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TC in Conversation with Rumer

Off the back of her debut album “Seasons of My Soul” which has achieved platinum certification and reached number 3 in the UK charts back in 2010, Rumer was nominated at the 2011 Brit Awards for both Best British Newcomer and Best British Female. In subsequent years the soulful voice of  Sarah Joyce which has often been described as reminiscent of Karen Carpenter has released a further 3 full length records: “Boys Don’t Cry” in 2012 which re-imagined songs from male artists that first came to life in the 1970’s, a second album of original songs “Into Colour” in 2014 and “This Girls in Love” in 2016 where she explored the songbook  of Burch Bacharach and Hal David.

Three and a half years later, Rumer returns with her new album “Nashville Tears” which gives exposure to the songwriting catalogue of Hugh Prestwood, the Texas born songwriter and member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. In her own blog on her website (which you can read in full HERE) she explains her search for “a collection of songs from the Nashville songwriting community that either got lost, or didn’t get the attention they deserved” and how the album’s producer Fred Mollin, sent her a demo of “Oklahoma Stray” which allowed her to be mesmerised by the craft of Prestwood for his work to become the sole focus of the project.

Her post is very honest and reflective of why she has taken time away from making music following the birth of her son and living in different parts of a different country, having spent time in California, Arkansas and now Georgia since relocating to the United States along with what this posed to her creatively. However her passion has been re-ignited and this beautiful collection of songs that form “Nashville Tears” which is due for release on August 14th is not just a fantastic expose to some of Prestwood’s undervalued or unknown work but a clear statement that she is ready to have her majestic voice deliver these stories and hopefully many more of her own. I had some time speaking with Sarah on the phone and here I share the entirety of our delightful, deeply honest and incredibly fun chat.

Photograph by Alan Messer

Hey Sarah, How’s life in Georgia this morning?

It’s OK, the storms coming in so it’s gonna be stormy all week but pretty good.

Well we’ve got pretty nice weather again today, typical bank holiday over here where it was nice all last week and then weekend rolls around, you know.

Yeah, typical

What’s the latest with the whole Covid, lockdown, quarantine or however we put it, right now in GA as a state right now?

Well, Georgia infamously was one of the states that things opened up first. It may even have been THE state that opened up first. You know it was just a bit random really, they opened up hair salons and tattoo parlours which I wouldn’t necessarily say you would think would be the first things to open but it’s ok! The first couple of weeks after they opened, people still weren’t going out, now people are starting to go out. A couple of the restaurants are open but we’re still being cautious, everyone’s still wearing masks and everything else. I think people are making their own decisions about the risks they want to take, but also try and support business.

Oh yeah, I think that’s the thing they’re starting to drive over here now. They want us to “Stay Alert” as our current guidance says but at the same time they wanna start getting things going again so we are going a little bit slower than some of the States over there particularly where you are and in Tennessee, where the bars are opening up and live music is coming back. So on that let’s talk about this new record then.

What do you think?

I really like it, I was really impressed when I got it send over and had a listen. Going way off topic here but when I first came across you was back in 2011 in Hyde Park (at the Hard Rock Calling Festival where she was on the same bill which included the likes of Rod Stewart, Stevie Nicks, Train, Mike + the Mechanics and Barenaked Ladies).

Oh Bloomin’ hell, that was a disaster!

I remember it being a ridiculously hot day, but whenever I have been to festivals there it has always felt really hot.

I had such a bad cough, I was coughing in-between the songs and I was so knackered. That was that weekend where I did Glastonbury too, I had 3 massive gigs the same weekend, one after the other and I had chronic bronchitis so I was kind of in my twilight zone then at that point.

That was at the point between the first record of original music (Seasons of My Soul) and the sophomore (Boys Don’t Cry) which revisited other peoples songs which is a similar idea to looking at Hugh’s songs and exploring that back catalogue here. I saw the blog post on your website which said when you first came across his music, you were very similar to me in that I hadn’t heard of Hugh Prestwood. I had heard the Trisha Yearwood cut (The Song Remembers When) but it wasn’t automatically associated with where it came from. So it’s nice to just explore different things.

Totally, but I hadn’t even heard that before!

So, you had this Canadian producer, Fred Mollin who kept badgering you for a while wanting to work with you.

Haha

Then eventually you caved in and said I’ve got this idea “Nashville Tears” but before you had been set on the music of Hugh Prestwood, what inspired “Nashville Tears” as something you wanted to do?

