While at Barn on the Farm 2015, we were delighted to speak with English singer-songwriter RHODES to discuss performing with an orchestra, headlining tours, and violin. Get acquainted in our exclusive interview below before the release of his new record Wishes (out this September) and 2015 Wishes Tour.
AMBY: Hello from Barn on the Farm Festival 2015! We’re here with Rhodes. How are you doing today?
RHODES: I’m good thank you, very well.
AMBY: Good. You are on the Main Stage today, are you excited?
RHODES: I’m so excited, yea. It feels like there’s a lot to live up to, the sort of legacy of Barn on the Farm.
AMBY: What is the legacy here for you?
RHODES: The fact that so many huge artists have played here over the years. I was looking back through the posters. I’ve looked at them before, but I was just looking again in the van on the way and it’s like.. wow, crazy.
AMBY: Yea, of course. Your single, ‘Close Your Eyes’ is out… today! How excited have you been about that?
RHODES: I’m very excited. I think that it feels a bit strange at the moment because my album is done, it’s out for pre-orders and [Close Your Eyes] is kind of the first taster of what we can expect. It feels good, [the album] has been two years in the making.
AMBY: With ‘Close Your Eyes’, what is the underlying meaning with that song?
RHODES: The underlying meaning of the song is about being there for one another and helping people through hard times and overcoming fears. The song started out with my fear of performing and I had a really, sort of, very strange and intense fear of singing before I started doing this. Overcoming it was really hard and luckily, I had close friends and people to help me through it. It feels a bit silly thinking back on it now. I just want all my friends and family to know that I am always there for them too. We’ve all got fears and things that we want to overcome in life and I think it’s important to be there for each other, you know?
AMBY: Yea, that’s a really great message. Also, DJ Annie Mac of BBC Radio 1 chose it as her Hottest Record. How did you celebrate that?
RHODES: High fives all around. That’s how I celebrated it.
AMBY and RHODES: [laughs]
AMBY: And you performed it at a recent Burberry runway show with a 24-piece orchestra. How was that? And how did that come about?
RHODES: I’ve been lucky enough to do a few things with Burberry in the past and I think Christopher Bailey’s got a few songs and he asked me to do it. It’s an amazing thing to be asked to do. I’ve never played with an orchestra and it was mind-blowing. It was cool.
AMBY: Back to your debut album now, it’s called ‘Wishes’ which is out in September.
AMBY: Can you tell us more about the songwriting process around the album?
RHODES: Yea. Well two years ago now I properly first started writing. I started to write about my fears and the anxiety of moving forward as a solo artist – something I found it quite hard to do. I sort of talk a lot about love in it as well, but not romantic love really, just the love we have for our friends and family and people we leave behind in life and people we get back in touch with over time. Also, ‘Close Your Eyes’ holds quite a strong sentiment for the album. It’s important to just help each other and be there for each other and that’s what I sort of talk about in the album.
AMBY: That’s great. If you could curate your own music festival, who would be a part of it?
RHODES: Coldplay has got to be the headliner. I think they’re one of my favourite bands of all time. They’ve just got such a good history. All their albums are amazing. I’m not quite up to date yet. I take a while to get through … but yea, them and the National. I think I’d vary it up a bit. So I like big pop acts, but I also like bands like Grizzly Bear and Beach House and people like that. So I’d need another stage and a Pyramid stage, something like that.
AMBY: Would you be in this festival?
RHODES: Erm.. I’d have to be, I think yea. Just for the fun.
AMBY and RHODES: [laughs]
AMBY: You have a UK tour coming up.
AMBY: How are you feeling about that?
RHODES: I think it’s going to be a lot of fun. It’s the biggest shows I would’ve done as a headline artist. It’s going to be really cool and I’m really excited about getting to the rehearsals and try to make the show big.
AMBY: How are you finding performing now as it sounds like you’ve been through a lot in the last two years.
RHODES: Performing for me was something which took a while for me to get used to. I spent a lot of time, a lot of time writing, a lot of time getting comfortable with singing. I think after the first couple of shows, it just got easier and easier. Now I’m able to more lose myself in it and be on stage how I imagined it would be like on stage. Now I’ve got the band as well and I’m really able to create that atmosphere and tension and cinematic sound that I want. It’s much easier for me to get lost in it. Yea, I’m really enjoying it now. It’s not like I never really enjoyed it before, it’s just that I was out of my comfort zone and the nerves – you can get overwhelmed by nerves. That’s kind of scary.
AMBY: Yea, you’ve been working on your album for the last two years, you want to make it good.
RHODES: Yea. Yea, that’s when the songwriting started. I’ve had four EPs so I’ve been very lucky in that. You don’t always get those opportunities to have this time to experiment. Me and James Kenosha, the producer of the album, we spent six months in a studio and just really got into it. A lot of it is very improvised and there were little bits of writing that I did while I was there and we put that on the album as well. We really got into it, so with the show, I want to try to capture that and make it loud.
AMBY: We’ve read that you’ve been really involved with the process. You wrote the violin music as well?
RHODES: Yea. I wanted it all to be from me. Improvisation is very important to me, because I think it’s nice to get lost in that moment and really capture something that is of the essence. With the strings, I got someone in who was very, very free. He’s an Irish fiddle player. I knew that he wouldn’t be constrained by… I think being classically trained can be amazing, but sometimes you can’t just like whistle something to somebody and they play it. I can’t read or write music, you know the notation, so I was just humming things to this guy and I let him be free on it. And then we just create these atmospheres, so I wanted to get right into it. With the drums, James wrote most of the drums, but we would jam and I would just play the songs and we would go through things that we’d like. Yea, so I think it was a real cool time. It was very creative.
AMBY: What do you do before a gig to calm yourself down and to get ready for your performances?
RHODES: I like to spend mainly 15 minutes all on my own and I like to warm up my voice quite a lot because there is still that real doubt there because your voice is so fragile. You’ve got to look after it, but it’s hard sometimes when you go out and you want to have fun and you stay up all night.
AMBY: It is difficult, we’ve been shouting and screaming at all the acts we’ve seen but we need to look after it for these interviews!
AMBY and RHODES: [laughs]
RHODES: Yea, totally. You’ve got to look after it. I like to spend a lot of time just like… I don’t know, my mum says it’s meditating but I don’t think it is. It’s kind of just like taking some deep breaths, having a tea, doing some warm ups and zoning out. I think it’s really important to leave things behind before you walk on stage. If you’re stressed or worried about something or are scared of something or you’ve had an argument with someone, just try to leave that behind before you walk on.
AMBY: It can be reflected in your performance. Do you take post-gig traditions as seriously?
RHODES: Not really. I don’t know. It’s perhaps something that might come into play a bit further down the line, but I think I’m very analytical of the way things go. I often walk off stage and rack my brains about what happened and what went on and write notes down. I try to ask everyone who saw the gig what they thought could be improved and things like that. But it’s just in my nature to be like that, to be a bit of a perfectionist. I’m my own worst critic as well.
AMBY and RHODES: [laughs]
RHODES: No, I just try to kind of chill, just let it happen.
AMBY: And to wrap up this interview, what advice would you give most of A Music Blog, Yea?’s readers who are up and coming artists?
RHODES: I just think believe in yourself and believe in your own identity and try to be true to yourself. Use the platforms that are out there that are so helpful for new artists like BBC Introducing and stuff like that.
AMBY: Thank you very much for taking the time to do this interview.
RHODES: Thank you. My pleasure.
Thank you RHODES, for giving us your answers!
Interview by Jane Jimenez | @bporthos