"A song to me is like an exorcism. It makes stuff easier to process"
It’s been over two years since Jacob Anderson – best known as Raleigh Ritchie – put out his debut album ‘You’re a Man Now, Boy’. His time, subsequently, was filled with album promo and live dates before diving back into filming the hugely anticipated concluding season of Game of Thrones, in which he plays Grey Worm, leader of the Unsullied. But even throughout his stints on the biggest television show of the decade, Anderson has been quietly working on new music.
“Yeah, I wrote during that time, but it was like writing in hotel rooms and stuff – and that’s not necessarily the best place to write a song!” he tells NME over tea in a Soho cafe. “I’ve been acting for, like, the last year and it’s been great, but it’s taken a chunk out of album time… in a way it was really nice to have the break so I come back and I’m on turbo mode.”
Now he’s well and truly in the music zone, and working hard on new material. “I’ve got 10 [songs written for the record]. But I would say, out of those 10 there are four that are absolutely, 100 percent, definitely on the album.” One of the certs for the new album is ‘Time in a Tree’, his first new tune in two years. Slick and cinematic, it shows plenty of growth – while the elements of alternative R&B and pop that dominated his debut are still there, they’re now combined with a glorious, Sinatra-like chorus.
We caught up with Anderson to talk the new album, emailing Yoko Ono and which members of the Game of Thrones cast he’d like to collaborate with.
You’re back with new music! Tell me about ‘Time in a Tree’?
“‘Time in a Tree’ is a song about when you find yourself in a busy state of mind, which I often find myself in. Sometimes it can feel like you can’t physically get out of it, or you can’t mentally or physically bring yourself out of that… it’s like having traffic in your brain. ‘Time in a Tree’ is just about that feeling of how complex it is to have those feels, and how far back those things can go.”
Was it a bit of catharsis, writing the song?
“For me, that’s entirely what it is. It’s basically just whatever’s going on in my head on a given day, it ends up being what the song is. It’s almost like an exorcism. A song to me is like an exorcism. It makes stuff easier to process.”
And it’s sounding more musically mature than your debut, was that a conscious decision?
“I think, yeah, maybe in part it’s conscious. I’ve definitely been thinking about what the [new] album sounds like, and what I want this to be. I think somebody’s first album is… it’s such a cliché, but it’s your whole life up until that point. And so, for me, it was like, sonically, everything’s really here… and a bit there… and that’s just me. I think I’m just starting to focus in a little bit, for this album.”
Are there going to be any collaborations on the new album?
“Probably. There’s people that I want, there’s songs I’ve written where I’ve got people in mind; but whether or not they say yes, I don’t know. It’s really weird, because like, with Stormzy, we worked together before by the time he did ‘Keep It Simple’. So, I haven’t really done the thing of asking people to be on a song. I don’t really, fully know how that works. It’s like, ‘Will you come play with me?’ It’s like being in the playground asking people.”
Just sliding into Twitter DMs saying, ‘Hello! Would you like to work with me?’
“Exactly. People have asked me to do songs that way, and there’s something to me that feels really lazy about just DM-ing somebody about working together. I just feel like there should be some sort of chase. I’m happy to chase somebody, or like, write somebody.
I wrote an email to Yoko Ono asking her to be on the last album, and she declined, but really nicely. She responded and said, ‘I’m really sorry, I’m really busy at the moment I can’t’. But that’s the closest I’ve got to it. I have to do that again but I want to ask people in a personal way rather than just sort of being like ‘Hey, who’s got so-and-so’s number?'”
So you’ve got some tour dates coming up – will any of the Thrones cast come to your shows?
“I don’t know!”
Have they come in the past?
“Yeah. David [Benioff] and Dan [Weiss], who are the show runners, they came to my LA show, which was really nice because I didn’t tell them about it, they were just there. I didn’t know until I ran out into the crowd to high five everyone, and I high-fived them, and I was like, ‘What are you doing here?!’ And then I called them my bosses on stage and I think they were really hurt by it, because I didn’t call them my friends – but both can be true, so it’s fine. Yeah, maybe. I guess. I’m bad at telling people I do shows. Normally, people are like, ‘Oh, I’m coming to your show, by the way.’ I just don’t assume that my friends care that much…”
I’m sure they do!
I’m sure there’ll be somebody from the show there. That feels like an advert. ‘Come to my shows, you might meet one of the Game of Thrones cast!’
Would you ever musically collaborate with any of them?
“If I had to? I’m trying to think… I know, because I’ve seen them, Iain Glen [Sir Jorah], Richard Dormer [Beric Dondarrion], Rory McCann [The Hound] and Steve [the show’s armorer], they have a band, they just go and play in Belfast sometimes. It would be quite cool to do that. It’s like, nothing like what I do at all… they just get out guitars and sing shanties or something, with their amazing beards. They just sing sea shanties, play harmonicas and wash boards. I could just sing a sea shanty with them.”
How are you feeling now all of that’s finished shooting? I guess it’s kind of like an end of school vibe?
“It’s a bittersweet thing. Everybody worked really hard and it was a really long and sometimes difficult, exhausting shoot this year, but at the same time, we got to end and everyone was in tears; everyone was crying. Yeah – it’s that end of school thing. For me, I could not wait to get out of school, but at the same time you miss the people. People see each other again. The show is out next year, I think, so we’ll see each other then.”
Anything else coming up for the rest of this year?
“I have to just finish the record. That is my number one priority. And writing stuff, I want to make a film soon, so I’ve been doing some writing. Do some more directing. I directed the video for ‘Time in a Tree’. So yeah, I’ve got some ideas for videos for songs on the album. Maybe a tour? I’m getting married at Christmas, so that’s a big thing as well.”