WIth a new EP and NME Awards Tour under his belt, Stockport’s Rory Wynne chats with Getintothis’ Cath Bore on his bright future.
The confidence of youth.
18 months ago, give or take a matter of days, It seemed a wise move to get down early to the O2 Academy in Liverpool to get a good spec for Blossoms.
A failed mission as it turned out, the sharp elbows of a hardcore fan base edging us part timers out of the way, but not before the opening act, a young blond lad with a jumble of musicians, some older than him and some, well, much older, backing him.
The lad started to play these spiky clever witty indie songs, and sang with this unashamed and direct northern brogue. He didn’t say much between songs – didn’t have to – apart from nonchalantly announcing his new single out that week, Why Don’t You.
Then, in Post Party Confusion he delivered the rhythmic almost-rap “so I got another beer and the beer was flat so we went back to my flat and my flat had rats“ and an image of a 1960s black and white kitchen sink drama sprung up. It’s a while since working class Northerness has become a badge of honour in pop music, Arctic Monkeys aside, and it was so so damn good.
That night was Rory Wynne’s fourth ever gig. He was sixteen years old, having written Post Party Confusion two years earlier.
Now in April 2017, he’s 17 and freshly returned from the VO5 NME Awards Tour 2017 tour. Articulate, he doesn’t give his youth away much in our conversation, although confesses that on a typical Thursday afternoon he’d be ‘at the chippy having lunch.’ Rory is quietly spoken, but opinionated and self assured with it; asked about his penchant for t-shirts with “I ALWAYS WYNNE” scrawled on the front and whose idea they were, he immediately, without taking a breath, confirms, ‘Me. ME.’
The singer, songwriter, guitarist and producer is from Stockport, six or seven miles away from the relative glamour of Manchester. it’s a place notable for very little musically, Blossoms aside. Trip Advisor reveals a couple of quality cinemas in the town, a hat museum, ‘The hat museum is great for school trips!’ Rory says, and an air raid shelter (‘the air raid shelters are quite scary’). But there must be something more, bar a good education of World War II and millinery, about the town informs your music and what you’ve done so far?
‘Hard to explain. I think it’s just the way you grow up. A work ethic.’ He stresses ethic extra hard, to drive the point home. ‘Like me and Blossoms, we work hard, we practice lots and that’s why they’ve had more success and I think that’s why we’re doing better than the rest of the bands from Stockport.’
Rory’s music making started at a young age, ten years old, circumstances throwing the opportunity his way rather than actively seeking it out.
‘It was during the summer holidays and I broke my leg and was sat watching music channels. My parents bought me a guitar and I just learnt, watching the music channels.’
Was there a eureka moment? One band or singer made him think “I want a piece of that?”
‘Not really at that time because it was The Script, McFly, I guess McFly at that time were quite out there for a 10 year old,’ he says. ‘I just started writing songs I think as I got better I realised maybe I could do it as a career.’
His first guitar was a ‘tiny acoustic’, as opposed to the Telecaster he is seen performing with now. The first song you learnt on it was…?
‘Last Christmas. Actually, the first I learnt on that guitar, I can’t remember. But I got another guitar at Christmas and that’s the one I learnt.’
Brownie points for Wynne. George Michael, a writer of wildly successful classic pop songs, something which, I suspect, the young Stockportian is aiming for. The first song Rory penned was I Know She Knows, a bitter sweet tune betraying his early teenage Alex Turner and Oasis fandom “when I was young I used to love her…” he sings on it..Oh, the irony. ‘I was just playing some chords the simple chords that everybody uses. I think I wrote some lyrics separately.’
What makes a good song? More importantly, what makes a good Rory Wynne song?
‘A chorus you can sing along to. A catchy riff. If you can sing along to a song you know it’s a good one.’
Time’s moved on since the night he performed at O2 Academy in autumn 2015. He’s packed so much in, touring the UK with pals Blossoms, plus Cabbage, and The Coral, plus solo shows, and boutique festivals. On Merseyside alone he appeared at The Buyer’s Club twice, and at the Skeleton Coast festival a scattering of alarmed people expecting acoustic strumminess,got Wynne instead, strutting about the tiny stage in the former schoolroom mid afternoon as if he played to a full house at the Echo Arena.