Because, I always felt like having been in the industry, I know how many different hoops you have to jump through to get a song out and for a song to get out to people for them to hear it, it has to be performed by the right singer at the right time, with the right team and the right radio support or the right label. So many ducks have to be in a row before a song reaches people’s ears and with that in mind I realised so many songs must not get out! Then with all the phenomenal songwriters in Nashville, how many songs don’t get out? I was starting to think about all these lost songs that must be sitting on hard drives or maybe they were released? Like the Ty Herndon song “Learning How To Love” when the industry turned against him for the crime of being gay, at the time which was just ridiculous and was gorgeous that cut! Songs like that, before I learnt of Hugh Prestwood, I was like there’s got to be so many great songs that never got out and that was really the beginning of the desire to share these songs. I think it’s the stories and pieces of people’s hearts from these songwriters that never got out, you know they were meant for people to hear and meant to be communicated but never were! I still believe they are out there. It just so happened that I got massively side-tracked when I heard Hugh Prestwood that I realised I just had to do all of his work!

What was it specifically about his work that grabbed and impacted you so much, to be like Wow! This is the direction I need to go for this project?

Just because it had so many dimensions to it and the songwriting, the earthy southern sensibility with the country feel. The everydayness, the stories, emotions and universal themes you know the human feelings that are so great. At the same time there was a mystical quality to the writing that kind of unlocked something in my own soul. Where as a singer it was almost like, there are so many languages you can speak and as a singer you are looking for songs that open up the spirit you know? Or can open up the heart and I think for me Hugh Prestwood opened up my heart in a different way which meant I could express music bigger and go more widescreen than I’d ever done before emotionally.

When did you become more aware and looking towards Nashville as this big bucket of ideas and what comes from these country songwriters? Like me you grew up over here where we don’t have that access to the genre, so was it once you had moved to LA or at any point before where you had been listening to what it had to offer?

I found Patsy Cline’s greatest hits when I was about 10 years old and I loved it. I used to read these kind of novels that were set in the south places like Virginia and stuff like that, then at the time I had a phase for like a whole year of reading these novels and listening to Patsy Cline at the same time. I just feel like it’s always been in me, I’m from the countryside any way, I’m from the New Forest so there’s always that feeling of being connected to the land, being with nature and I think effectively that’s what country music is. People that live in the country or love the land, not necessarily the south as it could be the Northern states too but I didn’t start my journey there or I never lived in Nashville. I’ve only visited a couple of times, in fact I don’t really have that big a connection myself. I thought about moving there, we went to visit to see whether I would like it and I didn’t really like it.

Music City has changed a lot! If you are downtown during some parts of the week, it’s basically like Brighton in the middle of the summer where you have the hen parties everywhere….

Right, when someone comes up to you dressed as a giant banana and asks you for directions?

Exactly!

I don’t mind the Honky Tonks or all that and I actually had a good time when I went there but it felt like you had to have been there maybe 10/15 years ago and I was a bit too late to be fully in part of the community in Nashville, that maybe since the Nashville show it had possibly become a little bit more commercial. You know what else put me off there, we went for breakfast and it was like $50. They didn’t even come to your table, they expected you to pick it up yourself and I was like you know what, I just wanna go to a Denny’s. I don’t need this, I was in East Nashville and it felt overpriced. There’s nothing I hate more than being overcharged.

You do get that feel at times, even when you aren’t in the tourist traps then now everything is opening back up it may get even more crazy with things opening back up where places haven’t been making any money.

Nashville wasn’t my thing although I deeply respected the people that lived there, worked there and were part of the community. I respected all the songwriters and musicians that were, but I personally felt I would be too late moving there and being part of the community but I loved how much talent was there. I was living in Arkansas and now I’m in Georgia which is more my thing, you know what I mean but I was always aware and I like to visit, meet people, work with people and yeah the talent is out of this world!

Working on the record, I suppose it’s been the first thing you’ve put out for a little while, has it set the spark again as such to look to bring out some more original music again as it’s been even longer since we have had a Rumer record of Rumer’s songs?

Yeah, I think that’s what I’m gonna do next. Obviously I would like to have done record after Bacharach that was my own work but I had a child and like you’ll read on the blog, I was so involved in domestic stuff..

Life happens and different things become priorities..

It does and I thought if anyone asks me why I haven’t written an album for a while, I’d just tell them the truth because I just couldn’t do it, it wasn’t possible at that time. I left having a child until I was 37, I mean I couldn’t leave it any later than I left it and still it does interrupt your career path and everything but that’s what I’m gonna do next. Now my son is 3 and getting older, I’m able to feel more confident leaving him due to work and everything so I’m definitely gonna be working on writing a new record soon but I don’t know how long that’s gonna take.

