We may have caught our first glimpse of the real Bill Ryder-Jones last year. With a second GIT Award nomination to his name, the songwriter’s reputation has never been stronger. Getintothis’ Alan O’Hare is caught up in a bad wind blowing from West Kirby.
The Coral. Arctic Monkeys. Soundtracks. Guitars.
Let’s get them all out of the way immediately and talk about the Bill Ryder-Jones who emerged in 2013: the songwriter.
In a year where support slots with Michael Head perhaps said more about him than another stint as Arctic Monkeys‘ touring guitarist, the West Kirby troubadour stepped out of the sandy shadows and introduced himself to his growing fan base as a songwriter.
Sure, arrangement and composition were still top of the bill. But, as the 11 tracks on A Bad Wind Blows In My Heart – released last year on Domino – revealed, Ryder-Jones is a classic Northern songwriter, in the tradition of, say, the aforementioned Mick Head.
But he also has the inherent self doubt and contradictions that such gifts bring. It’s a relief, then, to hear that the young Evertonian is still a fan of his latest work: “I really love the album and I’m very happy with it,” he reveals. “I still listen to it – which must mean something, as I never listen to If…”
If was the debut solo album that brought Ryder-Jones attention as a solo artist. A grandiose, Jon Brion-esque ‘imaginary soundtrack’ to Italo Calvino’s post-modernist novel, If On A Winters Night A Traveller, the music attracted plaudits across the board and the ex-Coral guitarist’s star was on the rise.
However, stung from being on the album release-promote-tour-record treadmill since he was a teenager, Ryder Jones retreated to his old bedroom, in the upstairs of his mother’s house, with a couple of friends from By The Sea, and created his best work yet. Produced and mixed together with the zeitgeist’s go-to studio hand, James Ford (Simeon Mobile Disco, Last Shadow Puppets, Klaxons), the recording of the album brought with it the confidence that, maybe, the songwriter craved.
Bill Ryder-Jones seems to have taken a major step forward in the last 12 months and has even got back into playing live, following a long break: “Yeah, playing live has been up and down. I’ve definitely enjoyed it on the whole – but, like I say, lots of ups and downs,” he says.
It would seem a breakthrough has occurred in his methods of playing live: “I’ve kind of realised that it’s not even the songs that matter at a gig,” he declares. “There’s something you have to do as the singer that’s more important. The main thing for me was becoming more comfortable and thinking of myself of someone that people want to watch. After you’ve got round that, it’s pretty easy I think.”
There’s certainly something in that.
Witnessing Ryder-Jones perform live feels like intruding on something very delicate. But that’s how those gem-like songs are polished and being at one of Bill’s low key gigs feels like you’re at the birth of one of his songs: a tune could go anywhere. It seems that the same kind of approach to making A Bad Wind – amongst home comforts and friends – was vital to the painterly detail and melodic precision of the album.
“Recording at home, like I did for this album, was cheaper and I could take my time. I think that album really came together in one of those freak spells of luck,” he reveals. “You know how that happens… like when everything just seems to be right? Recording the way we did was ideal for it. I was finishing producing the first By The Sea record so they were all floating around and that really helped.”
The reviews of the album really helped too. Pitchfork talked about the “wistful melodies and vibrant tales“, NME declared that Ryder-Jones “gives singer songwriters a good name” and the record was praised (with four stars) by the Guardian for “owing more to Elliott Smith than Ennio Morricone.”
Everyone loved it, A Bad Wind supplanted itself in Q‘s top 10 albums of 2013, and word of mouth followed. Though Bill took the plaudits in his stride, with an unaffected lightness of touch that suggests artistic wisdom beyond his years. “The reviews were good – no one told me to pull my pants up or stop whining, which I half expected! But if I read a positive review that I don’t agree with, then it means nothing too,” he reveals.
Ryder-Jones appears to be an artist influenced by nothing – except his very own interior rhythm. His encyclopaedic musical knowledge must be great to draw on, however. Come on Bill, who was behind that internal kit during the making of the 2013 album? “I was into my ‘fall back’ music,” he says. “My regular teams: Gorky’s, Leonard Cohen, Kings of Convenience, Lou Reed and David Bowie.”
The conversation then takes an interesting diversion, though: “Right now, I’m really into reading comics. I did the whole 100 Bullets series in a couple of weeks and I’ve just discovered Unknown Soldier. The writing in both of those series’ is brilliant.”
Perhaps that’s a hint as to where Ryder-Jones maybe heading next with his music. Who knows? He’s always moving forward and moving on.
Further reading on Getintothis:
GIT AWARD 2012: Artist nominee profile – Bill Ryder Jones
Astral Coast reveals headliners Bill Ryder-Jones, Tea Street Band and By The Sea
Bill Ryder-Jones: Camp and Furnace, Liverpool
Euros Childs, Bill Ryder-Jones, Laura J. Martin: Leaf Tea Shop, Liverpool
Bill Ryder-Jones: Without Horizon
GIT Award 2014 launches One To Watch prize.
GIT Award 2014 judging panel announced.
Review and pictures from GIT Award 2014 launch at Leaf.
GIT Award 2014 returns with Leaf launch ahead of Kazimier spectacular in April.
GIT Award 2013: Baltic Fleet: To be involved and win will always stay with me
The GIT Award 2013 report, reaction and review from Leaf Tea Shop, Liverpool.
GIT Award 2013 winner announced as Justice Collective win Inspiration Award
GIT Award 2013: picture gallery featuring Baltic Fleet, Nadine Carina, Conan, John Heckle, Tyler Mensah and more.