Owen Riegling: Small-town country music star

(Courtesy of Matt Berinato)

Owen Riegling, a singer and songwriter from the small town of Mildmay, Ontario, was the winner of the 2022 Emerging Artists Showcase at the Canadian Country Music Festival, Boots & Hearts. Starting from playing at small bars to national festivals, Riegling’s career is just beginning.

Playing at the biggest country music festival in Canada, Riegling shares, “Boots & Hearts was one of the craziest experiences in my career so far, I owe so much to that festival for giving me the jump I needed. Those bars we used to play pre-Boots were a great way to cut our teeth and get in front of rowdy crowds night after night.”

When asked what it is about country music, and in particular his music, and why it touches so many people, Riegling says, “It’s honest music. I think that’s why country music connects with so many people. It’s about everyday life and simple things.”

Riegling’s music tends to have a strong contemporary draw, resonating with both those who grew up in small-town Ontario and those who did not. “I tend to write a lot of songs about where and how I was raised, it’s the biggest part of who I am,” Riegling explains. Mildmay and its people have a special place in his heart. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without all the love and support I’ve received from them.” 

His passion for music began as a child with his Walkman and stacks of his parents’ burned CDs: “Those CDs had everything from Steve Miller Band, Dave Matthews to Green Day, Eminem … I discovered country music a little bit later with artists like Eric Church. I think this is what makes me want to explore different sounds and recreate that feeling I got as a kid listening to new music.” To this day, he is inspired by a large variety of musicians and genres of music.

Riegling keeps an active lyric log at hand on his phone for any ideas or potential inspirations. He then will play around with his guitar to match the feelings of those inspirations and ideas. Sometimes, he even draws inspiration from dreams.

His writing process is largely influenced by whether or not he is collaborating, commenting that, “It’s always different and that’s what makes it so much fun.”

For students who have similar artistic or creative goals, Reigling encourages them to “never stop writing, never stop playing. I’m just a kid from Mildmay who liked to play guitar. I don’t know how I got here, but I always knew this is where I wanted to be.”

Click here to learn more about Riegling and here to listen to “Old Dirt Roads” from his album of the same name.

About the Author

By Kaila Gallacher

Former Editor

Kaila is a poet and writer in her fourth year at York, studying Creative Writing and the Humanities. She is Editor-in-Chief of the Artichoke, a student-run magazine out of Winter’s College. She is passionate about highlighting the arts community here at York and in Toronto as a whole. She is particularly interested in how art can be a mode of expression and how it can inspire personal, social, and political change. When Kaila's not reading, writing, or editing she is an avid hiker and photographer.


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