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The story of Niles Levi Rivers begins in a Cleveland church, where his father was a pastor. Niles grew up playing bass and drums for the church choir, and singing whenever he could. As the youngest of five children, Niles and his older brother were both introduced by their father to the music of Ahmad Jamal, Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke and John Pattitucci by the time they were ten years old. “These were the guys I wanted to emulate, they were my celebrities!” he says. Niles’ father would provide musical instruments for his kids to play jazz around the house, insisting that they practice each day before they could go outside. Often their friends’ noses were pressed up against the living room windows, watching them perform before they could come out to play.
Throughout high school, Niles played double bass in his school’s jazz combo. Combo students wrote original music for themselves to perform, including playing regularly in the assemblies and competitions at other schools. Through these experiences and an encouraging band director, Niles launched his journey as a singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who began using his voice as an instrument to speak life into the world.
After graduation, Niles began developing skills in pop music production, inspired by a diverse range of artists from Prince to Bruce Hornsby and beyond. “Shawn Colvin’s song ‘Polaroids’ showed me that you could sing songs to the world, not just about love but about life. Storytelling. That’s what made me want to sing life-giving songs that help someone, somehow along the way.” Today, Niles’ mission is to share his gifts by telling life stories through the musicality of jazz influencing the popular music of his generation.