Riley Clemmons, a 23-year-old musician from Nashville, Tennessee, can be characterized by many things. First, her strong faith provides a solid foundation for her lyrics. Then there's her impressive vocals that dominate every song, leaving listeners in awe. To complete her is this incredibly bubbly and joyful personality that has made her a hit on music videos and podcasts. She also has a fantastic stage presence, and I highly recommend seeing her perform live (she's going on tour with folk artist Zach Williams this autumn).
Riley's third album, Church Pew, was recently released. Here's a review of the title track and "Healing," a standout song from one of her previous albums.
"I keep getting stronger Won't stay down no longer Starting to breathe again Learned to believe again, oh."
In October 2020, Riley released "Healing," a song she wrote two years prior. It was a perfect time to release the music. Although different for everyone, I recall that October was a difficult month for me, and this song was the perfect soundtrack for my road to healing. Riley's music centered on mental health, making it the ideal match.
The lyrics that struck me the most were "Gave myself some grace/And my soul began to feel the change." We can certainly be hard on ourselves. We often expect things from ourselves and others that are unrealistic. I've been in a position where the only thing holding me back from joy was myself, and what a crazy position to be in. If you feel the same way, remember that God doesn't expect the world from you. He loves you the way you are, flaws and all. He wants you. And your true family and friends will feel the same way. Riley has created another masterpiece with this song, a story with a message strong enough to pull others through hard times. Healing isn't immediate; it's a process, but giving yourself grace helps that process move forward (and listening to this song may help, too).
"We all come for different reasons
But Lord knows we all need Jesus
And He's always saving room for me and you right here
Right here in this church pew."
On my first listen, the title track from her latest album completely blew me away. She perfectly captured the imagery of an old church pew, pulled me away from my pessimistic thoughts, and put me in another person's shoes. Riley reminds listeners that nobody in the congregation has it all figured out. They are "People full of faith/People full of doubt/People all just trying their best/To figure it all out." There is intense diversity within the church, and that is beautiful because Jesus connects us above our differences. And it is our continued trust in the Lord that allows everything in our lives to change.
We come to Jesus for various reasons, and countless motivations inspire us to praise Him. What stuck with me from this song is that no matter which stage of life we are at, or even if we are in the in-between, "He's always saving room for me and you right here/Right here in this church pew." He trusts us to return, and He is guiding us home. He's not going anywhere, and thank God for that.
Selena Schulz is NRT’s youngest staff contributor. She loves God, music, reading, and writing.
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