An Ohio native, Richey’s passion for music was sparked early on in her great aunt’s record shop where she’d scour the bins and soak it all in. She took up the guitar in high school and, while studying environmental education and sociology at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, she played in a band with Bill Lloyd. But it didn’t stick… not right away.
After Kentucky, Richey worked in nature centers in Colorado and Ohio and traveled to Sweden and South America. She eventually landed in Bellingham, Washington, where she worked as a cook while her boyfriend went to grad school. Their deal was, she got to decide where they went after he graduated. One night in 1988, some old friends — Bill Lloyd and Radney Foster — rolled through town. She sold t-shirts at their gig, and they talked up Nashville. To drive the point home, Lloyd sent her a tape with Steve Earle and others on it. So taken by the songwriting, Richey and her partner loaded up their Ford F150 and headed to Music City.
In Nashville, Richey cooked at the famed Bluebird Cafe and gigged around town at writers’ nights. At a show one night at 12th & Porter, Mercury Records’ Luke Lewis approached her. In classic Richey fashion, she didn’t know who he was. Still, she went to a meeting with him and Keith Stegall, played one song, talked a lot, and got a record deal at the musical home of Billy Ray Cyrus and Shania Twain.