“From as little as I can remember, when I was super young, I just thought music was magic,” says country artist Risa Binder. Binder, who grew up in Columbia, Maryland can clearly recall the first time she saw the power of music. When she was small, she lived in a neighborhood with all boys. She wrote a little ditty about how she wished a girl would move next door so that she could play with them. The following week seven girls moved in. “That was the first time I thought music was magical.”
Binder grew up listening to all kinds of music and was involved in theater productions. “When I fell in love with country music, I realized there were so many similarities because both theater songs and country songs tell stories about life,” she explains. The first country song she remembers listening to and falling in love with was the iconic 90s hit, “Strawberry Wine.”
She started to write her first songs in high school when she had major crushes on boys and needed a way to confess her feelings without naming names. “I love love. And love always influenced how I would write,” she exclaims.
Fast forward to when she was a waitress in New York City at a fish and chips shop, Binder would save up for trips down to Nashville where she would attend songwriter nights, record demos, and go to The Bluebird Cafe. She remembers seeing one of the writer’s on Garth Brooks’ song “The Dance” perform the song. “The words of ‘The Dance,’ to him, mean something totally different than when the artist sings it,” she explains. “It blew me away.” After witnessing that performance, she began to think about how she could be a better songwriter as well as a better performer. “I still think of Nashville as grad school,” she says as she lets out a laugh.
A full-circle, almost movie-like moment came for Binder when she was working on her first project in Nashville with Luke Wooten. “One of the songs I got to record was ‘Easy to Remember.’ I looked at who one of the writers was and it was Matraca Berg. I couldn’t believe I was singing one of her songs,” she explains. Berg is one of the writers on “Strawberry Wine.” One evening, she went to a clothing store and the only other person there with her was Berg. “I was like ‘Oh my god I feel like I need to say something.’” She told Berg about how she was going to record one of her songs and they proceeded to go into a dressing room together where Binder played her the demo.
Her most recent single “A Lot Like Home” was written about five to six years ago. “I wrote it with three other people,” she tells us. “I love how much life has been lived between writing the song and doing the music video which we did last month.” When she wrote the song, she had just put her first offer on an apartment with her husband. Her friend and co-writer Benji and his wife were also expecting their first child together. “We were like ‘Let’s write a song about firsts,’” she says.
Since first writing the song, Benji and his wife have now had two kids together and his wife survived breast cancer. The two other co-writers on the song, who were just friends at the time, are now married and have two kids as well. Binder and her husband have also had a child within that time frame.
When CMT heard the song, they asked Binder to film a music video in order for them to support it. For the music video, Binder was on the lookout for actors but ended up using Benji’s wife, Andrea, as one of the leads since she had always dreamed of being in a video. “On the day of the shoot, I’m thinking about Andrea, the life she’s lived in the past five years, having two kids, surviving breast cancer, and now she gets to be on a music video set,” Binder says emotionally. “I still get choked up.”
When she saw the video premiere on CMT, with her fellow co-writers, it was a dream come true. “Being an artist is a roller coaster ride, literally. There are times where there are huge highs, there are times where you’re in the waiting,” she explains. “So I am just so excited to come out of the pandemic on a validating high.” The video has since amassed over 25,000 views on YouTube.
For the rest of 2021, Binder plans on touring later this month. She’s also part of an online talk show called “TALENT TALK” where she interviews some of her favorite artists and they discuss what it’s like to be songwriters and performers. She’s also planning to release her next single in September.
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