Rhodes In Conversation With FAULT Magazine

As a songwriter Rhodes has always been able to speak right to hearts of his listeners and with the release of The Love I Give today, it’s clear that his songwriting pen is still unmatched. We caught up with Rhodes to discuss his new track, his work and of course, his FAULTs.

Do the highly emotive and personal themes of ‘Suffering’ permeate throughout the whole of your
new album? 
“I guess they do actually…the album was written during that period of time in my life when I was
struggling with my demons and struggling with my reality. I think all the new music on the album
stems from a place of suffering, but what I love to do with my music is to try and express the hope.
Even though most of the songs stem from a place of unrest, there’s an underlying message of hope in
a lot of it. There are moments on the record where I’m trying to express hope, rather than just

Do you feel comfortable releasing music which is written so personal to you and your experience,
or does that vulnerability feel daunting? 

“It definitely does feel daunting. Sometimes I catch myself trying to dilute the lyrics or trying to dilute
the concept because I’m afraid of people really hearing what’s happening in my mind and the
experiences I’ve been through. Not because they’re particularly awful, just because it makes you feel
a bit exposed. I write a lot about family too and that can be daunting. My first record that I released
was written a lot about childhood trauma, so that was very daunting when you start thinking about
your family hearing your music. That can be scary. But with this record I talk a lot about my demons,
which are like drinking and stuff like that…I’m sure people are going to listen to it like oh okay, I
didn’t realise you were struggling…which I’m not now but I was for a time. That’s always quite scary
imagining that.”

What would you say has been the biggest change in your musical journey between the ‘I’m Not
OK’ EP in 2020 and this new album?

“The biggest change in my musical journey in terms of songwriting I guess was, I realised that what I
really wanted to do was strip things back. I was with a different record label, and a different
management company when I released that EP and was signed with a major and in-between then
and now I’ve taken back control of my artistry a bit more and joined an independent record label,
even though they’re still a big independent label based in America, there’s a lot more freedom and a
lot more space for me to be myself and there isn’t this fear that comes with the expectation and
pressure that come with being with a major label. Hopefully now from this album onwards I’ll feel a
lot more free to really be myself and not chase this impossible. When you’re with a label like Sony
they’re looking for number one hits, and I don’t necessarily think they come from trying to write
those songs, I think they happen naturally and organically. If you find yourself in a position where
you’re constantly chasing that, it can be very unhealthy and it can ruin your creative flow. Now I’m
hoping I can get back to writing songs for me and not trying to write songs to please someone.”

Can you already feel that this album is being released into a wildly different music landscape when compared to your previous 2015 album release? 

“Yeah definitely – it feels very different. It’s strange because even though I’m doing a lot, it doesn’t feel like I’m doing anything. Something popped up on my Facebook memories and it was like 2015 and I was releasing my record and I had a track of the day on like Radio1 and it was getting premiered as like the hottest record or something on Annie Mac, and I’d shared it like ‘tune into this to hear my song’ and then it was like the song comes out in three weeks and I was like oh shit, I remember that. I’d forgotten that we used to go to radio and do, that weeks ahead of release and now it feels like you have to put out the song and hope people hear it, there’s not much of a lead up. It’s different now, it’s completely changed. Once you start doing that you’re out and about doing loads of promo and loads of things and whilst I quite like being in the comfort of my own home doing interviews, there was something about going out and being at radio or going into an office for an interview and doing stuff. Now it kind of feels like you’re waiting around to put out a song – it’s so different. And social media as well…that wasn’t massively a thing when I started in 2014, it became a thing very quickly! I remember my manager at the time like you need to get on Instagram and I remember when Spotify first started and there were loads of acts, including one of the acts I used to be on the same label as, refusing to put their music onto Spotify, and now it’s the main thing. It’s what we all chase, we’re sitting there on release day looking on New Music Friday. That’s the thing we get excited about now. It’s vividly different.” 

What would you say was the hardest song to write on this upcoming album? 

