Remy Reilly is used to pouring her soul into subjects that she hasn't experienced directly. Her first EP, released in 2018, was heavy on love songs about imagined relationships.
Her newest release, the single "Just Stop," also touches on a theme that she hasn't lived firsthand. While Reilly's family is unusually functional — almost Ingalls-like in their mutual support — she still felt the bruises she saw frequently on her school friend's face.
It was the sixth grade, and Reilly's friend often lied about getting in fights to explain injuries inflicted by her father. "He used to beat her and abuse her in every way possible — like physically and mentally," Reilly remembers.
It took Reilly years to realize the dark truth masked by her friend's white lies. "It seems like I was the only one who was there for her at many times," she says.
That time period stayed with Reilly, planting the seed for "Just Stop," which grew to take on the broader subject of widespread domestic abuse.
"It was also inspired by the way that men sometimes treat women and the effects of that, that it has on a woman's brain," Reilly says. "It's all based around that one story of my friend, but I also shaped the song to where it can relate to women, too, because domestic violence happens to everybody."
Reilly says she kept the lyrics vague, because she didn't want her friend to know the song was about her, and wrote the song from a woman's perspective. With lyrics like, "You remind me of waking up late," the bittersweet ballad resonates like a love song.
"It's supposed to come off that way," Reilly says. "I want them to take it however way they want that helps them best."
Reilly's deeply personal lyrics and soul-pop vocals have mass appeal. Her confident presence and humble, bright-eyed ambition have given her a place as a popular force attracting big names in the Dallas scene. She's currently recording with producer Matt Pence, and her upcoming EP features two songs with Sarah Jaffe, who guest-sings in addition to playing guitar and keys. The quarantine isn't stopping Reilly from collaborating with other local favorites, like folk-rocker Ryan Berg, with whom she's working long distance on a cover of "Best Part" by Daniel Caesar.
While other kids spend their time rehashing social media woes, the wise-beyond-her-years singer, who's now 16, doesn't have room for frivolity, at least not in her music. She's ready to tackle societal problems one lyric at a time. Earlier this year, Reilly released an uptempo, feminist anthem, "Burn."
Her friend is doing better these days, Reilly says.
"Her situation may still be going on, but not to the extent that it did when we were children. They're doing a lot better in her family, and they're getting help."
But Reilly is concerned with the spikes in abuse due to the quarantine and the lack of resources in women's shelters. She's planning a fundraising live broadcast to collect donations for domestic-abuse shelters.
"They need all the help they can get for the women and children who are at those shelters," Reilly says. "They don't have enough donations and need a lot of help."
The teenager is quick to count her own blessings, even at this time. She looks at the bright side — like the fact that she's been able to spend more time with her brother.
"It's affected me in many ways, ways I didn't even expect." Reilly says of the current state of the world. "It feels really weird not performing every week, and definitely online schooling has been a change ... the social aspect of it, but honestly I'm very lucky."
Reilly says her mom recently reminded her that as a young musician, she didn't have the same struggles of those who depend exclusively on playing in order to pay the bills.
"I know that I'm not struggling as much as others," she says with gratitude. "I'm still in my mom's house. I'm very grateful I don't have to worry about those sorts of things."
Many musicians have organized online open mics, and Reilly continues to participate by performing whenever she can.
"It feels really nice seeing that our community is still pushing through with everything that's going on," she says. "It's amazing to see the community in Dallas is still willing to support everybody and be there for each other."
Listen to "Just Stop" below: