Philip Riley was born on Tyneside, England and spent most of his school years in York. Involved in music from an early age, he started in bands at age 15, initially as a guitarist in pop bands, then as a drummer. Riley had some formal piano training, but not until he was 18 and, in his own words "… too infatuated with the instrument to restrict myself to that weeks classical piece - I must have driven my old teacher crazy. I was always more fascinated by what I could find myself, which my teacher saw as a curse, but has since proved a blessing".
He also had two years formal drum and percussion training, but most of his skills in playing, arranging and producing are self-taught.
After completing a B.Sc. degree in Biology and Biochemistry (Manchester), Riley started as a brewer and plant chemist for a New Zealand company. He then completed a teaching diploma and started teaching biology, science, and music while playing in bands at night and on weekends.
The move into the recording industry followed his growing fascination with synthesizers and the technology of recording. Eventually he resigned from teaching to set up his own commercial recording studio Life of Riley Studios. Riley got to know Jon Mark of White Cloud Records when Jon was producing his band. Jon asked him to write an album for White Cloud in 1993, which led to the series of Celtic and World music albums, including The Blessing Tree and Celtic Visions and Voices with vocalist Jayne Elleson.
When asked about his musical influences the list is long and eclectic, from Sting and Bonny Raitt through to Enya, Dido and Jon Mark. New favourites include Elbow, Fleet Foxes, Madeleine Peyroux, David Gray, Rifus Wainwright and Alison Krauss.
He describes himself as, "an unusual blend of the romantic and the hopelessly sensible - probably the combination that allows me to start albums from a kernel of inspiration and go on to finish them 6 to 9 months later in a mass of practical, tightly arranged detail."
With musical partner Jayne Elleson on stunning Celtic albums like 'The Blessing Tree', or on genre-crossing World Music and Jazz albums, Riley's exceptional gift for melody and harmony shine through
Philip Riley lives with his wife Jane in a house overlooking Wellington harbour, where he writes and produces for New Zealand and Australian artists, composes, records and edits for projects as diverse as the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and children's music for schools. "Every day is different musically, so it's a wonderful life".
- The Ascent of Jazz
- The Blessing Tree
- Celtic Visions & Voices
- The Challice & the Changeling
- Secret Egypt
- A Pattern of Land
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