As his live prowess has grown, the young man labelled by one observer a potential “indie sweetheart”, is turning out, interestingly, to be rather Marmite. It’s a love or hate him scenario; going by the NME show at the Olympia in March, some people get him – really get him – the girls and lads down the front bloody well loved it, couldn’t get enough; whilst other folk turn huffy and prissy at his onstage rockstar-in-waiting bravado. There’s a narrative to his performance these days, the band filing onstage first, waiting, before Rory makes his grand entrance, yet at the end he leaves first, letting his band have their moment.
‘Someone called me a budget Mick Jagger. It’s offensive but equally quite nice,’ he recalls with amusement, and an air of ‘as long as they print my picture and spell my name right, that’ll do’. ‘But I don’t dance like Mick Jagger or anything,’ he adds hastily.
The Jagger comparison is because he’s a physical performer, I suggest, and anyone who saw him on the NME tour is witness to his growing confidence as a showman. Front men he admires are ‘Liam Gallagher…Jack White…who else? They’re the main ones really.’
Rory doesn’t come from a musical family as such. ‘My dad plays guitar but we don’t all sit round playing tunes together.’
Well, no. That makes you sound like the von Trapp family or something.
‘My dad listens to quite a lot of classic rock so a teeny tiny bit of that is an influence but the rest I’ve developed myself.’
Rory’s new EP What Would Rory Wynne Do? released last month, comprises of four tracks. The title is a belter, and reminds me of the What Would Elvis Do? plaque in my house, following that thought process a fine philosophy to live by. It’s quite a thing to ponder on.
‘We thought it would be an interesting title. It’s more of a statement to call it What Would Rory Wynne Do?’ he says. ‘ We were gonna call it the Star In The Sky EP but That would have been just another singer songwriter.’
And yet, the teenager is anything but. The EP’s lead song, Star in the Sky, was recorded at Liverpool’s Parr Street Studios and produced and released by Skeleton Key, whose roster includes Cabbage, GIT Award 2017 nominees She Drew The Gun, and the dreamy Sundowners. The other three songs on the release are produced by Rory himself. ‘I produced the last 3 tracks on the EP. It was quite fun to do it, it was nice to do it, and have more control. Obviously working with James Skelly and Rich Turvey you can’t match their level. It was quite a challenge to try and replicate what they did, but in your own way.’
It must be good to have creative freedom.
‘Yeah. It’s nice that they trust me enough to produce my own tracks to a professional standard.’
Rory talks through the EP. In it he’s moved on from the nervy, tightly rhyming early singles and recordings to ones nudging at subtler observations. Star In The Sky, a Marc Bolan-esque glam foot stomper with added hand claps, is ‘about somebody who was quite self deprecating so I as thinking at the time, I’d write a song saying you don’t know how good you are, stuff like that.’
Tell Me Now, a superb love song, is a display of emotional vulnerability, it goes “I want to take you out on a Friday afternoon when there is nothing to do, but I don’t know how to ask you.”
In The Dark is ‘about a phase everyone goes through where you’re like, I hope everything works out, you’re so desperate for it to work out so I wrote it in a song. I’ve not really spoken about that subject before.’
After Me, the EP’s closer, is one for the arenas, when they come a-calling, which they will. The line “you’re the greatest thing in the world after me’” is immaculate. ‘That line just came to me I didn’t really think about it at the time more and more people have commented on it,’ he says. ‘I was trying to be complimentary but at the same time I’m not very good at compliments I was also trying to say I’m the best but you’re also quite good.’
This summer he hits the festivals. Sound City, Live at Leeds, Kendal Calling, plus a headline show in London. With releases already under his belt, and only 17 still, he’s done an awful lot already. Does he ever reflect on that, or compare himself to others his age?
‘When I speak to other people my age and they’re like, what have you done so far and I see what they’ve done… it’s a bit weird then but I guess I just take it as it comes!’
Rory Wynne plays the following dates this summer:
- 26 April London Camden Assembly
- 27 April London Dingwalls – supporting Cabbage
- 28 April Manchester Academy 2 – supporting Cabbage
- 29 April Live at Leeds 2017 – The Lending Room – WTGR Stage
- 26 May Liverpool Sound City
- 8 July Castlefield Bowl, Manchester supporting Blossoms & The Coral
- 27 July Kendal Calling Festival
Pictures by Getintothis’ Keith Ainsworth