John Shearer

Riley Roth's Cover of Holiday Standard 'Silver Bells' Caps Off Bittersweet Year

One of country music's most gifted young singer-songwriters, Riley Roth, adds to 2019's holiday playlist—and bids adieu to the year in which she lost one of her musical mentors— with her jazzy, big-voiced rendition of "Silver Bells."

"When I hear ("Silver Bells"), I get excited for the Christmas season," Roth told Medium. "I can picture the hustle and bustle on city streets, from people out shopping and getting ready for Christmas. There's a lot of "preparation" for Christmas — preparing for Christ's birth, preparing for Santa, for the gifts we give each other, and most of all, preparing our hearts. The bells represent to me the ringing of bells by the Salvation Army to help the less fortunate. You can feel it all in the air, just as the song says."

Roth first made a name for herself as a teenager through monthly trips with her mom from their native Pennsylvania to Nashville. By age 18, Roth had graduated from high school early and moved to Music City. Soon after, the late songwriter and producer busbee landed her a joint publishing deal with himself and BMG. In 2018, she became the first signee of busbee's Warner Brothers-affiliated record label and management venture, Altadena.

"Riley has that rare ability to communicate directly to listeners at every level, and to her peers in particular," busbee said in a press release. "It's a product of her heart, her dedication, her skill and her work ethic, and when an artist can marry those traits with the right songs and records, anything is possible."

This year became a bittersweet one for Roth. On the plus side, debut singles "I Did This To Myself" and "Friendly" introduced new ears to her work. However, 43-year-old busbee's battle against Glioblastoma, a form of brain cancer, ended on Sept. 29. His passing claimed not just Roth's most visible supporter but also a go-to cowriter and producer for Maren Morris, Keith Urban, Carrie Underwood, Lady Antebellum, Carly Pearce and other hitmakers.

"Anyone who had the pleasure of and honor to work with busbee will say not only did he teach us about music, but also about life," Riley told Medium. "busbee was not only a musical genius, but he was brilliant in so many other ways. He was passionate about his family and friends. You could feel it when he spoke of them. busbee was a perfectionist, but also encouraging and motivating. He took time with people. He was a Godly man, and I have no doubt he's making beautiful music in a much more beautiful place."

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