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At Crew’s studio bunker in Battersea, they slowly pieced together another EP, 2014’s ‘Wolves’, whose towering ambition was best flagged by the fact that it eventually contained nine tracks – an album, in all but name.

RAG’N’BONE MAN – Rag’n’Bone Man‘s Best Songs

RAG'N'BONE MANRag’n’Bone Man is the performing name of English singer-songwriter Rory Graham. By 2012, he had finished working on his debut EP, ‘Bluestown EP,’ which had Gi3mo producing the music. The blend of hip-hop and blues was a hit with the local pubs and youth clubs. Rag gained a decent fan base after the release of his EP.

This happened again whilst driving around with a friend, when Human by Rag’n’Bone Man came on the radio. The 32-year-old singer – whose real name is Rory Graham – has been heavily influenced by the American hip-hop production trio Organized Noize and plans on emulating their style.

I think there’s an attitude these days that you can go straight from a studio to the stage, and it isn’t really like that. But playing live was the most important thing for me at the start because whenever I recorded something, it didn’t sound right, I didn’t like how my voice sounded. It was just raw. Nobody told me how to sing, so I just thought I’d try and sing like Howlin’ Wolf. It was like a bark; there was melody to it – but I would go off a bit and I wouldn’t stick AutoTune on it or anything to make it in key. Even now, I couldn’t tell you about harmonies. I couldn’t tell about what notes I’m singing because nobody taught me to sing. I just sort of listened to myself and thought, OK, you can sing that better – but how?” I just taught myself, through playing gigs and listening to myself.

As the album approaches completion, early tracks are sounding simply electrifying. As a teaser, Rory soft-released the song ‘Healed’, which was overseen by Cadenza (Lily Allen, Sean Paul), aka Oliver Rodigan, whose background as son of reggae DJ David Rodigan, chimed with Rory’s own. Its brass-assisted, slo-mo R&B-gospel vibe was concocted between London and Jamaica – a cultural collision, and a heartstring-tugging but quintessentially summery anthem.

This time last year the singer-songwriter was finely tuning his special combination of blues, soul, gospel, folk and hip hop from the fringes of the music industry, unaware of the huge success that was just around the corner.

Rag’n’Bone Man stops by Red Nose Day 2017 to perform his new single Skin. Rag’n’Bone Man: I don’t get free haircuts now. Not from the guy I go to. But you know, Big Narstie’s right: you can’t cheat on your barber.

At the age of 15, he MC’d with a drum ‘n’ bass crew, using the handle Rag ‘N’ Bonez, inspired by watching re-runs of ’70s Brit sitcom, ‘Steptoe And Son’. With little else to do in their backwater hometown, the crew jumped the airwaves via their own pirate radio station, but Graham soon realised he’d have to move to Brighton if he was going to get anywhere with music.

RAG’N’BONE MAN: Yeah, for sure. One of the things I find really difficult being on tour is we don’t have time to make music. I try to find a week off in-between touring not to rest, but I have all these ideas in my head that I need to unload, so I just go into the studio for a week instead.


There are really three parts to the album and there’s, like, quite a lot of hip-hop on there. I guess it is a worry that people who love ‘Human’ might think they’re buying the album and that’s a blueprint for it, but it’s definitely not. Hopefully they’ll be pleasantly surprised.” He is, he notes, slightly daunted by the fact that he can’t see a gap in his schedule until 2018. But Rory Graham is also lucky to have a great support network of people around him: from his girlfriend of eight years (She doesn’t ring me up and go, ‘Oh, this is really hard.’ She just gets on with it”) to the crew that he used to – and when he can, still does – do shows with all over Brighton at all those open mic nights. He knows exactly what he wants to do, and who he is, and who he wants to be. And that’s something that no troll can spoil for him – something that’s much, much more important than any award that anyone can give him.

At first, I didn’t focus that much on the internet. I was more: I’m going to write songs, and I’d have sung that song out in a club, pub or a jam session or whatever 10 times before I recorded it. We live in an internet age, and if you don’t embrace it, you get left behind a bit. But live is still really important, and I don’t think people hone their craft live enough.


RAG’N’BONE MAN: Oh shit. laughs Probably a biker from Mars. I don’t really know. I don’t remember five years old. I’ve smoked a lot of weed in-between then and now. That’s a really hard question to answer.

