Trav­el­ing trou­ba­dour Ru­pert Wates at Voices Cafe

The Norwalk Hour - - FRONT PAGE - Mike Horyczun’s Sound Surf­ing col­umn ap­pears ev­ery Satur­day in The Hour. Mike can be reached at [email protected]

Ru­pert Wates sees his role as a tour­ing singer-song­writer as a con­tin­u­ous, end­less jour­ney.

“Per­form­ing is very sat­is­fy­ing, be­cause you’re con­stantly finding new ways of in­ter­pret­ing songs,” he said. “There’s al­ways more to find in songs that you’ve writ­ten, or in other peo­ple’s songs that you’re per­form­ing. You’re al­ways finding new ap­proaches, and ev­ery per­for­mance is in­com­plete. There’s al­ways a bet­ter per­for­mance. That’s one of the many rea­sons why I’m at­tracted to mu­sic, be­cause the story is never over.”

Wates’ jour­ney and his story con­tinue this week­end, when he ap­pears lo­cally at Voices Café, at 8 p.m. Satur­day.

The trav­el­ing trou­ba­dour, who was born in Lon­don, grad­u­ated from Ox­ford Univer­sity, came to the U.S. in 2006 af­ter liv­ing in Paris for five years, and now has res­i­den­cies in New York City and Colorado, sees life on the road as a given for his line of work.

“I am al­ways trav­el­ing,” he said. “The fact is that for mu­si­cians to­day, the only way to make a liv­ing is to go on the road. It doesn’t mat­ter who you are, be­cause you can’t make a liv­ing sell­ing records any­more, no mat­ter how good they are. It’s got noth­ing to do with the qual­ity of what you do. Peo­ple can just steal it, down­load it, and you don’t get a penny from it. Al­bum sales are noth­ing like they were 20 years ago, let alone 40 years ago. So very few peo­ple can make a liv­ing through record­ing. You have to play live, and to make that work, you have to go on the road. And that’s fine by me, be­cause I like life on the road, even though it is ex­haust­ing.”

Wates av­er­ages 120 live shows a year, and al­most half of those — at least 50 — are house con­certs, where artists per­form in the in­ti­mate en­vi­ron­ment of peo­ple’s homes.

“Right now they’re the most re­li­able form of in­come for most mu­si­cians. They’re ac­tu­ally some of the best gigs you can get, the most re­ward­ing gigs in ev­ery sense,” he said. “For some years now, I’ve been writ­ing songs specif­i­cally for that con­text — that I know I’m go­ing to be able to re­pro­duce with when it comes to per­form­ing live. So the songs are very lyric-based. They’re very full of sto­ries, and they’re all songs I could do jus­tice with just on the gui­tar.”

Wates is as pro­lific as he is ac­com­plished and rec­og­nized. He’s re­leased over half-a-dozen al­bums, and he has won more than 40 song­writ­ing and per­form­ing awards. He was a fi­nal­ist at this year’s Ker­rville Folk Fes­ti­val in Texas in the pres­ti­gious New Folk Con­test, and he was cho­sen as an Emerg­ing Artist at the 2018 Fal­con Ridge Folk Fes­ti­val in New York. Two CDs con­sist­ing en­tirely of his ma­te­rial have been recorded by other artists, “Crazy Puz­zle” by the Nashville-based Roxie Rogers, and ‘”Wide Open Heart” by Los An­ge­les vo­cal­ist Su­san Kohler.

“It’s very af­firm­ing for me, it’s the best thing that’s hap­pened in terms of my morale, the feel­ing of be­ing af­firmed in what I’m do­ing,” he said, of the cover projects of his mu­sic. “That these peo­ple should in­vest so much time, en­ergy and money in songs that I’ve writ­ten, it’s a very high com­pli­ment.”

Wates of­ten ties the al­bums that he releases to spe­cific themes.

“One thing I say about all my CDs is that they all have a govern­ing theme and a govern­ing sound and a govern­ing style. I try to main­tain that through each of my CDS, so each one is dif­fer­ent,” he said.

His lat­est, “The Lights of Paris,” fits that for­mula.

“Paris has al­ways been a very spe­cial place to me,” said Wates. “To me it’s a city for artists, not just prac­tic­ing artists, but all peo­ple who have an aes­thetic ap­proach to life. As was pointed out to me re­cently, dur­ing World War II, Paris was one of the few cities which was not blacked out, be­cause for most of the war it was not a tar­get for the bombers. So the lights of Paris shone, and they were given a new sig­nif­i­cance as bea­cons of hope in that black time — which they are to me to­day, more than ever, in a world full of ha­tred and vi­o­lence. De­spite its ti­tle, most of the songs are not about Paris at all. The ti­tle song comes at the end of the al­bum, which is my way of suggest­ing that the lights of Paris still prom­ise a kind of so­lu­tion — a sym­bol of love and beauty, of ev­ery­thing that is good about us as hu­man be­ings, and an an­ti­dote, if you like, to the ha­tred and vi­o­lence which sur­round us.”

Voices Café is lo­cated at The Uni­tar­ian Church in West­port, at 10 Lyons Plains Road. Visit voic­

Randy Brad­bury / Con­trib­uted photo

Trav­el­ing trou­ba­dour Ru­pert Wates ap­pears at Voices Cafe in West­port at 8 p.m. Satur­day.

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