Bill Ryder-Jones interview: "Making music in my world."
From the pain of derby day defeats to the pleasure of doing things his own way, the Wirral's very own chatted to Skiddle's Daniel Lovatt.
Last updated: 11th Feb 2019. Originally published: 5th Dec 2018
It’s only ninety seconds into the interview, and already Bill Ryder-Jones is faced with a question he had already answered twenty minutes before in another call. When asked if a bitter taste still lingered in his throat after his beloved Everton fell to a 96th minute defeat in the Merseyside derby, he responded with a calmly, blessed with a higher sense of perspective “It’s just a game, It only takes me three minutes to forget about it."
A collected approach that most raging football fans could only dream of replicating. After a few chuckles, his infinite wisdom climaxed “You gotta get used to it, defeat.” Ironic, as judging by the responses to his fourth album release last month, Jones has netted a glancing header for a 96th minute victory himself.
Immediately Jones delves into the role of the music industry in depicting mental health, as a result of being asked if the industry encourages marketable sadness. “The press romanticised mental health, and it seemed to force the hand of the music press, but I think it’s getting better with a serious discussion in the mainstream.” Of course, he’s right. We are gravitating towards a serious recognition of these afflictions.
The question arose as a result of Ryder’s lyric “There’s a fortune to be had from being sad” taken from the opening track ‘There’s Something on Your Mind’, which preceding the discussion could rightfully have been seen as an incredibly perceptive view on the music industry’s attitudes to depression, but instead, was meant as a joke. “It’s because I’m skint.” Either way it sounds rather beautiful.
Of course, this was an opportune moment to also ask about his exit from The Coral, but rather than focusing on his personal health reasons, seeing the opportunity as a gateway to fulfilling his career as a solo artist. “Not that I knew it at the time, it definitely wasn’t planned like that.”
Concurring that they are a “Great band with some great tunes”, a collective few seconds of silence hung, before Jones added “I don’t think there was room for another songwriter in there, still, I wouldn’t be where I was today without it. Making music in my world.” The magnificence of retrospect, everything happens for a reason. His role in The Coral may not have allowed him to exercise his rapidly changing tastes, so it seems he flourishes on his own.
Jones has enjoyed a fifteen-year career, both making and producing music. One could assume that after constant practice, it may be easier to take these snippets of joy or misery from life and translate them into songs. “Of course, you get better at what you do. I like what I do now, I know my role in the world.” Of course, this was not discrediting his formative tracks. “My first songs were good but some were naïve, but it all depends on how you see the world.” Either way, Jones continues to blossom into a fully formed siren of troubled, visceral minds.
Most tracks from Yawn appear to be open until the second they close, almost incompletely completed. Jones mentioned so himself in previous interviews, saying ‘The songs just end wherever they end’. This improvisational approach, the opposition of a pre-determined structure may answer the prayers of songwriters who struggle with the difficulties of the process. Jones still hasn’t shrugged some of the difficulties though.
“Every song writing process is so different, every song is different. Sometimes it resolves naturally, sometimes it doesn’t.” The cards remained close to his chest, before later joking “I do find formula boring though.” Whilst we may not have cracked the enigma together, he has begun to search beyond the a,b,c’s into the great pines of song experimentation.
Another comment which stuck out from an interview with Clash Magazine was his frustration with writing lyrics, how they were in fact the ‘bane’ of his life. Jones was quick to reject this, even the notion that writing lyrics is frustrating. “I was exaggerating, it’s not that I hate them or don’t care about them, sometimes I prefer them, sometimes I don’t. You go with what’s working.” He does, as so often, see beyond the simple purpose of lyrics to the greater stretch of marketability. “For me, melody is the main thing. But, lyrics are how you affect people.”
It’s true, there is a claw that a singer’s voice sinks into your soul, but I don’t know, I think Jones undermines his own ability to pluck our heartstrings without his hushed vocals, especially after hearing his score for indie film ‘Piggy’. One of the many multi-dimensions he has in his locker.
It’s a well-known fact that Jones has been inspired by classical composers, especially the likes of Elgar and Debussy, and this has served in crafting his intricate melodies, that are so often on display in the album. These, served up with a side order of heartfelt phrases ‘You said something perfect with six words and one kiss’ in the track ‘Don’t be scared, I love you’ has all the makings of an evolution, from the jangly pop, ‘northern boy with a guitar’ drive of his last album West Kirby County Primary. Jones hopes this is the case, but, doesn’t feel that his previous albums are in anyway inadequate to Yawn.
“It’s less sing-alongy, but we write about what we see and feel at that time. In this album, I’ve addressed a balance.” Returning to the discourse of a journey, a theme running through the underbelly of the album, a ride through the trials and tribulations of everyday life, something we all casually endure. As things become sentimental, he lightens the mood and turns the attention to his recent tour “I spent two weeks with Gruff Rhys, supporting him and watching him play. He’s fantastic, he makes his own unique take on pop.” He may be emotionally in-tune, but Bill doesn’t let a raincloud sit over the chat.
Continuing the chipper, West Kirby cheekiness he replies with ‘female vocals’ when queried about what he thought collaborations with Our Girls and The Orielles added to the album. We chuckle, but Bill eventually lays down some clarity. “It added to the world I was in, I love their sound.” Despite loving the sound, he hadn’t written the songs with the girls in mind. He would have loved to collaborate with the girls from indie glitter band The Seamonsters and hopes that this may await him in the future.
The interview draws to a close, and with the second to last question, comes another snappy answer. It seems like a formality to ask how to define the overall message or moral of an artist’s work, more challengingly so, in one sentence. Bill has none of it “That’s not my job man. That’s the job of the press.” I suppose that’s fitting for a sincere album pumped full of the man’s heart, blood and soul, rather than a business proposal. He laughs all the same, something tells me he may be used to that question.
Taking the question off his fan’s lips and into the world, the interview ends with ‘What Next?’ and the words barely enter his eardrums before he comes charging in with a response. In this question, Bill seemed the freest, always focused on what lies ahead. Besides from his eagerly anticipated European and Uk tour at the beginning of next year, and a hometown gig on December 13th, there’s opportunities of working with Manchester artist County Line Runner and “My best mate Liam, who’s a guitarist. He’s round now actually, doing a bit of a clean-up.” If that wasn’t enough on Bill’s plate, he “already has plans for the record he wants to make next.” Satisfied with himself, we say our goodbyes and wish each other a wonderful day. Isn’t that the true sign of greatness, always striving to achieve more.