An Interview With Ruarri Joseph

Having just arrived after a long trip down from Dorchester, following his show at The Arts Centre, I had a chat with Ruarri Joseph before his show that night at Brighton Komedia‘s Studio Bar.


Hi Ruarri. On first seeing the music video for ‘Until The Luck Runs Dry‘ I was completely taken in by the video for the track. How did you and Tony Plant first meet and how did the collaboration come about?

Well we both live in Newquay, and knew each other’s work. Then in November 2012 I heard that he was doing a big beach drawing for charity and I came down with my family to check it out. We got chatting and I couldn’t believe that nobody had used his artwork in a music video before.  I think his work is a good marriage to the track, as it’s about giving it your all, even if you know that you won’t quite make it. It’s about taking a step back and seeing the bigger picture.

I guess on another level it works because even though he is creating this amazing artwork, he doesn’t get to see it until the end when it is half washed away. That kind of shows how we are sometimes, not realising how our actions are viewed by others and not seeing the full influence that we can have. That’s kind of a nice thought.

Exactly! That’s just what we were going for with the video. I’m glad that came across.

With your 2013 Live Album, was there more pressure of fun when you were recording it?

We’d recorded a live album before back in 2008-9. We overstacked the setlist and it was a lot busier that we had anticipated so in the end we just forgot about the recording and played the gig.  With this album, I used the same band as I’m playing with tonight and I think it went really well. It had a cool vibe and was great fun to perform. It’s important to capture what an artist is really like, mistakes and all, so that it feels more human.

What was the idea behind the poem in the album insert of the Live Album?

Sometimes I feel that I’m not very articulate in conversation. With the poem I wanted to give a slice of what it’s like as the performer, coming onto the stage, something that the audience probably don’t often don’t take into account. What did I actually write? (He reads the poem from the album insert aloud) I kinda like that. One of the great things about stream of consciousness writing is that you often don’t really remember what you write, so its nice to rediscover it. Thanks for that!


The Cold Ontario EP has a real mix of tracks on it, from the vocal harmonies and folk sounds of the title track to the contrasting piano ballad ‘Undoubtedly‘ as the very next track. How did you choose the tracklisting for it?

With the EP I wanted to use a variety of tracks, some of which were possibly discordant in styles but the songs still fitted together. I realised that I write in a lot of different ways so it was good to express all those different facets in the EP, including the live tracks, which I think is an important thing.

Do you feel that you have more freedom with an EP than an album, where people kind of expect the songs to be a bit more unified?

Yeah totally. With the EP it’s like a sampler of all that you can do, whereas an album takes some of those things and develops them more. 

How has the November tour been so far?

It’s all gone really well so far. No real hiccups at all! It’s great to tour with friends. It makes all the difference because you all have peaks and dips, but you’re in it together. The tour has had the most dates of any UK tour we’ve done and the most sell outs so that’s great!


 Do you find it difficult managing your own social media, particularly when on tour?

I’m terrible with social media! I like it but it’s just about being organised and on top of it. I find it much easier when I’m on tour actually, because when you’re on the road, you’ve got long periods of travelling with not much to do so it’s a good time to do it. When I’m at home I always find other things to do. It’s really nice to receive feedback though, like for example when we did an Irish tour I had some people saying that it looked like a great trip and that was nice. I guess it is all quite linear when you think about it.


I studied music at University in Bangor, North Wales and I saw that you played at Blue Sky Cafe earlier this month. How was the gig and how did you find Bangor?

Blue Sky is a lovely cafe. We didn’t really get to see much of Bangor though. That’s one of the things that is a shame about a busy tour is that you don’t have much time to see the sights where you go. We found a nice beach which was perfect for skimming stones so we stayed there for about an hour which was really nice. We’ve played in Bangor twice and both times have been sell out shows which is amazing considering we don’t know anybody there. Bangor seems to have a certain clientele for the gigs at Blue Sky and we really enjoyed playing there.

Where did you first meet Lily & Meg and what is it like touring with them?

I first met them a while back. I’d released my Brother album but had a lot of new material that I wanted to play, so I performed a bunch of secret shows under the name William The Conquerer and they were the support for one of the shows. I just fell in love with their sound and their music and with them as people. They play in my band on tour so it works out really well. It’s like we’re in this musical community of people. Sometime people step in for gigs so it’s nice to have that network there.

I saw that you have a liking for Wes Anderson films. Which one were you watching the other day when on break from your tour? My last interview with Alfie Boe, he expressed a particular liking for The Grand Budapest Hotel.

We were watching Life Aquatic the other day. My favourite is probably the Royal Tenenbaums. I love Wes Anderson’s OCD approach to film-making. I saw Alfie Boe in London when he was in Les Mis. I was working on a strange job with the son of the creator of the show and I was just floating around with nothing to do one afternoon and he sorted me out with two tickets. They were probably the best seats in the house, right in the centre. But I didn’t have anybody for my +1 so I just put my coat on the seat next to me and enjoyed the show.


If you had the opportunity, would you like to score a film and if so what kind of film would suit your music?

Yeah of course. It would probably be a low budget indie type film, with some kind of social realism to it. A bit quirky too. (LikeSubmarine?) Yeah, something like that!

Do you have notepads to carry around with you when you get ideas for songs?

I didn’t used to, but I’m getting more organised now. I’ve realised that when I’m more organised, I am more productive! I used to just write notes on anything, napkins, post-it notes and scraps of paper, keeping them all in a wooden box. I used to write in my shed too, like on the walls inside. It looks like some kind of graffiti is going on in there. Once I started, I figured I might use it for an album cover in the future.


Finally, if you could play a gig anywhere to any three people in the world who would you choose to be your audience?

I would probably play in my house. And if I could play to anybody it would be Tom Waits….plus his wife… (So Tom Waits with a +1?) Yeah, and I’d leave the other seat empty, to remind me that I can’t have everything. I’d say Dylan, but I think he is too cantankerous for that kind of thing.

old Ontario EP  and Live 2013 Album are out now and available to buy from his official website here. The new album, currently in the pipeline, working on some of the songs that Ruarri toured under the name of William The Conquerer, and will be out in 2015.

More from Ruarri Joseph:

Interview by Tom Sayer:

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