‘It was the most emotional thing I’ve ever done on stage’: Rag’n’Bone Man on returning to live music
When Rory Graham, the artist better known as Rag’n’Bone Man, performed on stage at the Brit Awards earlier this year, he was wearing the same sunglasses as he is for our interview.
He needed them, he tells Sky News. Singing Anywhere Away From Here, his duet with Pink, in front of an audience filled with excitement and expectation for the first major live music event for more than a year in the UK – and alongside an NHS choir to mark the period in which health workers have saved thousands of lives and been pushed to their absolute limits – it was an emotional moment.
“I had these glasses on when I was doing that,” says Graham. “And by the end of the performance I was really fighting away tears. It was an amalgamation of stuff: being at the Brits performing, having Pink – not there, on screen, but it was amazing – and then also having this NHS choir. It was probably the most emotional thing I’ve ever done on stage. It was amazing but kind of difficult at the same time. I’ll never, ever forget it, it was a beautiful moment.”
Graham, who worked as a carer himself before his music career took off, working with people with autism and Down’s syndrome, can perhaps understand better than many what health and care workers have been through since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold. “That’s why I have such a profound respect for them,” he says, “and why it was so much more emotional having them on stage with us that night at the Brits.”
It has been a difficult time for the music industry, but slowly live shows are returning. Some festivals are going ahead – many, like the Brits, as part of government test events – and Graham recently played three back-to-back intimate shows at London’s Jazz Cafe in Camden, performing songs from his second album, the chart-topping Life By Misadventure, for the first time since its release at the beginning of May.
“It was really, really nice to be on stage,” he says. “It was really nice to be back with the band again. I mean, slightly strange having people sitting down the whole time and I got in trouble once for asking people to dance because you’re not allowed to do that, apparently.” You can’t stop people singing, though. “If I’m on stage singing and they’re not allowed, that would seem quite weird.”
Like millions of England fans around the country, Graham has been cheering Gareth Southgate‘s side on throughout Euro 2020. While it’s been “amazing”, he says seeing fans cheering from the stands only highlights the disparities in how different industries are being opened up once again.
“I guess everyone’s a little bit frustrated because they see on TV that everybody’s jumping up and going crazy at the football, but still live gigs, we’re not allowed to dance. So that part’s quite frustrating.” Is it unfair? “I think it’s undoubtedly unfair, because, you know, what’s more important? You can’t say one’s more important than the other. So, yeah, I think it’s time.”
To musicians, it feels like the government has neglected the arts, he says. “It feels like that to us because it feels like the arts are like last chance saloon. Everywhere else seems to be opening apart from the music industry, the live industry. So they need to hurry up.”
Graham has gigs in the diary and is keeping his fingers crossed, looking forward to performing to “a proper crowd” following the small shows. He is itching to showcase Life By Misadventure, the follow-up to the platinum-selling 2017 debut, Human, and lead single of the same name, which propelled him to fame. His life has changed quite a bit since then.
“Nobody knew that it was going to be the kind of phenomenon that it was,” he says. “I mean, one week we were just slowly releasing stuff and then the next I had friends calling me up from different countries all over the world saying, you’re playing on the radio and… it hit so fast, you know, that it really, totally changed my life in a very short space of time. I had a career before Human, it was a living, but it changed so much. It went from like, ‘oh cool, I’m playing to a thousand people in Brighton’, to ‘I’m playing to 12,000 people in Paris’. It really did change stuff forever.”
Now in his mid-30s, Graham is glad fame and the success didn’t happen earlier in life. “I don’t know if I would have been mentally capable of dealing with that. In fact, I know I wouldn’t have been. So I’m glad I was a bit older…
“I probably just would have partied myself to death, I reckon. I feel like I’d already done quite a lot of that stuff so I had my feet kind of firmly pressed on the ground and I wasn’t in a position to believe my own hype or anything. I think going through that stuff, travelling the length of the country with a guitar on your back or doing shows for beer, those things make you appreciate the bigger things.”
Since Human made him a household name, Graham has been through a lot in his personal life. He married his long-term girlfriend and mum to his three-year-old son, Rouben, in 2019, but the couple split up not long afterwards.
