“I’m a balladeer I guess… that’s almost a dirty word now, ballad, but I like the idea. I’m trying to make music that has weight and depth, but could still be considered a pop song…people could still hum it.” Richard Walters, who has already been noted by The Guardian as the ‘new band of the day’ is about to bring balladeering back into fashion. Walters is “26, terrifyingly close to 27” and currently based in Paris, though originally hailing from a small village in Oxfordshire (“they both feel like museum’s (in the best possible way)”). Music has been his passion for a long time, he started writing music at about the age of 15 and is now set to release a tender and calming cover of Daniel Johnston’s “True Love Will Find You In The End” (released July 20th).
“All the voices I really love are slightly cracked, and mainly falsetto. Stina Nordenstem, Alison Shaw from Cranes, Mark Linkous from Sparklehorse, Daniel Johnston etc. There’s an incredible amount of vulnerability and uncertainty about those voices, they almost put you on the edge of your seat…you’re never quite sure if they’re going to make it through the entirety of the song, and that adds a certain drama and edge for me.” Walters’ sound is haunting yet soothing, the usage of the falsetto giving edge to songs covering from having a seizure to domestic abuse. The calming edge to his tone is an interesting contrast to the darker subject matters covered in his lyrics, which makes his forthcoming album The Animal a very exciting prospect. “This album in the majority is quite confessional and personal. I’ve always used music as a cathartic process to clear my head, which can be pretty exhausting and frustrating – if you’re waiting for the bomb to drop to write about it, you might be waiting a long time… so, I’ve looked to friends lives and events to write as well.”
His honest and emotional drive most likely stems from one original admiration, “Billy Mackenzie, who I discovered just after his death when I was 15, really inspired me to sing…I’d played guitar up until that point, never really with any wish to be anything more than the guitarist, but his voice floored me, the lyrics, the arrangements…everything he did with the Associates, and particularly the last album he did on his own, his voice is flawless…I’d never heard emotion so clearly in a singing voice before…I still don’t understand why he isn’t better known.” Walters’ affected approach takes him directly into a different league from the standard one-level ballad that attacks the charts on a regular basis. “I like to think it’s music that doesn’t need a flimsy scene to hold it up, its on its own feet and moving…substance over style, and please never the other way round. I’d hate to be bunched up with the acoustic singer/songwriters of the world, because I consider myself a changeable artist above anything else, not genre specific, nothing set in stone…”
“I just never managed to find a group of people that I got on with perfectly, musically speaking. And I’m sure no band is totally 100 percent in agreement about musical matters all the time, but for me personally I found myself more often that not being the doormat in a band, just agreeing to things to avoid the confrontation. Which just meant that I was never entirely happy with the results.” He is no newcomer to the music industry, having previously performed in Polysoul, Missing Pieces and Theremin as well as a French Bob Dylan tribute group The Zimmer Men, he has finally decided that going solo is definitely the route he would prefer. However, he does “miss having people around, being in a gang…being in a band and being in a shared situation, in an unusual situation, can be the greatest thing in the world”.
I like the idea of existing in somewhere unreal and timeless…
Walters has slowly but surely been slipping into public consciousness. Of course, supporting the likes of Dave Matthews, Grant Lee Phillips, Imogen Heap, Gemma Hayes and Supergrass has helped, but so will having songs featured on notable soundtracks. The vulnerable, dream-like “Brittle Bones” shaped love in the Phillip Pullman’s ‘The Butterfly Tattoo’ film and “All At Sea” made it into an episode of CSI: Miami. “I’d never watched an episode before, but I did see the scene that used my song. It was in a hospital, so lots of shots of IV drips and trolley beds, very glossy and Hollywood. I almost wish I knew the show and the characters, so it could have felt like more of a personal achievement… but of course it was great that they used it, it really helped me in many ways…its such a huge platform for a song, so many people would never have found me if it wasn’t for that.” Though not a CSI: Miami fan, there are other series in which he would love to be featured: ‘Californication’ and ‘The United States Of Tara’ being prime examples. However, there is one programme that would eclipse all others, “If I could somehow feature in an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, maybe actually appear in the show, that’d probably make my life complete.”
Walters’ doesn’t necessarily see soundtracks as the highest form of praise. Though flattering and worthwhile, he feels “being mentioned in a work of fiction would be pretty special, especially if it was an author I like… having a lyric quoted or getting mentioned by a character in a Jonathan Lethem book would be a good start… I like the idea of existing in somewhere unreal and timeless, if you know what I mean…”
With “True Love Will Find You In The End” scheduled for release on July 20th, Walters will be then switching his focus on to album The Animal’s release and what follows afterwards, in other words “testing things out and writing words down. What I’m listening to at the moment might leak in there, Donny Hathaway, Curtis Mayfield, Phil Ochs, Jesca Hoop… Happy/sad protest soul?” However, sadly this means there will be no festivals for Walters this summer, though hopefully a tour to accompany the album in September will see him out on the road again.
The Animal, to be released in September, has been produced by David Kosten (Bat For Lashes, Faultline) and Walters’ purgative approach is to the listener’s benefit. Now that may be a long way off, so in the meantime why not “relax your back, close your eyes” and open your ears to the selection of material on Richard Walters’ Offical Site.