Every week, I will be profiling an extraordinary human being who lives in our community. If you know someone who is doing something interesting with their life, I want to hear about it. Send me an email at [email protected]
He’s sort of the quiet type but give him a guitar and he’ll come completely out of his shell.
He’s been a transport truck driver, worked at Hydro One and is currently learning the ropes in carpentry. He can play the bass, a bit of the drums and the mandolin. When it comes down to who he is, Riley Towns is a great musician. And like most musicians, he will tell you making music is his greatest escape.
The 29-year-old singer/songwriter (who turns 30 tomorrow) was born and raised in Huntsville. His father, Milton, was the one who exposed Towns to what music is all about. His love for playing old Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard songs rubbed off on his son. (To this day, he still listens to the good, old stuff as opposed to modern country. That doesn’t appeal to him as much.)
“I remember my dad playing the guitar and singing and that’s pretty much what I grew up to,” says Towns in his usual soft-spoken tone, and he seems a bit nervous talking about himself. “My parents bought me a guitar when I was about nine and then down the road he taught me how to play.”
When Towns was 11, he got his first gig in a bar playing with his dad’s band. The lead guitarist didn’t show and Town’s dad had faith that his son could fill the role. He went on playing in bars many times before he was even a teenager.
“Things were a bit different back then,” he says with a laugh.
Shortly after that, he got some guitar lessons under his belt and started writing his own songs. By the time Towns was 19 he had written five or six and from there he just started writing everything that was on his mind. He figured he had a handful worth playing in public.
“If I write it and don’t like it I throw it out.”
“If I write it and don’t like it I throw it out,” he says. “I just wrote two songs last night. They’re sitting on my coffee table at home.”
Towns has become a requested favourite in town. He plays at stag and does, weddings, and parties and can always get the crowd moving just as much with his original tunes as he can with the older classics. Last year, he won a talent show at Palmer Rapids in Algonquin Park and admits he didn’t even want to perform. He has since thanked his friend for making him take the stage. He’s played at the Sprucedale Hotel dozens of times and keeps getting asked back, a sure sign that he’s a crowd pleaser.
“It’s a little more tame there than it used to be.”
He covers everything from The Eagles to Johnny Cash. Towns has also teamed up with other well-known local musicians like Tobin Spring and Bill Stewart.
Two years ago, Towns produced and released a country CD from his home in Huntsville. Clearly, he’s a bit of a romantic and he knows how to write a good love song. He has another CD in the works, but he’s having some technical difficulties with his computer and programs so anyone anticipating a release will just have to wait.
In the meantime, if you love Riley Towns, you might just have to do some digging to find out what local bar he’s playing at next.