Emergenza Best Drummer award winner Riley O’Connor is releasing his debut solo album co-produced by Christian Anderson in late 2021. His knack for catchy melodic hooks combined with vivid imagery leads to music described as experimental pop-rock with a classic vibe.
As a collaborator, O’Connor recently contributed lyrics and drums to Maple Blues nominee Chris Antonik’s upcoming album produced by Juno winner Derek Downham. Touring with Antonik led to performing twice with Buddy Guy in Chicago. He has also recorded with ISC award winning children’s artist Matt Gerber and 2-time NOW Magazine Best Producer Harrison Fine.
O’Connor may be best known as a member of the heavy rock band Braintoy that earned Lionsgate Film and CBC Television licensing credits, received rock radio airplay, and opened for one of VH1’s 100 Greatest Artists of Hard Rock Kings X.
Growing up in the small town of St. Marys, Ontario, Canada, O’Connor began studying piano at 7 and switched to drums at age 10. This led to starting a band soon after and getting involved in music theatre productions. A mental health crisis in his late teens forced him to spend a difficult extra year in his hometown before moving to Toronto to study jazz performance at Humber College. Around this time O’Connor played on a cruise ship in Europe, was performing for audiences over 15,000 with a Garth Brooks Tribute and opening for Honeymoon Suite and Billy Ray Cyrus.
Riley was driven to record and release his own music after meeting his wife, filmmaker Courtney O’Connor, who is now co-producing his music videos. She encouraged him to get back into writing after a 5 year hiatus where he was consumed with playing drums for other artists yet often feeling unfulfilled creatively. Re-visiting piano and vocal coaching were also strong motivators to achieve his artistic potential.
O’Connor is the songwriter performing vocals, drums and piano on 10 album tracks which also feature acclaimed electric-roots guitarist Michael Schatte and bassist Scott Kemp (Elizabeth Sheppard). Some of the songs and themes were in part triggered by real-life crisis where the character is loosely biographical but with the exaggeration and drama of a Dostoyevsky novel. Influences such as Steely Dan, Pink Floyd and Sloan may be evident to some listeners.
In addition to working on his solo project and music videos, Riley collaborates with Courtney O’Connor in the pop duo CR Extraordinaire.