Students rush across Linden Lane, either running to their next class or trying to evade the freezing cold’s grasp as quickly as they possibly can. Teeth chatter and students shiver as they pass the golden Baldwin that sits upon its pillar perch.
While most people bundle up to the best of their ability, one student, Chris Dalla Riva, MCAS ’17, strips down to his flannel shirt and wades out into the snow in front of Bapst. He’s not too cool for the cold, but he realizes how much better the photo will look without his North Face pullover on. While he may be a singer-songwriter and guitarist, Dalla Riva’s artistic vision extends far beyond his musical talent.
Dalla Riva posted his first EP, I Want You To Know, on his Soundcloud page last summer. I Want You To Know is emblematic of Dalla Riva’s sound. It is small-band rock at its finest. The EP only has six tracks, but Dalla Riva has been writing and producing music for much longer than this would suggest. He’s been playing guitar, learning the piano, writing, and singing since he was in the seventh grade.
“I was never really confident in my abilities to play covers of songs I loved,” Dalla Riva said. “I figured if I can write my own song, there’s no possible way I can mess that up.” Since then, Dalla Riva has written over 50 of his own songs, and he doesn’t plan on slowing down anytime soon.
“I just want to play and write as long as I can,” he said. “You know, everyone would like a record deal. It’s always nice when you meet people that connect with your music or lyrics you’ve written. I’m focusing on building a fanbase of people that my music can touch in some way or another, as cliche as that sounds.”
Invested isn’t a good enough description for Dalla Riva’s relationship with his craft and process—“absorbed” works much better. He enjoys working through and adding his own touch to themes and narratives that have existed in music throughout its entire history. “You always come back to same tropes people have been writing about forever: love, youth, and escape,” Dalla Riva said. “I won’t stick to these exclusively, but I see that my view on these themes has shifted drastically even in the last five years, and I think they probably do for most everyone.”
One of the first things you notice when talking with Dalla Riva is that he exudes confidence. It doesn’t come off as superficial. He just knows what’s talking about, and he doesn’t have to dance around a subject to get to his point. A conversation with Dalla Riva is especially refreshing. He’s not afraid to admit where he’s gone wrong in his music career, or promote what he thinks are his strong suits as a musician.
“The last couple years have been about trying to find the right group to bring an idea I have to life,” he said. “Relationships can be fickle, and it’s difficult to find people who agree with what you believe in musically and not only that you agree, but also that you work well together too.”
While Dalla Riva has gained and lost band members over the years, his friend and trumpeter, Peter Julian, CSOM ’16, has been a steady collaborator whom Dalla Riva has involved heavily in creative process. “I usually write a song, bring it to Pete, and then we work an arrangement with just the guitar, vocals, and trumpet,” Dalla Riva said. “Then we’ll bring it to a bass player and a drummer because the hardest part is working at a trumpet line. Playing live though, you really only need Pete and I.”
It’s intriguing to talk with Dalla Riva about his interests outside of music. He’s a co-producer for BCTV’s comedy division and often works with BC’s comedy teams to develop and broadcast comedy specials. He’s an avid film fan and reader who can go off a tangent on any of his favorite stories (George Lucas’ American Graffiti and Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea). It’s difficult to encapsulate Chris Dalla Riva in a nutshell. There are endless amount of inspirational and sophisticated quotes that he whips out on a whim. He’s both mysterious and entirely approachable, just like his music sounds.
Some may think he’s more inclined toward studying the arts, but Dalla Riva’s actually a mathematics and economics double major. He has a very unique view of the relationship between his studies and his musical career.
“People usually think math and music are such divergent paths, but to me it’s a very similar process that you go through with both,” he said. “They share a general form. You’re doing something different when you work in either, but with both you’re facing a creative problem and you need to solve it in a novel way. To me, music, math, and economics come together in a really nice way, despite their apparent differences.”
Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Editor