She’s a young, blonde, guitar-playing singer who pens poppy tunes. Comparisons are so obvious that Riordan Stewart-McDougall preempts them.
“I used to listen to a lot of Taylor Swift,” the Geelong teenager freely admits. “That shows in my music today.”
At age 8, Riordan was a serious and promising ballet dancer. But at 12, she made the tough decision to give it up and dedicate herself to music.
Soon after, the preteen picked up a brown, $10 op shop guitar that her mum had bought for her older brother. She taught herself to play using chord sheets and YouTube videos.
Riordan hasn’t looked back.
“I’ve always been a ‘just go do it’ kind of person,” she affirms. “If I want something, I’ll do it, I’ll get it.”
In her early teens, Riordan became “obsessed” with seeing a recording studio. It was her cousin Glen who turned these recording dreams into reality.
When she played him her original song, “Find Yourself”, he was stunned by her talent. Glen, a drummer, took her to a studio and helped lay down her first LP in what was a strange but fun experience for the 14 year old. That record bears the name of the track that so impressed him.
Now armed with her signature pink guitar, Riordan played her first live shows at church and for Westfield’s Giveability Day. This year, after releasing her Made of Diamond EP in January, she performed at the Forest Edge Music Festival in March and played her own concert in April. Most recently she has appeared at the Royal Geelong Show.
The teenager enjoys performing but admits that she does get nervous and often starts shaking when she’s about to get on stage. Her audiences’ response to her music, swaying in the crowd and providing positive feedback, has encouraged her as a performer.
But Riordan’s greatest passion is songwriting. Inspired by artiste Moriah Peters and bands Switchfoot, Simple Minds and BarlowGirl, she loves experimenting with lyrics and using her songs as a platform for sharing her faith. She wants the message of Jesus to be audible to anyone listening to her music.
Of the title track of her EP, Riordan explains that it is “about how with God nothing is impossible. Luke 1:37 – I love that verse because it gives me hope, it’s just such a strong verse. The song is basically about how you’re made of diamond and you’re unbreakable, you’re bulletproof and God’s on your side.”
The song is a declaration of confidence in a strong and faithful God, however rough things may get. While the pace is relaxed and melody gentle, the lyrics are bold and resolute. This, perhaps, is the most distinctive feature of Riordan’s songwriting – sweet acoustic tunes expressing great conviction.
Riordan has been following Jesus since she was 9 and sees God’s hand everywhere in her life. She is conscious of the many blessings in her life, especially her supportive parents, her four siblings, her home schooling, her years as a dancer which taught her so much about music, and the opportunities which have begun to come her way as a singer songwriter.
Still only 18, Riordan will be the first to admit she has a lot to learn. As a musician, she is getting used to the sound of her own recorded voice and is keen to work on her vocals and develop as a lyricist.
But she’s excited about the future: “I love seeing what God has in store for me.”
And while she waits on God, Riordan’s growing audience will no doubt love seeing what she has in store for them in the coming years.
Riordan’s EP “Made of Diamond” is available now on iTunes.