people's music. This time I wanted to tell my own story, and not with too many metaphors. Just a simple honest song, stripped back to a guitar, vocals and really just singing about something that everyone can relate too. I think for my second release it was time for a really honest and open track from me and to share a new vulnerable part of myself.
How did you create and arrive at the sonic sounds present on the track? And how do you think your overall sound evolved throughout your career?
I knew what I wanted it to sound like. The mastermind that brought it to life was my co-writer and producer, Cam Nacson. We played with a lot of different sounds. Although it's very stripped back, the layers and harmonies were very important to me. When we got those dark cinematic harmonies in over the electric guitar it just felt perfect and I told him not to change a thing as soon as the sound scape scape was layed.
What messages do you hope listeners take away from the track?
I just hope people will connect to the song in their own way. I wrote this about a particular heartbreak leaving me in my own broken-ness. We have all been through some kind of heartbreak, relationship, friendship, family, general life. I just hope it resonates to anyone in their own way!
Left Broken is accompanied by a stunning! Can you walk us through your process when it comes to conceptualising and how involved are you with the development of the visuals?
I love fashion, shock factor and storytelling but always making sure that my ideas are executed in a way that shows originality over predictability. I'm very involved in the development of the visuals. My team is small but we all work together to bring these ideas to life. It starts with the song and as I'm writing the story comes to mind. I start to picture how it will all look and feel and it all really goes from there haha!
How important are the visuals to you when it comes to portraying the stories and themes present on the songs?
The visuals are sooo important to me! With this one I wanted to give the visual of Edward Scissor Hands because he was a formidable character who was left completely broken and ultimately unfixable. I want people to feel and see the connection between the character and myself when they watch and listen, understanding that not every song gives a perfect ending. I don't plan on writing music with fairy tale endings because my reality is like Edward’s, it was unfixable, it hurt a lot, but it has made me so much stronger and I really wanted that hearty break to show in the video.
What is your favourite moment from the Left Broken music video?
Ahh probably the scene where the black and blue rose petals are falling, there was something so beautiful in filming that moment. I had my makeup artist and my manager both throwing hundreds of petals on me and it reminds me again that my team is small but I’m surrounded by people who really believe in my vision. I'm so proud of the whole video for this reason!
One of your signature accessories are your glamorous, avant garde masks. Which one has been your absolute favourite to wear and why?
1000000% my mask that I wore in my All Star Audition on The Voice. It really started my trajectory of wearing masks and it was also so insanely beautiful. It definitely set the standard! However, I must say that my mask for the Left Broken video is extremely special to me. I worked with an amazing designer, Lance Victor Moore, who has worked with Gaga and Vogue! I’m so proud of all my collaborations.
If Left Broken was a piece of pre-existing visual art (painting, sculpture, photograph etc - anything but the songs own visuals), which artwork would it be and why?
Ahhh this is a tricky one. I would say it reminds me of Starry Night Over the Rhône by Van Gogh. It has this incredible sadness to the piece but also this insane beauty. Almost makes you think twice about what you are feeling.
Could you tell us a bit about your creative process when writing and recording?
I write all my own music to piano first, I don’t go into a recording session without a strong idea. With Left Broken, I knew what I wanted it to feel, I brought the song but I also wanted to collaborate and to get lots of changing opinions. I LOVE if we walk out of the session and my idea that I brought is COMPLETELY different. Left Broken was a strong idea though, my producer Cam just really brought it to life! In a lot of sessions I would say there is a lot of back and forth and trial and error but this really was the first song that really just came together straight away. Vocals and the song was basically done by the first session haha!
Who or what are your influences when writing new music? What inspires you?
I say that an artist that makes me feel something is an artist who inspires me.
Lady Gaga’s confidence inspires my creative, Amy Winehouse inspires my soul haha, Adele inspires the way I want to tell stories, Adam Lambert is my daily reminder that anything is possible for a man like myself.
Australia has a diverse and vibrant music scene, who are some of your favourite Aussie acts and why?
I have this strange infatuation with Vera Blue, (Celia Pavey) I love EVERYTHING that she sings and is such a style icon in our country… SO FASHION! haha. Other than that, Guy Sebastian's vocals are my guilty pleasure HAHA!
With restrictions easing and borders having opened, will we be seeing you hit the road with national dates anytime soon? Or any live show plans?
I HAVE A BIG, HUGE, MASSIVE!! Project coming very soon!
What can we expect from you for the rest of 2021? Will we be seeing an album or EP, and if so what can listeners expect from it?
I’m definitely loving the writing process and being so involved in the creative process! I have lots of music coming, singles for now till the end of 2021, but can promise big visuals all very different from one another. I want to experiment with my sound this year and I can't wait for everyone to see what's coming!
Lana Del Ray
Album that has had the most impact on you?
Adele 19, 21, 25
How do you define your musical style in 3 words?
Dark, Emotional, Unapologetic.
Best song of 2021 so far?
Eurovisions, Barbra Pravi - Voila!
If you could create the soundtrack for any film, which one would it be?
Any of the Twilight films.
Hannah Montana or Miley Cyrus?
Best of both worlds?
Album you would listen to on repeat on a road trip?
Fine Line, Harry Styles.
First concert you went to?
Justin Bieber, Never Say Never Tour I think??
Best concert you have been to?
Probably Katy Perry, just remember how much my mind blew haha!
First album you ever bought?
Amy Winehouse, Back To Black.
Would you rather be a Spice Girl or a Backstreet Boy?
Spice Girl Obviously!!
If you were a Spice Girl, what would your spice nickname be?
Grotesque Spice haha!
Guilty music pleasure?
If you could support any artist on tour, who would it be?
An artist you think has had the most influence on the music industry.
What advice would your current self give your future self, for a year from now?
BELIEVE IN YOU GOD DAMN SELF. YOU KNOW WHAT YOU LOVE. DO NOT LET ANYONE CHANGE IT.
The moment you knew you wanted to be a musician?
Crying to Amy Winehouse singing - I knew I wanted to make music that did that. Watching Adam Lambert's success made me believe I could be a musician. Lady Gaga dressed in Alexander McQueen made me want to be an artist.