Festivals 2015: The Great Escape – Rag’n’Bone Man Q&A

Soul/Blues troubadour talks new material ahead of his Friday show at the Corn Exchange

ragnbone 2 Local talent and self-penned ‘hip-hop soul blues funk’ singer who has played support for Bastille took to the Corn Exchange on the Friday of The Great Escape, to a rousing reception. Bearded, tattooed and well over six feet tall, the physically imposing yet entirely charming Rory Graham is making waves with his rich, resonant tales of angst and passion. Over a cigarette out the back of Brighton Dome, Rory talks to Chris Owen about recording in America, returning home, and avoiding The Great Escape in the past.

What direction have you found your debut album has taken, given that you cover a lot of bases with your already released music?

It’s a continuation really. We’ve been recording in Nashville, and my immediate focus is always just how good the songs are. A lot of them are still just a case of a piano and a voice. And I like that because it means you can go anywhere with it, but also that the song has to be really good to start with.  You can’t bullshit it with strings bits or vocals. It has to be good.

And you’ve done a lot of support too, so it must be exciting to get out there and do a solo tour.

Yeah, totally. I’ve just finished a second solo tour recently, and it’s just great to be out there doing it. The EP [Disfigured] seems to have gone down well too, which is great.

I was speaking to Sunset Sons yesterday, who recorded in Nashville recently too – did you catch the ice storm?

It was horrendous. Some of the worst weather I’ve ever seen. It was minus 70 – my beard was frozen solid, and I spent most of the time in the bar drinking whiskey.  The hotel was completely freezing.

So have you played TGE before, or is this your first time?

We didn’t really want to play it last year – there felt like a lot of pressure around it. You know what The Great Escape’s like – it’s a bit of a media frenzy. It’s nice coming back to play for some fans, without the same pressure. Now we’re just doing it because we want to do it.

And it’s a big slot too – 9:30 on the Friday night.

I know yeah. I’m hoping there’s going to be people there. I’m hoping it’s going to be packed out, but we’ll have to wait and see.

So you play around with a lot of soul and blues inspired stuff, which definitely seems to be having its moment. What are your thoughts on that movement?

I think it’s a great thing, and there’s loads of people out there doing it, who really have that backbone to their music. Hozier in particular has that backbone, obviously – he’s got a lot of blues influences, a lot of soul inspired stuff. Paolo Nutini too, with that ‘Iron Skies’ song. The whole album [Caustic Love], in fact, was really soul inspired – loads of Otis Redding influence, with a bit of hip hop in there too. Yeah, I’m really impressed with the amount of people who are coming out with really good soul.

So in respect of that, if you had to describe the shape of your album in a few sentences, how would you do that?

I used to listen to a lot of hip-hop, and I continue to do so. And I still think there’s a ground that hasn’t been covered, not just within that genre, but by taking something old and something very new and working them into something interesting. And hopefully that’ll translate onto the record. This record’s trying to capture something that’s ahead of its time – Gnarls Barkley, Florence and the Machine, stuff like that. I’m terrible at explaining what the album’s going to sound like, but it’s essentially going to be very gospel and soul influenced.

Did you end up collaborating with the guys from Bastille on this record?

Not on this album, no. But I will definitely work with them at some point. I did a track on their mixtape and I’ll probably do something with them again at some point in the future. At the moment it’s all about getting the album done, and getting it out there.

Catch Rag’n’Bone Man during the festival season ahead – he’ll be appearing at Dot to Dot, Parklife, Standon Calling and Lovebox, among others.


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