Bio

Our Story

Jake Riley and the Social Workers is a lyrically-driven, melodic rock band from Ann Arbor, MI. Affectionately described once as "The Georgia Satellites meets Soul Asylum," the Social Workers combine power pop hooks of The Knack and Matthew Sweet, 90s twangy rock of Son Volt and Cracker, and the punk rock ethos of Fugazi.


Weary of lazy lyrical content, Riley channels big ideas through relatable images and witty turns of phrase, drawing language from his literary background and blurring the boundaries between high art and everyday life. 

Riley is a native Michigander left out too long in southern suns. While in graduate school in Gainesville, FL, home of Tom Petty and punk rock legend Hot Water Music, he focused on playing open mics every week (rather than writing his dissertation). At that open mic, he met songwriter/guitarist Lance Howell and together they formed the alt-country rock band, Big Shoals, a nationally touring act sharing the stage with (among others) Rhett Miller (Old 97s), Patterson Hood (Drive By Truckers), Cory Branan, and James McMurtry. 

In 2015, Riley moved back to Michigan and decided it was time to listen to all those people who told him at open mics that he "should have a band." Riley and Dan Leonard met in 2016. Leonard, an actual social worker, has played drums since high school. He's been in several bands since then; most recently, The Kingsleys. Leonard enlisted his social worker colleague David Zeman to play the bass guitar. Zeman, a native Georgian, had cut his musical chops in the Atlanta and Athens scene. Zeman moved from a hippie commune, became a social worker, and found meaning in four strings. In 2018, the Social Workers added Riley's longtime friend and musical collaborator, Ryan Teachout. A natural lead guitarist, Teachout is a songwriter in his own right, and took the arrangements and the band's live show to the next level. 

Riley is an avid local music fan. You will run into him at other shows, in the front of the stage, beer in hand, banging his head to his favorite bands and friends. Riley and Social Workers LOVE to play live and they show it every moment on stage.