Rag ’n’ Bone Man stands head and shoulders above the rest as Britain’s biggest new music star – but that’s more to do with his voice than his looks.
At 6ft 5in, with a beard and tattoos, he already stands out in a crowd.
But Rory Graham, to give him his real name, is the owner of big, booming, killer voice, full of honest emotion, behind the colossal hit single Human, which is everywhere and on everyone’s lips.
It’s also the title of his new chart-topping album which is now the fastest-selling debut album of the decade, by a male artist.
The singer songwriter won two Brit Awards and is on a sold out UK tour but fans can catch him headlining Live At Leeds, a coup for the city wide music festival, at Leeds University Refectory on Saturday, April 29.
In an exclusive chat – listen to it in full on our website at www. yorkshireeveningpost.co.uk – he revealed what fans can expect of him live, how he started out afraid to sing in public and didn’t realise Human was going to be the big song on the album.
Rory, aged 32, started singing at blues nights in his teens and his love of rap saw him join a hip-hop crew but after more than a decade and a change in direction the crossover artist is now the biggest breakout star of the year, winning 2017 Brit Awards for Best British Breakthrough Act and the Critics Choice Award, previously won by Adele and Sam Smith. He tries not to worry about expectations.
Of his whirlwind 12-months he says: “It’s like being on a fast-moving train and not being able to get off, but in a good way.
“The Grammys are not calling yet, but you never know. I didn’t go into music for trophies but the fact that I’ve got two Brit Awards is a lovely bit of recognition for the work that I have put in so far.
“I try not to worry about expectations because the names come up, you know, Adele, Sam Smith. You just do what you love doing, that’s being on stage singing.
“Fame hasn’t changed me at all. I live out in the country, in the middle of nowhere. When I’m doing music and stuff I don’t mind people taking pictures. I look the way I do so it’s really hard for me to hide.
“I think being on the Jools Holland TV show was quite a big turning point in terms of people not just knowing my music but knowing me as a person, it definitely widened my audience.”
He didn’t realise how big hit song Human would be, already his signature tune, dominating radio playlists and TV, used on drama trailers to sports previews. He expected new single Skin to be his breakthrough song.
“When I wrote Human I liked it, otherwise I wouldn’t have put it out. But it’s gone way further than my expectations,” he said.
“I just thought it was a taste of what was to come on the album. Ultimately people decide whether it’s popular or not.
“I wrote Skin way before I wrote Human, so I always thought that was going to be the main single. Human is about people complaining about small things which are not necessarily things to complain about. That’s the theme behind the song.”
Rory revealed he has something new planned for his second album: “I’m going to do something that is very different on the next project, sound wise.
“But I still keep the same ethos with the songs.
“The songs are key. The sound, the production and stuff is kind of insignificant if you haven’t got good songs to start off with.”
Rory, who took the name Rag ’n’ Bone Man from his love of TV comedy Steptoe and Son – at the age of 15, he MCed with a drum and bass crew using the handle Rag ‘N’ Bonez, inspired by watching repeats of the long-running British sitcom Steptoe and Son – says he was afraid to sing in public when starting out but his family encouraged him.
“The prospect of singing in front of people was quite a scary one,” he says.
“I knew I was in key and there was a bit of power but I never realised it was anything, I don’t know about special, but different, until people told me.”
When Sir Elton John called to tell him so he thought it was a wind up.
“I don’t answer when it comes up as a private number and when he said it was Elton I was waiting for giggles in the background from one of my mates, but it was him,” said Rory, who added he would love to duet with the Rocket Man.
He promises to give his all at Live At Leeds and more gigs will be announced soon. The gig promises to be one to remember, with Rory still focussed on keeping it very real.
He said: “I will be singing my songs the way that I intended them to be – I’ll put everything into it.”
Tickets for the Live At Leeds music festival, taking place in venues across Leeds on Saturday, April 29, are £32.50.
For full line up, tickets and more visit the website: www.liveatleeds.com