Before Rory Graham found his calling as a gravel-voiced blues singer, he made his name as an MC at jungle and drum ’n’ bass raves and on pirate radio. His love of hip-hop bleeds into the music he makes now, and his 2014 EP ‘Wolves’ featured Californian rap hero Vince Staples and south London poet-cum-MC Kate Tempest. The Brighton man is eyeing up even bigger things with his debut album, due in 2017.
Were you a good MC?
“I’ve listened to tapes and some of it’s pretty awful. You don’t have much to say at 17, so it was just rhyming random words. A lot of kids I grew up with were really into jungle and we did our own crappy little pirate radio station things. That’s how I got into it.”
How did you get into blues?
“My dad’s got a really big blues collection, but I didn’t have any musical training. I basically learnt to sing from listening to BB King and Muddy Waters. Then I’d play open-mic nights with people in their fifties and sixties. I think I gained a lot of respect for it.”
Open-mic nights are a big thing for you. What’s the attraction?
“I don’t feel any pressure. It’s a judgement-free place. A couple of times this year, while recording my album, I’d write a song in the daytime and just go and play it in the evening. Most people in the crowd aren’t there for perfection.”
Some of your lyrics are autobiographical and some, like ‘No Mother’, are about friends. Why is that?
“Sometimes you can be more honest when you’re writing about someone else. A couple of times people thought a song was about them and I’ve had to be like, ‘Sorry, it’s not about you.’”
You’ve been grafting away as Rag’n’Bone Man for over five years, and for parts of it also working as a carer. Do you feel it’s finally paying off?
“I definitely have earned it. Even way before I had a label, I gained my own fan base and built myself from the ground up. So I do feel like I deserve it.”
You’ve collaborated with some big names already. Any guests on the new album?
“At the moment the album is all me and I kind of like it that way. I’m rapping on a couple of tracks, so I guess it’s ‘Rag’n’Bone Man featuring Rag’n’Bone Man’. You could say I’m featuring on my own album.”
Fact: During his formative stages as a musician, Rory also worked as a carer for people with Asperger’s syndrome
Live: The Brighton Centre Nov 4, Plymouth Pavilions Nov 5, Oasis Leisure Centre Swindon Nov 6
Best Track: ‘Human’, A slow-building blend of classic blues and hearty soul in which Rory’s voice suitably explodes to its stunning limits
For Fans Of: Jack White, Seasick Steve
Like this? Try this: D’Angelo – ‘Black Messiah’, A gritty and heartrending mix of electro-soul, hip-hop and blues – all while packing a striking political and emotional punch. One of Rory’s icons.