Taking a ‘Risk’: Piper Page breaks into the music scene
Steinhardt junior Piper Page talks singing, songwriting, moving from town to city and her plans for the future.
Nov 22, 2021
Piper Page emerges onscreen in a floor-length red dress that looks like it was plucked from a 1920s movie premiere. Her lips are painted a coordinated shade, her hair styled in finger waves and her forearms clad in stark white gloves. The look is complete with vintage-style pearls around her neck and an old-fashioned microphone in her hand. Only the song’s upbeat rhythm and the intermittent shots of Page in more modern attire remind us that it is, in fact, the 21st century.
Although she might look it, Page is not a Hollywood starlet — yet. Currently in her third year at Steinhardt’s music business program, Page has released four songs and a music video. The music video, which echoes 1920s allure, was directed by Tisch student Irina Lazouski and made for Page’s most recent song, “Risk,” released May 21.
As the title suggests, the song is about taking chances. Page sings about opening up to someone in a new relationship, the excitement of falling for a person and the fear of vulnerability: “It’s too new to catch feelings / and if I take / that step towards you / will my heart break?” But the soulful R&B song isn’t just about budding relationships and baring your soul to someone.
“‘Risk’ can pertain to anybody,” Page said. “I want my audience to take what they need from my songs and run with it.”
About a year after writing the song — and shelving it — she started living the lyrics of “Risk,” entering a new relationship and feeling hesitant about the vulnerability that comes with trusting another person. But even after the lyrics had seemed to jump off the paper into Page’s life, the song spent almost another year untouched. Then, as these lyrics rang true, they started to demand her attention.
“I sit down at my piano, and there’s typically one song that sticks out to me and that’s what I start playing to get inspired to write other songs,” Page said. “And so for a couple months, ‘Risk’ became that song that I would sit down and play.”
Though she felt that releasing the song was a risk in and of itself, it proved to be a turning point for her career, ultimately marking her decision to pursue music professionally.
Despite looking like a red carpet fixture in her glamorous music video appearance, Page has not always envisioned herself in the spotlight.
“I was so, so dead-set on being the person behind the scenes because I didn’t think I was what people wanted to see at the forefront,” Page said. “It’s only recently that we actually appreciate Black women and value their bodies and who they are and their musical talents.”
Page grew up in the arts: dancing, acting, performing in musical theater and, of course, singing. By 12, she had written her first song and began vocal lessons. As a high school student, Page interned at a nearby recording studio, Darkroom Records. It was here that the idea of being a performer first caught her interest.
“I saw all these other kids my age doing this and putting out their own music,” Page said. “I was like, ‘It’s literally my job to help them do this. Why am I not helping myself?’”
In 2019, Page released an eponymous EP comprising three songs she had written between the ages of 15 and 16. Looking back, Page acknowledges that her work was good for a teenager with little life experience, but knows now that it was just skimming the surface of her potential.
Even after dipping her toes into the music industry, she was still unsure about her place in it. Heading to NYU as a music business major, she resigned herself to sticking to the sidelines and creating music for other performers rather than for herself. Her uncertainty in pursuing music was compounded by a lack of life experience that put a damper on her creativity. It wasn’t until her first semester of college that she felt she had ground to stand on and something to say. She had moved north, from her Southern suburb to the city, and had met and learned from so many new people.
Two years of college have now granted her the necessary life experiences to fuel her songwriting. She has learned to better maneuver writing slumps and doesn’t believe that she always needs to have something to say or an experience to draw from in order to write music.
“‘Risk’ was not based on an experience the first time I wrote it,” Page said. “It became real for me later, and I think that that is completely valid to do as a songwriter.”
Risk has been a prevalent theme in Page’s journey, beginning with her move from a small college town in Missouri to New York City. In her hometown of Columbia, people often attend Missouri State University, live in the same neighborhoods after graduation, and marry a high school or college sweetheart.
“People don’t do what I’m doing where I’m from,” Page said. “They do the same things. It’s just so repetitive, and I always knew I didn’t want to do that.”
Hometown ties can be difficult to sever, though — she did not promote the release of her EP back in 2019, afraid that people back home would think she was trying too hard or question her desire to be a musician.
As I’m growing up, my confidence is growing.”
— Piper Page
She attributes this boost in confidence to the city she now lives in. Moving to New York City was a drastic change, but Page knows it was the right decision for her. It was in the music business program at NYU that she met Will Campisano and Jesse Bluu, who produced her single, as well as Gabi Grella, the Clive Davis student who mastered the song. Without her enrollment at Steinhardt and the resulting relationships, Page doubts that “Risk” would have ever happened.
Page has moved past her previous hesitation in promoting her music. Unlike with her first EP, she now unabashedly shares her music, frequently promoting her songs on Instagram and TikTok.
“Yeah, it may be annoying to people back home that I post every single day about my song, but you know what? I don’t care,” Page said. “I’m proud of my work and I should’ve been proud of my work back then.”
Though studying abroad in Florence, Italy, this semester, Page has no intention of slowing down now. Just last month, Page was featured on hip-hop artist C4. Bernard’s latest album, “Daydreaming.” She hopes to have three more songs out by the end of the year, and another EP come summer.
“There’s a lot of stuff coming up,” Page said. “I’m just so stoked for the next six months.”
A version of this story appeared in the Nov. 22, 2021, e-print edition. Contact Sydney Barragan at [email protected]