Hailing from Bradford, Andy Ruddy is currently touring his latest EP On This Great Day, a collection of honest and heartfelt songs which were produced by Fraser Smith, featured backing vocals from Alex Stamp and came out on September 29th.
Andy is now “giving his all” with some brand new music and has a forthcoming album currently in progress, all of which Melz Durston recently spoke to him about for Louder Than War…
Louder Than War: You mention Guy Garvey as an inspiration — and I could probably infer this from the title of your EP alone, which made me think immediately of Elbow’s song One Day Like This. Your own sound is much more stripped down but has the potential to be as epic and grand as Elbow’s music with full-blown string orchestras. When you pick up your guitar and begin writing a song, is the honesty of your own voice and your guitar, enough to carry your ideas?
Andy Ruddy: I’m glad you’ve asked this question! A few people have asked me in the last year about the title. I was aware of the similarity but the phrase ‘On This Great Day’ was actually taken from a phrase in a hymn written over a hundred years ago. We used to sing it at school every term and from an early age I fancied that line for a song in the future.
I think part of honesty in writing – especially with pop music – is to accept that there might be other songs out there using similar words, but knowing that you came to your own ideas in an organic way or put your own spin on them. So that’s why I decided it was still a good title.
I’ve written with and for others but when it comes to my own material, I think the personal nature of it adds a little extra resonance. I believe that honesty does carry them – and thankfully enough people are agreeing with me to allow me to keep the faith in that process.
You recently recorded live at St Saviour’s Church. What do you find most mesmerising about playing in a church? And, similar to Laura Marling who did a cathedral tour, do you aspire to something along these lines? Do you prefer to sing and play unplugged so as to maintain that honesty to your work? You recorded your album in The Chapel…can you let us into any tech secrets such as mics used for those of us interested in replicating this clear sound quality?
I think the natural reverb in churches quite suits my sound – I like a bit of reverb on my vocals in mixes or live. St. Saviour’s has a beautiful grand piano which is a real treat to play.
For the tech geeks, when recording acoustic guitars and piano in those environments, Fraser Smith would place a couple of extra condenser mics around the room to capture the parts along with the natural qualities of those spaces. Those tracks are subtle in the mix but you notice them when they’re removed. Plus, Fraser was always looking to use the simple acoustic sounds at his disposal. He had me doing a lot of foot stomping on the church floor and you can hear it in the crescendos of ‘Resolutions’ and ‘On This Great Day’.
If someone wants to book me a church tour then I am all ears!
You mention quite a few more contemporary artists who have influenced you — but when you were growing up, in Bradford, were there any local sounds that got under your skin? Likewise, any records from your parents’ era that filtered through to your own songwriting?
Bradford – definitely. There were some great bands who were really in touch with their hometown lyrically. There was a now defunct band called 14 Corners whose Myspace page I got a little obsessed with. Some of the Bradford bands really taught me I needed to up my game and stop impersonating Liam Gallagher.
My parents loved 80’s pop records. As a baby they used to put me to sleep to Peter Gabriel’s album, ‘So’. I rediscovered the album a few years ago. It’s funny how familiar all the melodies felt. I love his balance between artiness and just a great pop hook – so maybe melodically, that and some other 80’s music is a subtle influence. But my parents are cool! They got into a lot of the contemporary records when I got into them at 12 or 13 – like Damien Rice and Coldplay. They still love a lot of contemporary stuff.
Your band — can you tell us a bit about the backing vocalist and her background? Do they have any other projects going on of their own?
Alex is brilliant. We write together, sing together with the band and do a lot of recording work on the stuff she writes herself. She’ll write a song on her lunch break at work and email me it straight away – she’s a very natural songwriter. Her musical values have always been more indie-pop so her own material has eventually gravitated towards that. She loves bands like The National, Shed Seven and Embrace. Embrace are from my neck of the woods so thankfully she likes a bit of Northern Balladry!
She helped me write ‘If The Years Are Kind’ on the new EP.
Lyrically, your words are like poetry — and seem to come out of experience and personal hurt. But like Elbow, there is hope in your music. Who has helped you through the tougher times in life, and how does writing your own music give you a clarity on your life? Do you work hard at ‘cultivating’ lyrics and making sure they fit together, or is it more organic in the way a lyric might come to you?
I will scribble ideas down anywhere but I find I will add to them and mess with them for a while before they achieve the necessary coherence for a song. Sometimes I write songs quickly – like ‘Boy’ (also covered by Martha Paton) on the EP in a writing session – but most lyrics I like to work on and add to over a period of time.
I think any songwriter uses personal experience. And sometimes the negative experiences provide the necessary friction for writing. But I would also say I’m quite a chirpy person despite the odd brooding song! My family are a great support and my musician friends down South have really helped keep my music ‘alive’. Without them I wouldn’t have been able to make the album or have a band.
You seem to have a really down-to-earth approach to your work and your interactions with your listeners — this also definitely comes across in your music: you’re not trying to be someone you are not. Inevitably, as artists, noone is entirely an original — as we all take from various people and places who have inspired us. Do you ever question the whole ‘music industry’ and wonder how you fit into it, and where it is heading in the future? There seems to be a polarity between the true independent DIY artists and those who are signed to the major labels — with less of a middle ground. Is it important to you to retain your own autonomy?
The way I see it is that I’m lucky to live in a country where I get to enjoy music and play music. If the world doesn’t want to pay me to sing – that’s fair enough. But the reason I’m doing everything I can with regard to the industry is because I think we’ve made an album at least as good as other albums that have had some success.
There is always great music out there being made – the industry has struggled in the last decade but there are still opportunities and reasons to be optimistic.
Can you tell us a bit about the video for On This Great Day? There are some recurring themes including the concept of time… Have you ever felt lost in time, stuck in a moment, and has songwriting enabled you to branch out and create a new chapter in your life? Who directed the video and the concept behind it?
Mat O’Brien directed my video. I liked his idea about the characters checking the pocket watches – the way we all perceive time differently. The message of ‘On This Great Day’ is don’t live by the timelines and expectations of others – live it for yourself and think for yourself. So his visual ideas tied in nicely and subtly with my lyrics.
You mentioned that you record sounds on your phone — what stands out to you, in your environment?
Every idea has something good about it. So sometimes it’s just a little melodic hook or guitar riff that stands out. it doesn’t matter if the rest is useless – you can judge it and alter it later.
There are songs I wish I’d written. ‘Strange and Beautiful’ by Aqualung for instance – I love that song.
Your whole EP is a timeline across a person’s life. It seems a really poignant way to encapsulate those ever-changing emotions, experiences and the only constant: change. How much have you changed over your lifetime — and has music been the one constant for you? Do you think you will always believe in the transformational nature of music and do you hope that your own music will appeal to listeners on all levels?
I hope so. But as you alluded to – music already provides a lot of comfort and excitement for all of us. It’s just how many of us are wired. So a good reception to my music is just an exciting bonus really. But I will continue to write songs and see where it leads me for its own sake – for the songwriting. It’s my favourite thing to do and yes, it is a constant. But hopefully I will be able to share it with as many people as possible along the way.
Andy Ruddy continues his tour of his new EP On This Great Day — dates are below:
- October 6th — Green Door Store, Brighton
- October 12th — Caroline Club, Bradford
- October 13th — Oporto, Leeds
- October 22nd — Broadcast, Glasgow
All words by Melz Durston. More writing by Melz on Louder Than War can be found at her author’s archive.