Rhodes Talks Ballads, His Upcoming Album + Sam Smith Comparisons
David Rhodes, who goes by Rhodes onstage, is one of the latest singer-songwriters to make some waves in his native land of England. When he released the title track from his most recent EP, Turning Back Around, the twenty-something artist instantly began gaining buzz. Now he's ready to give fans more of his honest and thoughtful tunes with his upcoming debut full-length, Wishes, which is set for release in September. He just revealed the first single off that LP, "Close Your Eyes," which you can listen to here.
Before announcing plans for Wishes, we had the chance to catch up with Rhodes to learn more about the forthcoming record, what inspired him to get into ballads and how he feels about being compared to Sam Smith.
What's your first musical memory?
I have a really hazy memory of my dad collecting these blues cassette tapes when I was a tiny kid in the '90s. They came as part of a collector's magazine and I was fascinated with it. I think it was partly the father and son thing that I was attached to, but mostly a genuine love for blues music – especially early Delta blues. It wasn't long after that I would sneak my dad's guitar up to my bedroom. As I got a bit older, I'd sit and listen to the tapes and try to copy what they were doing. It was great way of learning.
You've only been making music for a couple of years, but you have already put out three EPs. What would you say were the challenges you had to overcome when you were first starting out?
The hardest thing for me was overcoming my intense and slightly irrational fear of singing. I could play the guitar and have been doing it since I was young, but if I ever tried to sing, it was like there was a barrier or a wall where the sound comes out. Even if I ever tried in my bedroom, I was terrified someone might hear me. It stopped me from writing earlier and, in hindsight, I feel like it slightly held me back. It took a long time and a lot of canceled gigs to finally get up on stage.
Why did you release so many EPs in a short amount of time? Why not just put out a full-length album?
I think because I'd been harboring my voice and had been placing my energy in other people's music for a while. I had a lot inside of me that needed to come out. I wrote a lot of songs in a short space of time and my journey through these EPs has been about me finding my sound and how I want to put these songs across. I've found this vast, cinematic and slightly tribal sound which I think encapsulates my vibe well.
What is "Turning Back Around" about?
It's about ending something and the fear of [how it might affect] other people. I was also thinking about doubt when I wrote it. Sometimes we have to do things in life for selfish reasons and hope that the people it affects can deal with the consequences. I was playing bass in a band with all my best mates before I tried writing my own music – it was our whole lives. And although things were going well, I knew I really had to leave and pursue my own dreams. I ended up hiding away from the other guys because I knew me leaving would hurt them.
You're a bit of a balladeer. What inspired you to go that route?
It's just how it comes out. I don't consciously try to write in a specific way.
What's your songwriting process like?
I normally begin with a soundscape either on the piano or guitar and try to create an atmosphere – I like to get lost in the sounds and see what comes. Sound can be so evocative, which is why I like film music. The writing is very personal and I never really let anyone close to the songs until I feel like they are finished.
You've toured with Laura Marling, Rufus Wainwright, London Grammar and Sam Smith? What were those experiences like?
The experiences we're amazing! I've learned a lot from all of the artists I've toured with.
You've been compared to Sam Smith. How does that feel?
Well, it feels amazing because I love Sam and his music and his attitude is very inspiring. Our music is very different but it's nice people consider me to be of that standard.
Who are your dream collaborators?
I'd loved to do an album with a great film composer like Danny Elfman.
Your album is set to release this summer. What can we expect?
It's going to be very dynamic. I've written short, intimate songs for the album as well as grand and vast songs with cinematic instrumental sections. I wanted to try and encapsulate the visual surrounding of where I recorded the album somehow; I was on the east coast of the the U.K. in Yorkshire so we're talking enormously vast and sparse landscapes and seascapes. I tried to emphasize that in the depth of the composition with strings and choir-like ethereal parts. I always wanted this to be an "album" and not just a collection of songs, so hopefully if you listen to the album in full it will be like a journey.