Rag'N'Bone Man: Human Nature
You can’t fail to notice singer/songwriter/rapper Rag’N’Bone Man (aka Rory Graham) not because he’s six foot five, or because has his septum pierced - that’s his nose to you and me - and it’s not due to his size 13 feet either or his distinctive tattoos, which include “Funk” (Blues has too many letters) and “Soul” emblazoned on the backs of his fingers. It’s because his hit tune, “Human”, which has been a huge hit all over Europe and now make waves in further flung destinations, has catapulted him to fame almost overnight. Well, almost overnight…
It was 2012 when Rag’N’Bone Man, name taken from his love of the ’70’s TV show Steptoe and Son (HAAAROLD!), first appeared on the B&S radar, at that time, the Brighton-based singer/songwriter/rapper/soul & bluesman with the incredible set of pipes, dropped an acoustic blues meets hip-hop EP, “Bluestown”, on hip-hop label High Focus.
In 2013 yet more critical acclaim was to follow with the release of standout collab “Dog n' Bone” EP with beatsmith, Leaf Dog.
2014 saw the release a free to download album called “Wolves” once again on indy label, Best Laid Plans, this received well-deserved praise from not only B&S but Radio 1 and MTV too. His track “Lay My Body Down” was starting to make waves - so surely it was only a matter of time until he was signed by a major…
Sensing good things to come, B&S interviewed Graham later in 2014, announcing him as “One To Watch” in 2015! At that time, he had moved to bright (street) lights of “Catford” in South East London, but all the while honing his immense talent.
Another EP ensued, again released through Best Laid Plans, “Disfigured”, marked the rap in his repertoire was now taking a backseat - as a kid, an MC he thought he would be - at the tender age of 15 he was MC’ing with a drum ’n’ bass crew, his moniker was Rag'N'Bonez (close, but no cigar! Lol). This early love for rap/MC’ing had stemmed into a stint as part of Brighton based, Rum Committee, rap crew. But now rap was no longer a priority, instead giving way to soul element in his arsenal, which was now being ramped-up, all the while anchoring his rich baritone in cool Delta Blues waters - creating a sound, unique to Rag’N’Bone Man and one that is set to lead his career to the promised land, along with the promise of a Blues & Soul cover interview when he got there!
Talking if which, yours truly, Lee Tyler, Editor of this mighty mag managed to grab a breezy, yet candid chat with the almost impossible to get five minutes due his insane workload, man of the hour. Topic’s on the agenda included new long player “Human”, a move back to familiar surroundings, winning awards, duetting with Gregory Porter and shopping at Tesco! Try telling Rag’N’Bone Man he has 9 things in his basket and it’s a till for 8 items or less! Lol.
First item in the basket: location, location, location and a move homeward bound, to Lewes… “I was in Catford, we moved out of there about a year and a half ago… I grew-up around Brighton and Uckfield and I just like the area and just wanted to move back. My Family are down here and I dunno mate, it’s the countryside, I just like it.” Admiring his current surroundings, “Do you know what? Time off is so limited, you don’t see people that often so when I do have time off, I spend it here, know what I mean? Plus, I can nip round to my mum’s and have a cup of tea as well.”
What about popping in for something to dunk before your trip to your Mum’s… “it’s not that easy to walk around Tesco’s at the moment (laughs) I think before, people knew my music but they didn’t know who I was…they heard my songs on the radio and that, but now I have been TV and what not - by the way, it scared the living s#it out of me - now people know who I am and I can’t really hop anywhere cos of my stature. I can’t exactly put my hood up and pretend I’m someone else, so things have changed drastically in that department.”
After narrowly missing out on the BBC Sound of 2017 crown to contemporary R&B/neo-soul artist Ray BLK, Graham can now boast a shiny pair of gongs (ooh missus!) on his mantlepiece after winning both Critic’s Choice and British Breakthrough awards at this year’s Brits - and both worth braving the TV cameras to pick up. “To tell you the truth, I never really got into music for trophies, but the recognition I have now got is unbelievable. The only way I can describe it is like being on a train that doesn’t stop moving…you can’t really stop and think about it - everything seems to be happening so quickly.” He adds, “I have to be like, ‘right, I just have to get on with it!’ Cos otherwise, if I think about it, I might go a bit mental. I don’t think anything was to prepare me for being on camera and that, I still feel very awkward on camera…it doesn’t feel natural to me - I don’t know if it feels natural to anyone - but it certainly doesn’t for me”.
And so to the new album, “Human”, the fastest selling album of the 2010s...
You can read more from B&S Editor, Lee Tyler's interview with Rag'N'Bone Man, including his thoughts, processes and favourites on his new album, Human. Also, what he plans to do next music wise and his terrifying duet with jazz great in the making, Gregory Porter... All in the current issue of Blues & Soul Magazine - click the link below to order straight from our shop or read on for high street retailer details.
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If by chance your retailer does not stock Blues & Soul, just ask for a "B&S shop save" and they will order it in for you.
The album “Human” and single "Skin" are out through Columbia Records.
If you Tweet B&S and it's favourited at @BluesandSoul you could see your comments added to our print issue.
Words LEE TYLER