Listen to the DIY premiere of new song ‘The Lakes’ here.
Every so often a voice comes along and smashes through the hubbub like a barista bursting abruptly into an Earl Grey conference and halting proceedings. Last year George Ezra shook things up when he unexpectedly emitted the booming bluesy tone of a Louisiana fisherman, and, well, you only have to look at the continued popularity of reality singing competitions to know that we all love a surprise. Hertfordshire singer-songwriter Rhodes might seem quietly spoken, and he willingly admits that live shows still scare the bejesus out of him. Appearances can deceive, though, because when Rhodes opens his mouth, gigantic, moody ballads like ‘Breathe’ come roaring out.
It’s all the more surprising to hear such an assured voice bursting out from Rhodes considering that he only started singing 18 months ago. Even belting out a bit of Whitney in the shower was off-limits, he says, and as for crooning away over the ironing, never in a million years. “I had this really intense fear of it,” he says. “With your voice, because it’s coming from inside you, you feel exposed. I was in bands and stuff before, and I never even sung backing vocals. That [fear] was the reason.”
One day, though, Rhodes did suddenly decide to start singing, out of the blue. “Nothing else was going well at the time, so I thought why the hell not,” he reasons. As it goes, the vocal that emerged was tinged with blue emotion, too, crisper and more vivid than the identikit t-shirts he was folding for his day job at American Apparel. “I started writing my own songs,” he continues, “and I showed my girlfriend. She said ‘Why don’t you just do this?’ My Dad convinced me too, and bought me a microphone.” Rhodes quickly discovered that when he was squirrelled away in his bedroom for hours, with complete control over every single take, he had found his comfort zone. After finishing work on Friday, the bedroom door would shut; by Sunday, Rhodes would have a new demo.
Things quickly began to take off when Rhodes uploaded his music to BBC Introducing, and he’s grateful for their initial involvement. “I’m playing at their Christmas party,” he laughs, “I’m pally with them.” Starting out with local sessions and early sets at festivals, things quickly spiralled into national radio play. “I had just got into a taxi with my manager, and we were rushing somewhere,” recounts Rhodes. “My friend texted me, like, ‘Oh my god, you’re on Radio 1’. It was a good feeling,” he adds. “I’m my own worst critic, but it was fun to listen and be like ‘Shit, it’s on the radio, this is crazy!’”
Taken from the December 14 / January 15 issue of DIY, out now. Photos: Emma Swann. Get tickets to Rhdoes’ 10th March London Village Underground show via TicketWeb.