Rory Connor is singer song writer from Alston in Cumbria. He has an incredible vocal range and can be likened to Damien Rice, James Morrison and David Gray.
GIGsoup first spotted Rory playing the Carvetti Stage at Kendal Calling at the end of July this year. Lauren Scott recently caught up with the Cumbrian singer song writer to see what he has planned for the rest of the year.
Have you got any gigs lined up for the future?
Rory: I’m playing one more festival this year, I’m playing this one with a backing band. We’re playing Solfest which is right at the top of Cumbria, near Scotland. It will be our twelfth year now. It will be good!
Tell us about the band you’re playing with?
It’s made up of people I’ve been playing with for years. I was in a folk band called Tarras, and pretty much all the members of my backing band are ex members from Tarras. We’ve all played with each other over various line ups for years. I met the bassist and drummer studying music, ages ago! Probably sixteen years ago now. It’s an ongoing musical relationship we all have.
You say you studied music, is that when you decided your career path was to be a musician? Where did it all begin?
No, I’ve been gigging solo for years. I started gigging when I was fourteen, just around local bars. Then I started studying music at Carlisle, which was a great platform, I did learn a lot, but more from a social aspect. Playing with other people led to me forming some great musical relationships from there.
Which musicians have you collaborated with over the years?
Well there is Fiona Clayton, last year I was playing with her band. We were writing together, released an EP, filmed videos and spent a lot of time in the studio. We would chop and change between me and her being on keyboard, guitar or vocals. But the band had to go on hiatus because she was expecting a baby. We are playing together again now. We’re playing in The Theatre by the Lake in Keswick on the 5th September, which is as a duo. Alongside us there will be another singer songwriter, a double bassist, a harpist and a fiddle player, we will all be on stage permanently. It’s all up the air again already though really as Fiona is expecting again and I’m going to become a dad in December!
Thank you! Just seems as though we’re all growing up now really…
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Who would be your dream collaboration and why?
I’ve always been a fan of Radiohead and Thom Yorke, the idea of collaborating with him would be amazing. I’d really like to explore the electronic side of music as Radiohead have done. We are slowly working towards that with Fiona, bringing synth in and using less acoustic guitar.
Which artists have inspired your song writing over the years?
It’s always been the confessional singer songwriters really, like Joni Mitchell and James Taylor. I don’t think anyone has ever directly inspired me, it’s definitely sub conscious. I realise when I listen back after we’ve recorded, that elements shine through. Songwriters that I admire just come through in my writing.
Where do you draw your influences from when it comes to song writing?
I have pages and pages of lines, paragraphs here and there. I never really have a cohesive body of a song, I come to put them together later and I’ll figure out what the song is about and complete it then. Sometimes it comes all in one, it’s hard to answer as it is not very often a conscious stream of thought!
What does your music mean to you?
It’s cathartic to me. However I get more out of playing with other people than I do playing solo. Bouncing ideas off each other, and working as a unit is much more enjoyable. I play solo a lot, and it can be quite lonely, going up to venues on your own. However Kendal Calling festival, was very much enjoyable, despite playing solo.
What have been some of your favourite gigs you have played?
When I was playing with Tarras, we played Cornbury festival in Oxfordshire. That was in front of 15,000 people, the largest gig I have done. Going on stage there was an amazing rush. With Fiona I played Edinburgh Fringe, and that was great. Solfest is always a highlight. It’s close to home, with it being in Cumbria, so I normally get a good crowd for that. The small market town I am from, Alston, they have just had their third successful year holding a music festival, which is going from strength to strength and we always have an excellent, bouncing crowd for that.
They are all larger gigs you mentioned there, do you prefer the large gigs over the intimate shows?
I find it easier to connect to the audience at the intimate shows, you get the feeling like you’re playing to your living room. Whereas with the larger gigs I get the adrenaline rush and I love it, but there is that communication barrier between me and the crowd. I wouldn’t say that one is preferable over the other, they both have pros and cons! I am more used to playing the small bars, in front of maybe 20 or 30 people, so I find it much easier to talk to crowds like that and I love it, and you can talk to them all afterwards. I enjoy the large gigs as they are few and far between, I enjoy them all though.
What your dream venue be?
I think a lot of musicians share the same fantasy with me, but it has to be to play the pyramid at Glastonbury. Going back to when I mentioned talking to large crowds, Adele on the pyramid stage amazed me how she had this intimate contact with thousands and thousands of people. To translate the living room scenario to a larger scale was really impressive and I would love to do that one day.
You have an album, ‘Falling From Trees’, do you want to tell us a bit about it?
The main body of the album was recorded in Cumbria, with Joss Clapp who plays guitar in the band. Three of the songs were recorded down in Bath, with Richard Evans who for a long time was a guitarist on the road with Peter Gabriel. He’s just come off tour with Birdy. The musicians I played with are the ones I have played with for years, the five of them. People say it’s easier with your first album because you have had these songs building up for years. Six years later I’m still trying to put together a body of work that either matches it or betters it. It is definitely about time I got my second album out!”
Do you have any plans that will get album number two underway?
There are no plans set in stone to start recording yet. But it will be with Joss Clapp again, who produced and recorded the last record, it will start happening in the next year I think.
In which ways has your song writing changed since you first started writing ‘Falling From Trees’?
It has matured slightly, I’ve learned to be a bit sparser with production, and less is more. I have started to work a lot of interesting time sequences into it, my first album relied on a standard 4 4 beat or a 6 8, which is what a lot of singer songwriters tend to sway towards. I have definitely been experimenting a lot more with time signatures, something that has changed. The last album was very much acoustic, I think there was only two songs with electric guitar on it. I want the next one to be more electronic, more synth, that road. So look out for the new album!
Finally, how can people access your album ‘Falling From Trees’?
Check out my bandcamp here !
This Rory Connor article was written by Lauren Scott, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Zoe Anderson. Lead photo by Joshua Wyborn