Neo-blues & soul singer Rory Graham was born and raised in the small town of Uckfield in the southeast of England. Music video by Rag’N’Bone Man performing Lay My Body Down. (C) 2014 Best Laid Plans Records. It was Graham’s love of hip-hop that inspired his early lyric-writing as a teen.

While working with ‘Rum Committee,’ Rag continued to polish his other musical skills, too. He did not want to limit himself to rapping. His father supported his son’s aspirations, and with his support, Rag managed to perform at a blues open-mic event at the age of 19. His baritone voice struck a chord with the listeners, and his performance was met with a thunderous applause.

RAG’N’BONE MAN: Yeah, that’s right. Rory says it has taken a while to go from nothing to the biggest new star of 2017, as he wanted to make sure he was 100 per cent happy with his debut album, which is also called Human.

RAG’N’BONE MAN: I never really thought I had one specific sound. I don’t know how you feel about the album or whether you’ve listened to it, but I feel like I just did a little bit of everything. It didn’t have one sound. That’s something I never wanted to do. I never wanted to have one sound. I want to pursue hip-hop a bit more on this next record, but then I also love folksy country music, because I grew up on Johnny Cash and people like John Prine and Bonnie Raitt. I don’t know exactly what I’m going to do next, but I know it’s going to be different. I never felt bound to one genre. I’ve put out quite a few projects, and none of them have been the same as the next one. I do intend for that to be the same with the next record.

Lead track ‘Bitter End’, a tear-jerking realisation of a relationship’s demise, was staunchly supported then playlisted on BBC Radio 1 Xtra, and made it onto Radio One’s ‘In New Music We Trust’ playlist. On the back of the EP, Graham put together a Rag‘n’Bone Man live band, featuring a drummer, bassist, guitarist, keyboard player and backing singer. They toured the UK with hand-picked guests under the banner ‘Rag ‘N’ Bone Man Presents’, selling out shows up and down the country. They made quite a splash across Europe’s festival circuit, too, including Glastonbury, Eurosonic and Loveboxx, bringing fields and tents to a standstill, winning new disciples wherever they went.

Rag’n’Bone Man stopped by to hang out with Maxwell at the Z100 studios and talk about the crazy success he’s been experiencing. The British singer admitted he was actually quite surprised with how massively popular his lead single ‘Human’ became. The hit song was only supposed to be a lead in to bigger and better things for the up and coming artist, however, it ended up being an unexpected smash hit. He even ended up taking home the highly coveted Brit Award for British Breakthrough Act following the success of the song.

Neo-blues & soul singer Rory Graham was born and raised in the small town of Uckfield in the southeast of England. Growing up on early blues and soul, he taught himself to sing by mimicking Muddy Waters, before discovering hip-hop. Starting out as an MC with a local drum’n’bass crew at age 15, he progressed to hip-hop open-mike nights in nearby Brighton, where he later moved, teaming up with local hip-hop crew the Rum Committee. At the same time, he continued to practice singing in private. At 19, he took part in a blues open-mike night at the encouragement of his father, and the rapturous response to his singing boosted his confidence enough to make him consider it as a career rather than rapping.

Graham duly self-released an EP called ‘Blues Town’. My voice didn’t sound that great, and it was pretty badly recorded,” he admits, but it surprisingly got a lot of love”. Doors started opening: he landed acoustic gigs, including one supporting Joan Armatrading at Brighton Dome.

Rags released several recordings through hip-hop label High Focus before signing a publishing deal with Warner Chappell. RAG’N’BONE MAN: Probably about 15 or 16. Rag’N’Bone Man won the 2017 Brits Critics’ Choice Award. Previous winners include Adele, Ellie Goulding, Sam Smith and James Bay.

RAY BLK: I feel the same, to be honest. I feel like you can’t really measure success these days. It’s like, YouTube views matter, but then some people have a hundred million views and not many record sales … so how do you measure whether that’s successful or not? But the only thing I’ve ever wanted is to have music be my career for as long as I’d like it to be. So I feel if I can stay in music and have a career maintained over a long period, that’s a success. A sustainable career: that’s my measure of success.

Raised in a musical household – dad played a mean slide guitar – teenage Rags cut his live teeth singing at pub jam nights. Inevitably rebelling against the drab cul de sac that is the provincial blues scene, he upped sticks to join nearby Brighton’s thriving hip-hop community.

In Human”, Rag’n’Bone Man is speaking to his mortality. This is not done in the physical sense, as in the temporalness of his physical body. Rather he expresses this sentiment along the lines of acknowledging his inherent flaws and inability to resolve certain issues.