The title of his second record, Life By Misadventure, sums it up, he says. “All the songs seem like a kind of timeline. I’ll talk about a lot of stuff from my childhood and adolescence and how my teenage years were quite wild. But also, around the time that Human happened, it was a crazy few years and then I became a dad… so I kind of went through a lot of emotions and went through trying to grow up a bit quite quickly and be more responsible. So… the title, it makes sense to me.”
Graham was determined not to make a break-up record, he says; just one song on the album, Talking To Myself, addresses the split. Instead, many of these songs were inspired by other people’s struggles.
“Must be a thousand times she told you, that your body’s getting oldеr, don’t you know?” he sings on new single, Alone, which came about following a conversation with a female friend about the pressure of the biological clock. It is perhaps an unusual subject for a male singer to tackle, but Graham says he felt compelled to address the different ways men and women are treated when it comes to having children.
“It just seems like a problem that men don’t have, I’ve never had that pressure put on me,” he says. “It seems that a lot of women go through those kind of pressures from family or friends or whoever it is, who say, like, ‘isn’t it about time to settle down?’ ‘When are we going to get grandchildren?’ Those kinds of things. It just seemed a bit archaic. I’d never really written a song like that, it was kind of hard to put into words at first, but I think it came out well. I think hopefully people will understand it.”
Graham is enjoying being a dad and the time lockdown has given him with his son. He has spent the day in the garden with Rouben and is getting ready to take him swimming, he says, after the interview. But lockdown has also taught him that he needs to keep busy. “I learnt that I’m not necessarily great with a lot of free time. I like to work.”
He has discovered a new found love of baking, however, so cakes have kept him occupied. “My son enjoys cakes, like a lot of three-year-olds do. So we got into making all sorts of different kinds of cakes, I’ve kind of become quite good at baking, which is not necessarily a bad thing.”
It sounds like Celebrity Bake Off could be on the cards.
“If they want me, I’ll be there,” he says. “I don’t really like the idea of reality shows, but I reckon I’d give Bake Off a go. If Big Narstie can do, I can do it.”
But before Paul Hollywood and co come knocking, Graham is hoping more than anything to get back on stage properly. When those big gigs, to big crowds of people able to sing and dance and hug once again, just like the Brits, it’s going to be “incredibly emotional again”, says Graham.
“I feel like the Road Runner at the moment, just on the spot. But we’re all just so ready to do it. We’re ready to go.”
Rag’n’Bone Man’s new single, Alone, and album, Life By Misadventure, are out now
Eurovision: Former Sex Pistols’ frontman John Lydon fails to win place representing Ireland
Former Sex Pistols’ frontman John Lydon has failed in his bid to represent Ireland in the Eurovision Song Contest.
His band Public Image Ltd (PiL), the post-punk band formed by Lydon following the break-up of the Sex Pistols, finished fourth out of six acts in Ireland’s Eurosong competition to select its entry to this year’s contest.
They were beaten by rock band Wild Youth’s song We Are One who will compete at the contest in Liverpool in May.
The result was decided in three parts – a public vote, a national jury and an international jury.
PiL’s entry was an emotional ballad called Hawaii, which he described as a love letter to his wife Nora, who is living with Alzheimer’s disease.
In the song, Lydon, formerly known as Johnny Rotten, reflects on their happiest moments over their 40-year marriage including their time in Hawaii.
Before the contest, he said: “It means the world to me, this is our last few years of coherence together. And I miss her like mad.
“I miss my missus, if you keep voting for me I’m going to miss her even more.”
He said he was still “terrified of mugging it up, getting it wrong, letting people down – mostly letting Nora down”.
He spoke fondly of watching Eurovision as a child, saying: “This is something that I watched when I was young with my parents. I remember Johnny Logan, I remember Cliff Richard, I remember Sandy Shaw.
“It’s as good as any other way of listening to music, I don’t have any prejudices about things like that.”
He added that he chose Ireland “because I’m as much Irish as anybody else by blood”.
PiL was formed in the late 1970s and has scored five UK top 20 albums.
The band is also planning to release a new album in 2023 – their first since 2015.
The UK is yet to announce details of potential entrants to Eurovision.
Julian Sands: ‘Intermittent’ aerial searches to continue after bad weather hampered earlier efforts
Aerial patrols are still being carried out “intermittently” in the search for missing British actor Julian Sands who went missing three weeks ago in California.
Normally, similar searches would be downgraded after 10 days, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department said.
