David Rhodes caught up with me on the phone in the car, while he was being whisked around the Melbourne streets by his record company. On quite the whirlwind tour, he’s now exploring New Zealand’s natural wonders with Hozier, adding some of their own musical magic to the landscape.
While I was doing my RHODES homework, I noticed that you’ve partnered with Burberry a few times – a perfect sync for The Garb Wire story. Tell me about the Burberry Acoustic experience. How did you come to be involved, and what does the brand offer artists, asides from amazing clothes?
They asked me to be part of it for the blog. There were lots of other artists on there as well. Christopher Bailey was a fan when he heard my music. It’s definitely exposed me to a different audience, one I otherwise may not have reached. Then, there are the clothes…which is nice. It was good to be associated with a heritage brand and witness the madness of behind the scenes production of the shows. I’m really into fashion as well – my sister is a designer – so I’ve seen it before. It’s crazy. I got to travel with Burberry to Japan. It’s a great series because they really do foster emerging British talent.
Even though you’re touring your album Wishes at the moment, are you always looking at what’s coming next, and writing new material?
I always find it hard not to write. I have no other way of being. Of course right now I’m concentrating and putting in the graft for every performance. I’m aware that every live show could be an introduction to new people. But I’m always thinking about new material.
“I always find it hard not to write. I have no other way of being.”
How was your Perth show?
It was far from Perth city actually – such a desolate place – flat land in every direction. I’d never played in an outdoor amphitheatre before. There was a snake waiting for me in my dressing room when I arrived, possums in the trees and geckos everywhere. The sun was sweltering. It was a perfect introduction to Australia.
Close Your Eyes is about your fear of performing. What happens to you physically? Some nerves are healthy, right?
It’s less a fear of performing but more about everyone’s fears – recognising them and overcoming them together. My fear wasn’t about being on stage – for a long time it was just the act of trying to sing, and nothing coming out. I didn’t try, for ages. I was happy playing bass in my band. But I realised that I had to try – or never know what could have happened for my life.
But now being a singer too, I wake up worried all the time… my voice is my instrument – there’s always that chance that it’ll stop working.
Breathe, Raise Your Love and Turning Back Around made it on to your album. Did you want to introduce your new fans to past work?
I wanted the album to have a loose narrative. Breathe and Raise Your Love in particular, are part of my story and sentiment for the album. Really, I want new fans to hear it all. When I recorded my EPs I was doing a lot of experimentation with sound – they were the strongest songs from that time. For me, the album is the true starting point, so they had to be on there.
Tell me about your relationshiop with James Kenosha, your main collaborator and close friend?
Before I met James, I’d done all the writing and producing myself, which is great, but it can be limiting too. I did everything. A label introduced us – James had worked with one of my favourite bands, Dry The River. He was the first person to ever really hear me singing – all the takes. The good ones, the really bad ones…he got to know me on a very personal level. We have a closeness like no other. So when it came time to record the album, there really wasn’t anyone else I wanted to work with. We recorded the album just outside a remote village in Yorkshire over about two years.
You’ve been supporting some pretty big names – London Grammar, Sam Smith, Rufus Wainwright, and now Hozier. Who has been the best fit for you, and the band or artist you’ve most enjoyed working with?
I’d have to say Hozier. He’s so inspiring and true to himself. He lives the same beliefs as me, and comes from a pure place. He’s very honest. There’s a lot of pressure out there for artists to keep up with each other, but we keep grafting and doing live shows. He’s done it in much the same way as me. The success of Take Me To Church – it came as a shock to him. He’s so humble.
There is such a deep sadness in your songs – are they autobiographical?
Yes, my songs come from a deeply personal place. The people in my life – me, my close friends and family. I’ve drawn a lot of inspiration from my parents relationship, reflected on that a lot. Certainly love and friendships – we all have similar experiences – when I write I try to keep it ambiguous enough so people can attach their own meaning to the songs.
“When I write I try to keep it ambiguous enough so people can attach their own meaning to the songs.”
So, when people tell you how much your music has affected their lives, how does that make you feel? Is it overwhelming?
It makes everything worthwhile for me. I find it unebelievable and crazy to think that something I’ve written can make people feel so deeply.
On a less intense note, what makes you happy?
I love being at home! Hanging out with my Mum. I live in the city and my Mum’s close to the country – I love hanging out with my girlfriend in the city, to go walking, watching movies – just spacing out. Or else if I’m not touring or writing, I’ll unwind by composing something new.
Do you have any plans to stay in Australia to explore?
Yes! My girlfriend is coming over and we’re going to the Whitsundays and Cairns. She’s from Peru actually, so she’ll get a good top up of sunshine.
You mentioned earlier that you’re into your fashion? Do you have a stylist or do you dress yourself?
I mostly dress myself, but I’ve been fortunate enough to work with stylist David Nolan. He’s right into his mens tailoring, you know Savile Row? Actually he also dresses the Arctic Monkeys. He’s taught me so much about different collars and cuts of trousers. We’ve visited lots of backstreet tailors in London, which I’ve enjoyed.
We’re nearly done. Just a silly question to finish – If Justin Bieber’s followers are called Beliebers, does that make your fans Scholars or Rhodies?
In the past I’ve not really been about that kind of thing, though I have been getting in to Instagram a lot lately. I have noticed Rhodies popping up. I haven’t really been across social media before now, but I guess it’s Rhodies, yeah?
So it was agreed, the fans now had an official collective to be part of. And, after talking to RHODES personally, I myself was one of them. #rhodies
Watch RHODES perform Wishes acoustically as part of the Burberry Acoustic series here:
Buy the Wishes album here