BRIT award winner Rag ‘n’ Bone Man met up with Music Journalism first year Emilia Smolka to discuss the inspiration behind his latest single, Human, his musical influences, and his foreseeable future.
To say things are happening fast for Rag ‘n’ Bone man is no understatement. To give you an idea, even in the process of BIMM Life going to press, his debut album, Humans, was about to be released, he was nominated as Best British Breakthrough Act at the BRITs – and was also due to perform on the night (he has already won this year’s nod as Critics’ Choice).
So, we don’t know how that album did, we don’t know if he won a gong or not – but we’re reasonably certain he’ll have smashed the performance part of the evening out of the park, winning a whole new army of admirers in the process.
He’s already got plenty of champions amongst critics and within the industry, having appeared on every ‘Most Likely To’ list of any significance over the last 12 months. No pressure then...
Tell me about the creative process for your single Human.
The lyrics were just like every other time you write a song: you talk about something and talk about the way you feel about something. Whether it’s coming from a conversation, whether it’s something that has happened to you.
It just happens at the time that someone asked me questions that I couldn’t answer, that I didn’t feel like I was qualified to answer. Like, when your friend asks you something, your opinion, but they want the answer they’ve already got in their head. That’s the thing behind the new song – and we recorded it in a little studio called the Dairy in Brixton.
You once said you focus on other people’s issues because there is ‘something to be said about it’, how did that come about?
Well, I had a conversation with a friend of mine and it was a very deep conversation about his problems and the fact he couldn’t see his daughter anymore. That was the first time I was like, It deserves to be written about. I felt so affected by the conversation that I had to write about it. You can almost speak much more honestly about things when you don’t have to be so honest about yourself. When you’re writing about a personal thing, there are things you probably miss out because you’re like, I don’t want to talk about that because that makes me feel a certain way, but when it’s someone else you can be completely honest.
What was it like changing from a hip-hop style to blues in your first EP Bluestown?
It was always in me to write blues stuff, I’d been doing it alongside anything else I was doing anyway. The main reason I did Bluestown was because I wanted to play more gigs. I felt like people heard what I was doing and I got a gig supporting Joan Armatrading at the Brighton Dome. That’s one of the first things I did, so it kinda served its purpose.
Describe how you feel about writing music.
The only way you can describe writing music is like holding a hand over the end of a hose pipe and it’s gotta get out somewhere. It’s better that you let it go than it backs up and fires off at the other end.
You’re going on a European tour; which places are you most excited to visit?
I’m quite excited to go to Germany and Austria, because we’ve had a lot of success there recently. My manager, Polly, phoned earlier and said, ‘Aren’t you excited you’ve got six weeks at number one in Germany?’ And I was like, I don’t know, because it doesn’t affect me, I don’t directly see it, so how can you be excited about something that you have no correlations with? Oh, also Scandinavia, just because we love it there.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
That is not a question for me; I don’t think like that. I understand that some people have those types of personalities and they think, ‘I’m gonna be here then and gonna do this then,’ but I literally live today and I don’t think about what’s gonna happen. You surprise yourself more, sometimes you think you have an expectation of something and by trying to live day-to-day you surpass what you ever thought you could do.
How do you balance your personal life and career?
It’s hard to say. I try to have a balance, because when I’m at home it’s nice to not have too many distractions from work, but you can’t really avoid it. I live in a little village now, so not many people know me and the people that do don’t really care. They’re not like, ‘Oh my God, you’re getting famous,’ or, ‘Oh my God, you’re on TV,’ you know. They’ve known me for years so they’re not really bothered by it, which is exactly what I want.
If you could collaborate with any band or artist, who would it be?
It would probably have been Biggie [The Notorious B.I.G., a New York rapper who was killed in 1997], we would be like the new Heavy D and the Boyz.