photo credit: Samuel Crabtree

Keep your eye on the meteoric rise of country music and TV star Riley Green

The road to country music stardom doesn’t leave much room for detours, but that hasn’t stopped Riley Green from making time for his other life’s passion every chance he gets. An avid outdoorsman, the Alabama native is never far from his next hunting trip, even as he’s landed a major-label recording contract and his first Top 40 single, “There Was This Girl.”

“The first time I went deer hunting, I fell in love with it,” says the 30-year-old Green, who released a four-song EP titled In a Truck Right Now in June 2018 on the Nashville, Tennessee-based Big Machine Label Group. “I remember getting off work and going in the woods to try and catch this deer. I had a camera and all that. It’s still the same stuff that I enjoy about it today, what got me hooked on it to start with: The chase.”

Green hasn’t had to worry about chasing a fanbase in his music career, as his grassroots following has helped his music accrue more than 46 million streams.

Green hasn’t had to worry about chasing a fanbase in his music career, as his grassroots following has helped his music accrue more than 46 million streams. Five million of those alone belong to “There Was This Girl,” which has climbed all the way to Number 26 on Billboard’s Country Music Chart. His progress hasn’t gone unnoticed, with outlets like Billboard and Rolling Stone naming him a country artist to watch.

That rise has been fueled in part by an unexpected source: Green’s role hosting an online hunting show, In the Hunt, that airs on DirtRoadTV.com. “Most [country] fans are hunters, or at least outdoor-type people, which has been a huge help,” he says. “I don’t know that it really catapulted me into signing a record deal, but it definitely didn’t hurt. A lot of people who know me from the hunting show didn’t even know I played music.”

Some fans have even gotten to know Green personally through his hunting. His radio commitments and headlining Outlaws Like Us Tour keep him crisscrossing the country, but in October alone he squeezed in hunting trips to Georgia and Wisconsin. “To be honest, I do that kind of stuff a lot. I’ve gone and carried my guitar and become an honorary member of a lot of hunting clubs because of that,” Green says.

Yet for all the time that music and hunting take up in Green’s life today, he came to both activities later in life. Growing up near Jacksonville, Alabama, he loved the outdoors, playing three sports in high school and football in college. “My entire family is from within 10 miles of where I grew up,” he points out. “My granny is still alive, who’s 96 or 97. I remember going to the beach when I was 8 or 10 and she was playing wiffle ball with me when she was 70-something.”

Alabama wasn’t ideal for hunting — “I remember walking 400 yards through places that were just pull-your-boots-off with mud, just to get in there and possibly see a duck,” he says — but fishing was a family pastime that he shared with his father and grandfather. “We’d go down to Gulf Shores, Alabama, and go out deep-sea fishing every year,” Green says. “It’s a whole different experience for me, too. With hunting, you’re going somewhere cold — or someplace north, like Mississippi or Arkansas. So to go down to the beach, that feels like a vacation to me.”

Music, too, was something of a vacation for Green, who worked with his dad framing houses after college. Though he’d taken guitar lessons as a child, he didn’t think of music as a potential career until he tried hosting concerts on his family’s property. “I was like, ‘If we built a stage back here, I bet you I could get 200 to 300 people to show up.’ So we built the stage — and had 1,400 show up for the first show,” Green marvels.

Scraping together money saved from framing houses, Green began self-releasing EPs in 2013, and four years later racked up over two million views of a video he made for his song “Bury Me in Dixie.” That helped get the attention of BMLG, which boasts Florida Georgia Line and Lady Antebellum on its roster. “I remember when I came home to tell my mom I’d signed a record deal with Big Machine, she was like, ‘Oh, that’s great. Do you want mashed potatoes?'” Green says with a laugh. “A lot of my family don’t comprehend what’s going on with me, and to be honest, I didn’t either till a few months ago.”

With the whirlwind of changes taking place for Green, who plans to release his first full-length album early this year, hunting has become an even more important refuge in his life.

“For me to be able to go out in the woods, where I don’t have good cell service, and get away for a few hours, that’s where my enjoyment comes from it now.”

“For me to be able to go out in the woods, where I don’t have good cell service, and get away for a few hours, that’s where my enjoyment comes from it now,” Green says. “To disconnect and get out in the woods like that, I don’t know that I haven’t written a lot of songs out there and don’t even realize it.”

Watch In the Hunt with Riley Green, click here.

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