Rag’n’Bone Man: At first, I didn’t focus that much on the internet. I was more: I’m going to write songs, and I’d have sung that song out in a club, pub or a jam session or whatever 10 times before I recorded it. We live in an internet age, and if you don’t embrace it, you get left behind a bit. But live is still really important, and I don’t think people hone their craft live enough.

Rag’n’Bone Man has been named as the UK ambassador for Record Store Day 2018. He is smoking outside his manager’s office in Brighton while his girlfriend Beth is inside opening packages of merchandise including keyrings and necklaces emblazoned with the Rag’n’Bone Man logo.

I’d always assumed that my nan—fan of music and good conversation and perhaps one of the best people to have set foot on the earth—would be into Rag’n’Bone Man. She is, after all, part of the demographic who Rag’n’Bone Man has been marketed toward. She’s also something of a critical expert, having spoken to Noisey before about the most popular rap music of 2013. Last week I gave her a call to put her knowledge to the test—and she somehow still managed to par Rag’n’Bone Man along the way. Let’s get into it.

During his formative stages as a musician, Rory also worked as a carer for people with Asperger’s syndrome. In 2013 Graham signed a publishing deal with Warner Chappell which enabled him to give up his day job and pursue his music career full-time.

RAG’N’BONE MAN: Before music, I used to look after people with Down syndrome and autism. I was a carer for five, six years. Obviously I love music the most, but that was a fucking great job man. It was a really cool job. I used to have so much fun. At times I miss it. If I wasn’t doing music, then 100 percent I’d be doing that.

Growing up on early blues and soul, he taught himself to sing by mimicking Muddy Waters , before discovering hip-hop. Starting out in music at age 15 as an MC with a local drum’n’bass crew, he progressed to hip-hop open-mike nights in nearby Brighton, where he later moved, teaming up with local hip-hop crew the Rum Committee. At the same time, he continued to practice singing in private. Aged 19, he took part in a blues open-mike night at the encouragement of his father, and the rapturous response to his singing boosted his confidence enough to make him consider it as a career rather than rapping.

Rag’n’Bone Man: I think the main ambition I’ve got, the proper ambition, is still the live thing. Obviously, the accolades are nice, and getting a Brit award is a beautiful thing, and hearing, Oh, you’re No 2 in the chart,” or whatever is nice because that’s something my mum appreciates. But I like playing to people, and that keeps growing. So as long as that happens, the rest of it can kind of take a side.RAG'N'BONE MAN

Rag’n’Bone Man (a.k.a. Rory Graham) is the 32-year-old soul singer who has just won the Brit Critics’ Choice Award. As Vevo’s current LIFT artist (previous alumni include Bastille , Zara Larsonn and Sam Smith ), the platform is sharing a cycle of content from interviews to live shows – and we’ve got an exclusive look at a behind-the-scenes video of Graham having his suit fitting for the BRITS. Whether he wins the British Breakthrough Award on Wednesday remains to be seen, but this is certainly shaping up to be a monumental year for the ‘Human’ singer.

Rory Graham aka Rag ‘N’ Bone man is a soul and blues singer deeply rooted in the annals of the past but positioned firmly in the present. As part of his role Rag’n’Bone Man has recorded two new songs direct to vinyl. Don’t Set The World On Fire and George Has Got A Friend will be among the special releases on 21 April.


The album touches on blues, folk, soul and hip-hop — all of it delivered in Rory’s remarkably soulful voice. Rag’n’Bone Man is not married but is in a long-term relationship with Beth Rouy. The couple had a child in September 2017.

Here is a reminder of his single ‘Human’ which was released in 2016. Rag‘n’Bone Man has said the follow-up to his number one album Human is almost ready – but that fans should expect a wildly different sound. I meet Rory Graham, 32 — who earned his nickname from his love of the Sixties sitcom Steptoe And Son — in a moment of calm before the storm.

This time last year the singer-songwriter was finely tuning his special combination of blues, soul, gospel, folk and hip hop from the fringes of the music industry, unaware of the huge success that was just around the corner.

Ditching the white dress and traditional wedding attire, Rag’n’Bone Man and his fiancee Beth Rouy married in possibly the world’s comfiest nuptials. Matching each other in round tinted shades, Rag ‘n’ Bone Man and his new wife looked very much in love.

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