Well there’s still this one for people to get excited about, which has obviously been pushed back due to things that are going on in the world, same with the tour. So it’s next March when your expecting to be back?

I’m actually coming back to London in a month. My kind of Southern experience is kinda coming to an end now. I’ve been here for about 7 years and I feel like I just wanna go home..

Not just living over in the States but when you grew up over here, you didn’t stay in the same place all the time and you seemed to move around as you mentioned the New Forest, then there was Carlisle and Devon and London..

Haha, I just feel like I have been here as an observer, I’ve been part of the community but truthfully I haven’t really adapted! I thought I would and I just didn’t really adapt to America! I’ve loved it, I have been so glad to be here and I’ve really enjoyed it but I’m really English! I’ve realised I’m just really really English and I just wanna be home now!

There’s only so much cold tea that’s lumped full of sugar that you can deal with before you really need a proper brew once again isn’t it?

Oh my God! Exactly! I try every which way like I’ve got Yorkshire tea bags and I put mineral water in the kettle but it’s still not the same! Then I miss the pub! I’m a pub kid, I grew up in the pub and when I was 18 I worked in pubs and have always felt like a connection to pubs and I feel weird not going to them. Pub culture, I miss it!

Well I think we all do right now!

Oh My God! When you finally get to have a pint?

I tell you, when it reopens the sight of Wetherspoons on George Street in Croydon will be a picture, I don’t think any of us could have ever imagined 6 months ago!

Hahahaha, I’ll bet!

This has been so cool to talk to you and a lot of fun! Like I said I have listened to the record, I hadn’t overly listened to a lot of your stuff beyond the first record which is going way back but I really really like it and I think a lot of people will too! I was talking to someone the other day, when they said oh yeah she’s got the record with the song Trisha recorded, the Hugh Prestwood stuff and I said that right now it’s just the perfect soundtrack to early evening, sat having a chill with a drink in the garden after work then the slant you take on these songs is so fresh and it really fits!

Thank you! Well on my website, if you buy the album from there you get a wine label with the album cover on it….

Oh My God, that’s awesome! I love it!

People for years kept posting pictures of themselves, listening with a bottle of wine and my CD. Saying here I am having a Pinot Grigio or whatever, so obviously my fans like to drink and we’re gonna have a little release party so everyone get’s a wine label and we all can have a glass of wine as we listen.

That’s like a great marketing idea too. I’ve not seen anyone else try and think of doing something like that. I know people do some random and creative things but that’s awesome and really works!

Well they all kind of gave me the idea posting their wine bottles, so if you’re pairing me with wine then you know? Maybe I could do wine labels for all theses albums….

That’s even better, they would be like different vintages!

Haha, yes so they like their wine and last time I had a show at Rye Festival, I went to Co-op and got like four boxes of box wine and we all had wine whilst people were in the queue.

That’s amazing and probably one of the other things that you forget or take for granted living over here, just the ease of popping to Co-op to pick things up. One of my American friends was fascinated by Tesco Express and Sainsbury’s Local how it was so simple, convenient and quick to buy a pre-packaged sandwich, then they discovered Pret and were like MIND BLOWN!

Hahaha, YES! Here you have to get in a car and drive like 20 minutes and everything’s just like a trek! I’m not a car person, I learnt to drive in LA and I’m not meant to drive a car, OK and just like I haven’t adapted to America, I haven’t really got better at driving either so the car is doing my head in with all the driving so just being able to pop to the shops is definitely something I’m excited about!

Sounds like there’s someone there that’s just come in to see their mum? But great talking to you and thanks again for the chat.

Yeah, I’ve gotta go but it that was fun, it was great chatting and speak soon!

“Nashville Tears” will be released through Cooking Vinyl on August 14th which you can pre-save or pre-order HERE or checking out the store on her Website where you can find all the special bundles that she has available (which all include the genius idea of wine bottle stickers that she talked about) to buy. The album was produced by Fred Mollin at StarStruck Studios with some of Music City’s best; Mandy Barnett, Pat Buchanan, Matt Dame, Stuart Duncan, Tania Hancheroff, Lorrie Harden, Tommy Harden, Mike Johnson, Kerry Marx, Gordon Mote, Larry Paxton, Scotty Sanders, and Bryan Sutton. Her UK Tour dates have been pushed back until March 2021 and you can keep up to date with Rumer on Facebook Twitter Instagram

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