Soulful British singer-songwriter Rumer, with Pakistani roots, is about to prove that the world really does need her songs.
Soulful British singersongwriter Rumer is about to prove that the world really does need her songs.
THINGS look good for Rumer.
She was flown to California by Burt Bacharach so he could hear her sing; she was one of only two guests (the other being Plan B) invited to join Elton John and Leon Russell at the BBC Radio 2 Electric Proms; she recently played Later ... With Jools Holland; and her new album is receiving the kind of reviews that make most artistes crack open the champagne.
Sitting in the bar of the Roundhouse in London, however, the only drink on Rumer’s table is a pot of Earl Grey tea.
“The proof of it,” she allows, “will be if ladies who happen to be standing by the till in Tesco think, ‘Oh, that’ll be nice.’”
Genial, attractive and mellow, with a shawl over her shoulders, there is something of the welleducated hippy about Rumer. She’s at the Roundhouse on the final date of a tour supporting pop-folk heartthrob Joshua Radin. She tells how Radin was puzzled by his turn on Terry Wogan’s live performance show at the BBC Radio Theatre. “There were so many seniors,” he told her.
“Those are my people,” laughs Rumer, 31, throatily.
Refreshingly, she’s not focused on the trendy young demographic and mentions instead how once, when she sang Bill Withers’ song Grandma’s Hands in concert, an elderly lady came up afterwards and said how moved she’d been.
Her inclusive, easy-going attitude may derive from chasing a breakthrough for nigh on a decade, from her days with indie group La Honda, who once had a song in a Tic Tac advert, to recently providing vocals for German electronic outfit Boozoo Bajou. The songs on her new album,
Seasons Of My Soul, were honed trawling London’s live circuit. They are smooth, immediate, but shot through with heartache and salvation.
“The album works on two levels,” Rumer says. “You can hear it like a Norah Jones or Diana Krall album, have it on in the background and ignore it, or you can tune into it. Lyrically, I enjoy the challenge of explaining a complex and abstract emotional landscape through song.”
This, lush melody aside, is where the album hits home. Rumer is especially proud of the song On My Way Home which “describes a journey that’s beyond description” – through grief after the death of her mother from breast cancer in 2003.
“My life is before and after,” she says. “Before my mother’s death was the age of innocence, hitting the road with La Honda, having fun. Afterwards things went a little bit more serious.”
Rumer was born Sarah Joyce, the youngest of seven children, to a British family in Pakistan, only finding out later in life that her birth was the result of her mother’s affair with the family’s Pakistani cook. When she was four they returned to Britain and settled in the New Forest. Rumer became obsessed with old musicals and would sit with the video recorder and crayons, rewinding and writing down the lyrics.
This bleeds into her music, and is brought out by her producer and arranger Steve Brown. Brown is a composer for hire, probably most famous as bandleader Glenn Ponder in Steve Coogan’s Alan Partridge show Knowing Me,
Knowing You, but he also composed the successful musical
Spend, Spend, Spend. He saw Rumer at an open mic night and was musically smitten, since investing large amounts of time and money in her career.
However, the musical director of Harry Hill’s TV Burp did not seem an obvious choice for a budding Carole King.
“People who cared about me and my music were having a go saying, ‘ You have got to be kidding,’ ” she recalls, but Brown’s orchestral sheen adds something attractively retro to her work. I suggest the pair should do a Bond theme.
“Do you know,” she says conspiratorially, “I am working on a secret project with John Barry.”
Her other obvious influence is the singer-songwriters of California’s Laurel Canyon community of the early 1970s. So much so, she even spent an extended “hippy holiday” at Carly Simon’s place in Martha’s Vineyard a few years back, “staying up drinking and playing guitar” with Simon, her son Ben Taylor and even James Taylor.
She has a song, not on the album, called John Sebastian’s Girl and quotes the lyrics, “I wish I could be there/Oh take me back/ Those Canyon days are over/How I wish I could be there.”
On stage at the Roundhouse, however, there is no sign of paisley or flowers in her hair. Her 1.6m form is, instead, swathed in modest black. She concludes her half-hour support set with Aretha, an emotive paean to childhood loneliness.
Her striking hazel eyes are tightly closed. She cannot see that the hall is filled with young people who have arrived early to see her. — © The Daily Telegraph UK 2010
Rumer’s Seasons Of My Soul is released by Warner Music Malaysia
Emotional: Rumer’s album SeasonsOfMySoul was honed trawling London’s live circuit.