Self-proclaimed “sad cowgirl music” songwriter Reilly Downes has taken her signature style to the next level with her upcoming release.
With her new single, “Dirty Love,” which dropped this past Saturday, Downes exhibits her smooth Texas Hill Country sound mixed with some gritty desert heat that she absorbed from her time living in the panhandle.
Downes’ musical influences and sound has been modeled after heavy-hitters like Alison Krauss, June Carter Cash, and a little bit of Nikki Lane. The Musical Theater college graduate has been involved with music and performing throughout her life, and is ready to take 2022 by the horns.
With “Dirty Love” being the lead single, Downes is gearing up to release a few more singles before the unveiling of her official album, slated to drop early this summer.
We got the chance to chat with Downes about the new single, her Texas roots, and much more.
So I see you “grew up along the riverside” but “soon found yourself lost in the desert.” How much has your geography – specifically Texas – influenced and inspired your music?
I think it’s less so the geography and more so what I was doing at the time and where I was at in my life. There were definitely new pieces of “Reilly” added to this puzzle with every new place.
And how long have you been in Chicago then? And how do you feel the scene caters to a Texas-bred songwriter such as yourself?
I’ve been in Chicago for three years, and it’s definitely the first place in a long time that feels like home. I think part of that is the music scene I’m fortunate enough to be in. The Country/Honky Tonk scene here in Chicago feels more like family than anything.
Do you remember the moment you wanted to become a songwriter? And who or what was a primary inspiration to do so?
Oh man, as long as I could remember. I’ve been singing my whole life. I have notebooks full of lyrics from as early as 14 years old. I was pretty lucky in the sense that both of my parents had great taste in music that influenced me. From my Dad’s love of Funky/Psychedelic Pink Floyd to my Mom’s leaning towards the poetic Leonard Cohen.
So your new single, “Dirty Love,” has been out a handful of days now. Can you talk about the backstory and influence behind this track?
Well, what’s really interesting about this track is I wrote it during different parts of my life. From when I identified as a “straight” artist, to figuring out that I’m probably not what everyone wants me to be, and then finally feeling the freedom of being me and embracing myself as a queer artist. I think you can really hear that in the lyrics. The struggle, and the letting go.
What made you choose to release this song as your lead single off of your upcoming album?
Not only is it the first track on the album, I think it gives a pretty good indication of what to expect on the rest of the album. All of this is much different than my first single that everyone is so used to.
Speaking of the album: what might fans and new listeners alike expect from it? Any insight you care to share about themes, motifs, guest musicians etc.?
It’s definitely ME wrapped into a little musical package. From rock and roll to country waltz, it’s every little piece of me. I’ve coined the name “Sad Cowgirl” for a reason, and that should definitely be their expectation.
Was there a particular track on the album that took the longest to write or was the hardest to write for one reason or another?
There’s definitely a track on the album that didn’t take long, but was definitely the hardest to write. Not technically, but emotionally. It’s a lot like handing someone a page out of my diary. Definitely a lot of vulnerability in that song.
Who have you gotten the chance to work with that has been really exciting for you as an artist?
Honestly, my producer, Thomas Dulin as well as all of the session artists in Nashville who all work with bands I really look up to, like Drew Holcomb and The Neighbors, Ben Rector, Dustin Lynch, Brett Eldredge and so many more.
What does a dream gig look like for Reilly Downes?
Oh man, I’m just as happy playing a dive bar as I am playing a large venue, as long as everyone’s having a good time. I guess my dream gig is always being able to help people feel seen through my music.
Aside from the release of your album, what might your goals be either musically or otherwise as we charge full steam ahead into 2022?
I’d definitely say playing some festivals, hitting the road, just pushing my music outside the Midwest boundaries.