Atmospheric singer-songwriter Rhodes is making a name for himself. He’s already supported the likes of Sam Smith, London Grammar and Nick Mulvey, and his new single Close Your Eyes has been getting some serious airplay on BBC Radio 1. We caught up with him at Barn On The Farm Festival to chat about his new single Close Your Eyes, the brilliance of Bob Dylan and avoiding underwear in Paris…
Your debut album is released in September – was it easy for you to write and record?
It was a lot of fun. I was kind of in my element creatively when I was writing and recording it. I wouldn’t say that it was easy at all, to be honest. I feel very lucky, because I was allowed to be very free with it, and do what I wanted. I recorded it with a guy called James Kenosha, who I’ve been working with since the beginning. I did my first EP with him, but he’s also the guy who I worked with on all of my earlier demos. We’ve built up this relationship, and this catalogue of music that we’ve recorded together for the last two years, and there was a lot of stuff we did that just worked for the album.
Your new single is called Close Your Eyes – how would you describe it?
The song is about being there for one another, and having somebody to be there for you when you’ve overcoming your fears. I was finding it very hard to start making music as a solo artist – I’d played bass in a few bands, and I’d always had this fear of singing. That’s how the song came about, really. Then I started to think about it, and I realised how lucky I was to have people around me who were encouraging me and moving me along, because I probably wouldn’t have started singing if it was just me on my own. I was thinking about that when I wrote the song, but then I decided that I wanted to broaden the subject matter and just make it about being there for one another. I think that we all have our fears, and we all have our hard times – it’s always beautiful to know that you’ve got people who are there for you, and I wanted to let the people who I’m close to know that I’m always there for them.
Why did you decide to put it out as the first single from the album?
It was the song that I was the most excited about, really. I wrote it a little while ago, and when it was time to start recording the album I just went through everything I had, and it came together really nicely. It’s a nice little formulaic song. I think that it’s important to choose something that everybody involved is really excited about for the first single.
You’re playing a load of festivals this summer – do you prefer to play headline sets, or your own headline shows?
They’re both very different, and I’d say that I definitely enjoy both. There’s something very different about playing outdoors to indoors, for a start. Festivals are always good fun, because it’s not your show – you’re trying to win people over, which means that you’ve got to stay true to the overall vibe and feeling of the festival. I’d say that Glastonbury was one where I definitely had to win the crowd over – not many people in the crowd knew a great deal about me, so it was fun to try and win them all over. Fun, but scary at the same time! When you do your own show, it can be quite comfortable. Even though you have to put on the best show you can, you know that the people in the crowd have come to see you.
Out of all of the festivals you’ve played, which is your favourite?
There are definitely some festivals in Europe that I’ve really enjoyed playing. I did a festival in Oxford last year called Wilderness, which was absolutely amazing. I like smaller festivals – I like going to big festivals, but I definitely prefer the atmosphere of smaller festivals. It’s a lot more laid-back.
What do you think of Barn On The Farm?
It’s amazing! I really do love this festival. It’s one that everyone talks about – it’s just one of those where every artist is milling around, and that gives it a really unique and open feel. The bands that play are so great, too – looking back at the history of this festival, they always manage to get it right. The guy who organises it, Josh, is absolutely fantastic. He always knows exactly who’s going to blow up.
You’re also heading off on tour in October – are you excited?
Yeah, massively. I’m just looking forward to getting to rehearsals and figuring out exactly how we’re going to do it. They’re the biggest shows I’ve ever done, and I’ll have the full band with me, so it’ll be really good fun. I want to make it a slightly different experience to the album – obviously I’ll still be playing the songs, but I just want people who’ve heard the album to be able to come to the shows and still hear something they’ve never heard before.
What’s your favourite song to play live?
It varies every night, really. I like playing Turning Back around, because it’s quite an energetic one. Close Your Eyes is always good, too – it’s at the top of my vocal range, but it feels nice to belt it out! It almost feels like a bit of a release.
Do you prefer playing the faster songs or the slower songs?
I like playing the faster ones, because it feels like you can really get into it. The slower songs always have a completely different vibe – it’s almost easy to get lost in them, because you’re not constrained by anything. When I’m on my own and playing a slower song, it’s easy for me to let the notes ring out and just play around with the song a little bit.
What made you want to start making music?
It’s definitely something that’s been in me since I was very young. I’ve always enjoyed sound and making soundscapes, and I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of trying to encapsulate a mood within a piece of music. It was only recently that I started writing lyrics to go with the music. I played bass in a band before I started doing my solo stuff, and that was a lot of fun. The thing that playing bass taught me was the importance of the rhythm section. I’ve just always loved music, and I’ve always had a desire to make it.
Out of every song ever recorded, which do you wish you’d written?
Blowin’ In The Wind by Bob Dylan. I’ve just started getting back into vinyl, and going back through all of my old Bob Dylan records has been an absolute delight.
What’s the strangest thing that’s happened to you on tour?
Someone threw some underwear at me the other day when I was on stage in Paris. It’s a very Parisian thing to do, isn’t it? They very awkwardly landed on my female cellist’s pedal board… She’s so quiet, and it was just hilarious. I didn’t touch them!
Describe yourself in three words?
Cinematic, uplifting and thoughtful.