Unlikely singing superstar Rag’n’Bone Man caps remarkable year with appearance at Norfolk’s Sundown
PUBLISHED: 13:28 29 August 2017 | UPDATED: 15:41 29 August 2017
His song Human became an overnight global hit and proved its pays not to take golden voiced singer Rag’n’Bone Man at face value. As he prepares to come to Norfolk’s Sundown festival, he tells us more about an amazing 12 months.
If you’re looking for the biggest impact on music in 2017 you’d have to go far to beat the success of Rag’n’Bone Man.
Less than 18 months ago the singer-songwriter was finely tuning his special combination of blues, soul, gospel, folk and hip hop from the fringes of the music industry, unaware of the huge success that was just around the corner.
He had released a couple of EPs and made it onto BBC Radio 1’s In New Music We Trust playlist, but was far from a household name.
But then his brooding, smoky single Human was released in July 2016, a musical juggernaut that became so ubiquitous it seemed to be playing in every shop and scoring every TV show trailer for the rest of the year. It was even performed on The X Factor.
His debut album, also called Human, has subsequently been a huge hit worldwide, selling an astonishing 650,000 copies in less than five months in the UK alone.
It helps that it contains not just Human, which has gone to Number 1 on iTunes in over 40 countries selling nearly four million copies in the process, but also his other mega-hit Skin, which has sold over 1.2 million.
The success has seen him appear at a string of festivals over the summer, including a triumphant set on The Other Stage at Glastonbury, and now he is set to appear at Sundown at Norfolk Showground next month.
That he will be appearing just before Saturday night headliner Craig David at the music weekender shows just how far the 32-year-old from Uckfield in East Sussex has come in a very short time.
At 6ft 5in tall and heavily bearded and tattooed, Rory Graham (his real name, the handle Rag ‘N’ Bone Man comes, unlikely as its sounds, from watching repeats of Steptoe and Son) cuts an imposing figure but he seems thoughtful and sometimes rather overwhelmed by all the attention he is now receiving.
He thinks some people are shocked when they see him for the first time, not expecting those emotional bluesy songs to come from someone who looks like him.
“I don’t think people know what to make of me,” he says. “They look at me and they are a bit confused. That’s been a theme for a while. I’ve just been in America where people came to my show on word of mouth and didn’t know what to expect.”
He adds: “People have a hard time with the way I look and the way I sound. They say ‘I didn’t expect you to look like that’. I understand how people conjure up an image and that isn’t what they see. I don’t really know how to react, I know it’s not a compliment.”
While he’s clearly chuffed by the awards that have been bestowed on him - he scored the Critics’ Choice Award at the Brits, as well as the British Breakthrough Act prize - he has found his new fame a trickier prospect.
He explains: “It’s overwhelming at different points. I find the situation very difficult. I don’t think I was ever prepared for that, I take every day as it comes.
“Around the Brits I had reporters at my mum’s house and it’s a bit different for me now. I think I can go anywhere but really you have to pick and choose. I’ve got locals in Brighton where I know no-one would bother me. I’ve been going to them for 15 years and nobody cares, but in London it’s suddenly everybody is looking at me.”
Coming ahead of a forthcoming tour of big venues in November, Sundown is his final festival appearance of the summer following sets at the Isle of Wight, Wildlife in Brighton, Lovebox in London and Bestival in Dorset.
“I love hopping off the bus, hopefully seeing other bands,” he says.
Despite his busy summer schedule he has still found time to work on new music.
He says: “I took a week off and went to a studio. I’ve been writing on the road with my keys player and I wanted to put them down. I have a really clear idea of what I want my next album to sound like.
“The idea is I want it to be a collaborative record. I said I wanted to do something with Stormzy about two years ago and I still do. I haven’t really had time yet but as I work on new material if there is something up his street I would definitely send it to him.
“I also want to get back into some more rap music. I was in a group called Rum Committee so it would be nice to do something with them under that banner.”
Clearly we have only just seen the start of what Rag’n’Bone Man is capable of.
• Rag’N’Bone Man will be at Sundown Festival on September 2. The festival takes place at Norfolk Showground from September 1-3, weekend tickets £82, day tickets £43.50, 0871 2241112, sundownfestival.co.uk