However, because bad weather has so far hampered efforts, it has been decided to extend the search period.
“Our Aviation Division continues to patrol that area, intermittently, in search of Mr Sands,” a spokesman said.
“Typically, we search for 10 days before downgrading to a passive search. In this case, with the weather precluding a continuous search, we extended those plans.
“While weather and mountain conditions continue to be an issue, we will resume ground searches once weather conditions permit and as the snow melts.”
Sands, 65, was reported missing on 13 January after he failed to return from a hike in the Mount Baldy region of the San Gabriel mountains.
Numerous searches for the actor have since been undertaken on foot and by air by both local and state-level agencies.
Authorities have previously used a Recco device, which is able to detect electronics and credit cards, in the hope of establishing a more exact area in which to focus search efforts.
Last weekend, Sand’s hiking partner and friend Kevin Ryan said it was obvious “something has gone wrong” but that the actor’s advanced experience and skill would “hopefully” see his safe return.
Fashion designer Paco Rabanne – known for his flamboyant Space Age designs – dies aged 88
Paco Rabanne, the Spanish-born designer, has died at the age of 88 in Portsall, Brittany.
The death of Francisco Rabaneda y Cuervo – Rabanne’s birth name – was confirmed by a spokesperson for Spanish group Puig, which controls the Paco Rabanne label he exited two decades ago.
He founded his namesake brand in1966, and while it is now best-known for is aftershaves and perfumes, it was his Space Age designs in the 1960s, that first brought him to the attention of many.
A statement shared on the fashion house’s official Instagram account said: “The House of Paco Rabanne wishes to honour our visionary designer and founder who passed away today at the age of 88.
“Among the most seminal fashion figures of the 20th century, his legacy will remain a constant source of inspiration.
“We are grateful to Monsieur Rabanne for establishing our avant-garde heritage and defining a future of limitless possibilities.”
Dubbed an “enfant terrible” in his early years, he helped upset the status quo of the Paris fashion scene, alongside fellow French designers Pierre Cardin and Andre Courreges.
His flamboyant designs frequently used unconventional material such as metal, paper, and plastic, with his first collection aptly titled: “Manifesto: 12 unwearable dresses in contemporary materials”.
Presented by barefoot models on a catwalk in a luxury Paris hotel, the collection included a chain mail-inspired silver minidress made of aluminium plates, which was worn over a flesh-coloured bodysuit.
Baroness Helen Bachofen von Echt went on to wear the dress to a party in New York where she danced with Frank Sinatra, according to the V&A museum.
Embracing cutting edge materials and modern ways of working, he used plyers rather than a needle and thread to create the craft outfits, which made from strips of plastic linked with metal rings.
The collection – which simultaneously looked both futuristic and medieval – has gone on to inspire numerous contemporary designers.
He famously created the green costume worn by Jane Fonda in the 1968 cult-classic science-fiction film Barbarella, with numerous celebrities including Beyonce, Taylor Swift and Blackpink all going on to wear his clothes.
Commenting on the influential 1966 show, president of Puig’s beauty and fashion division Jose Manuel Albesa said: “Paco Rabanne made transgression magnetic. Who else could induce fashionable Parisian women (to) clamour for dresses made of plastic and metal.”
Rabanne teamed up with Spain’s Puig family in the late 1960s, launching his collection of perfumes and scents, which would go on to serve as a springboard for the company’s international expansion and vast commercial success.
His debut fragrance, Calandre, is still available today, and his Lady Million Eau de Parfum – presented in a distinctive bottle in the shape of a gold ingot – remains a best-seller.
Born in 1934 in the Basque Country, in the western Pyrenees, he escaped the Spanish Civil War by fleeing to France at the age of five alongside his mother, who was a head seamstress at Balenciaga.
He initially studied architecture at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris, before beginning his fashion career in the early 1960s.
He started his career sketching high end handbags and shoes, before branching into fashion and jewellery, selling his large plastic accessories and buttons to to couture houses.
Reflective of the mid-1960s cultural climate, his garments used post-war industrial materials – creating a trademark chunky and bold look. His architectural background also shone out in much of his work.
After a three-decade long career, Rabanne stepped back from the design house in 1999.
In 2010, the designer was made an Officier de la Legion d’Honneur in France, the country’s highest civilian award.
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