Going it alone

Bill Ryder-Jones. Photo: Matt Thomas

By David Hennessy

Bill Ryder-Jones first came to the attention of many as lead guitarist of The Coral, the Wirral band behind hits such as Dreaming of You. Since leaving the band in 2008, his 2011 debut solo album, If (an orchestrated “imaginary soundtrack) has been acclaimed by the critics while the songwriter’s services have become sought after for both film scores and as a producer. His second album, A Bad Wind Blows In My Heart is set for release and sure to mark him out as a true talent to watch as he evolves.

One of his reasons for leaving The Coral was Bill’s intense nerves over going onstage and while he still suffers from this, he has found it easier to manage when returning to the stage to performs tracks from his new collection: “I don’t love playing in public. The Manchester show last week was a bit of a strange one because I was dreading it like you wouldn’t believe but after three or four songs, I really settled into it. Maybe it’s because I’ve worked hard on the record and people had come specifically to see me which perhaps gave me more confidence than I’ve had in the past. You’re just filled with such a sense of dread beforehand. If that wasn’t there I would be able to really enjoy it but it’s always been that way.”

Bill was only 13 when he joined The Coral and was perhaps not prepared for the hype that would surround them following their 2002 debut: “I was always nervous with the band, particularly the last few gigs I did with them and they’re the ones that stick in my mind so it’s kind of default to revert back to that fear and expectation that everything’s going to go terribly wrong. But from my limited experience of doing my own shows, it seems to last two or three songs and then it went. I would love it if that was the case.”

Haunting and moving, his individual sound is different from that of the band he was a part of from 1996 to 2008. Would he be concerned about fans buying the album or coming to the show expecting Coral-esque material? “Erm, it’s not really my problem. I probably wrote five or six songs throughout the whole of my time in The Coral. My input into the band as far as material goes probably wasn’t all that great. If people expect that, they’re welcome to be disappointed. If you were going to go and see James (Skelly, the band’s singer and main songwriter), it was his voice and they were his songs. I don’t know what people expect, I’m not really fussed.”

With the record based on his upbringing, it is also aptly recorded in his childhood bedroom but the songwriter explains this was more of a natural development than conscious decision: “The whole record is about my life and most of my life was spent in the house that it was recorded in. To be honest, as romantic as it is, it wasn’t really something that was planned, it was just where all my equipment was at the time. When I left the band, I moved all my stuff into my mum’s house because my house wasn’t big enough and it slowly got pulled into a studio and I did a few demos and I thought: ‘It sounds really good in here.

“Maybe there is a subconscious connection between writing and recording the demos and creating the album in that room. It wasn’t conscious but it was nice, as an afterthought, that it was done there. All the songs being about things that happened in that house, it’s a representation of the feelings I get when I go back to that house.”

Produced by James Ford who has worked with Arctic Monkeys and Florence and The Machine among others, the record also features the talents of two of the members of emerging band, By The Sea who Bill has done much production for: “I think they’re going to be a really important band. I feel they’re turning into a band who could be one of the- the important band of their generation. Liam and Andy are too of my best friends in the world. Those lads understand what I try to do musically. It was really relaxed as well, that was the point. I didn’t want the songs to sound like they had been slaved over and I had worked for hours and hours perfecting things. It’s quite thought out but we haven’t been spending hours trying to find these really genius microphones. It’s ‘let’s just play’ really and the room is what I think is charming about the record: It’s very dead, we just quickly realised we needed to go with that and make that a feature of the record. As soon as that was realised, everything got really easy.

“It’s like that cub’s scout saying, be prepared. If you spend a lot of time listening to music, consciously or not, you’re developing the way you see the music and the kind of songs you want to write. Hopefully you get yourself in a position where you’ve got enough in the tank and it will get to a point where you don’t have to do that much work anymore. It’s already formulated and processed in the back of your mind. It gets to a point where it just takes off on its own really. That’s when it gets really fun because then you can not worry too much and you can play within and around what you’ve established if that makes sense.”

For the full interview, see the April 6 edition of The Irish World.


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