“A lot of the songs went through a bit of a journey in terms of the writing and production. There’s a song called ‘Drink to This’ on the album – I wrote it with two friends, and I was kind of a pitch song, we were going to pitch it to another artist, because we’d all met up and we didn’t have a plan for the day, we just wanted to write a song. We started jamming around and it was really up tempo and it had a different verse but I loved the chorus and I had that feeling…I mentioned the demons the demons and the drinking, and I grew up in a culture where drinking is so intrinsic to the cultures DNA, and it’s very strange and it seems like a really easy thing to walk away from. But then I think back to being 11 years old and waiting outside the corner shop for someone to go in and buy me and my friends a bottle of cider, and you’re like oh my god…We were that young, and that was just our culture. And you find yourself one day with a beautiful child and beautiful family, a nice place to live and a career doing all these amazing things and you’re like what am I trying to run from. I felt like I was drinking to escape when actually, I had a lot to be thankful for…so the song became a very introspective song. The idea of I’ll drink to this, is like toasting to all the good things you have around you rather than dwelling on all the harsh, bad, ugly things. I rewrote the verses in Spain at my partners families house, and I was sitting in the sun like oh my god what is life. I’ve found myself in this beautiful summer house, playing on an electric piano that they’ve put in there for us, so when we visit we have somewhere to write, and I was just thinking about how lucky I am and how much I take it for granted. I played it to my partner Natalia and I cried when I was playing it to her, so that was really hard to write…it’s a very honest song.”

You recorded this latest project throughout the pandemic, how did the sudden change of process effect the album? 

“Some of the music was written during the pandemic, but all the music was recorded during the pandemic which was very surreal. When it came to finishing some of the songs I wanted to write, there was a lot of remote working which I’m not a fan of to be honest. I like to be in a room with someone and feeding off their energy, especially if I’m writing a song, I can’t do that on Zoom. A lot of people have been able to, and I think that’s amazing if they can find a way of doing it, then that’s really cool, but I just wasn’t able to lock into it. The weird thing was, that I kind of took advantage of, was that music studios and production studios were able to stay open and keep working as long as you were just with one other person in a bubble. So Rich Cooper, who I made the album with, he had a studio within walking distance of my flat and I used to walk there every morning from where I live in North London to Hackney. It was really weird walking through this ghost town every day, occasionally an ambulance would flash past, but it felt very strange. But I would get there and thankfully Richard and I were able to work during this craziness. It was weird making an album with just one other person, when you make a record, you want to be able to have people in and string players, sessions players and record live. But we made the whole thing in his tiny room, just me and him playing everything. Then once lockdown restrictions were lifted, we went to a bigger studio and had session players and extra backing vocals and a violin player do some over dubs on the record we’d made. It was different but it all worked out in the end. I think moving forward now, the creative side of the music industry has changed so much. People don’t need to fly around the world now they just need to get on their laptop. There’s a lot of change that’s happened in the music industry in general from the pandemic. Luckily it hasn’t affected my flow too much.” 

 What would you say was the most challenging hurdle you’ve had to overcome on your musical journey so far?

“Trusting myself and believing in myself. Not relying on other people around me to make decisions on my behalf. I think that was a real struggle to just take charge and be myself. It’s strange because it’s translating now into everyday life, because everyone feels this immense pressure because of social media, to be the best thing. Have the beautiful life. Have all the nice things that everyone else has and it’s very easy to pitch yourself up against everyone else. I think in music it’s always been that. Someone is always going to be there to put you down and social media has made that even more difficult. The biggest hurdle to overcome for me has just been trusting myself, and I don’t think I’m quite over the hurdle to be honest. I’m trying to work myself into a position where I can believe and trust myself but it’s so hard to not constantly compare yourself other people. It’s very very difficult. But once you get to that place where you trust your instinct, I think everything will work out better.” 

Does the newfound flexibility with your craft these passed years feel like it’s added even more pressure to prove yourself in a world where many artists are being forced to give away more control?

“Yeah it does add another element of pressure but then I weigh it up against what do I really want from this. The goal when I first started was simply just to make songs. The ambition didn’t go further than that. I think all the expectation and pressure comes from other people. If you can just remember the reason why you started doing something, and try and ground yourself there and loop back to that thought, it’s going to be easier to survive because the pressure to prove yourself isn’t real and it can often stop you making the art. It can stop you finishing the work. If you’re not finishing the work, then nothing’s going to happen. It is a lot of pressure to put on yourself, to break free and have more control but ultimately the pressure isn’t real. If you’re doing it, that means you’re good enough and people want to hear it. You just have to make sure you’re creating the work and putting out the work.”

What is your FAULT ?

“My FAULT is…procrastination. I overthink everything. Question everything. I can never make a decision. Often things just pass me by because I cannot come to a conclusion on anything.”