We all need Friends Like These and lucky for us we got to make a new friend and chat with RHODES about his sophomore album "Freinds Like These". We are in love with this British singer-songwriter and think you will be to!
Unheard Gems: Hi there, welcome to Unheard Gems! We are so excited to get the chance to interview you and share you with our readers! How are you?
Rhodes: Hey! Thank you for having me, I’m really good thank you. I’m in the middle of a European tour but I have a day off today, so I’m just at home, reflecting and catching up on some stuff! It's an amazing feeling to be back out on the road and connecting with the people who listen to my music.
Unheard Gems: For our readers who don’t know you yet can you give us a glimpse into your musical origin story, how did your music come to be?
Rhodes: It all started for me as a kid. Music has always been my refuge and companion through some of the more difficult periods in life. I always knew I wanted to write music that I hoped would connect with people in that same kind of way. After years of experimenting in bands and trying different things, I finally released my first songs as an artist all the way back in 2014 and ever since I’ve been grafting away! My first album came out in 2015 and I had a few cool moments on that record, one of which was a duet with an artist called Birdy. That led me into a whole load of international touring, which has been a dream. There have been many twists and turns in the long road to get to where I am today and I’ve been through periods of extreme detachment, but I’m super grateful to be here with a second album. I also have another one that I’m just putting the finishing touches on too! For me, it's about growing and learning through my work and if my output connects with just one person and helps them through similar things to what I experience, then its mission accomplished.
Unheard Gems: I always like to ask artists for a fun way to identify or describe themselves or their music….could you write an acrostic with the letters of your artist name that describes your music?
Rhodes: I love this! This more describes me but you’ll get the idea haha.
Unheard Gems: You just released your sophomore album, Friends Like These, I loved every track from it. What was the process of writing and releasing this album like? What is this album about for you?
Rhodes: Wow! Thank you so much. That's very kind! The writing process took me on a very long, full circle path to where I am today. I started writing this record all the way back in 2017 and it was a familiar tale of that "difficult second album" thing that we hear so much about. I think, in hindsight, it was me putting pressure on myself to make this thing that I thought everyone wanted me to do. After some relatively good success with my first album but not quite meeting the expectation put upon it by my team, I found myself in a place where I wasn’t creating my best work. I was just kind of going through the motions in a bit of a daydream-like state, suffering with the stress of it all and feeling extreme imposter syndrome. I got to the point where I knew I had to change something. I’ve always believed that you have to create art that means something to you and that's the only way in which you can truly find success. It’s like I mentioned before, I just want the music to resonate with the listener and for them to feel connected to what I’m singing about and that it has to be a genuine feeling or story. I took a step back and re-assessed everything, which led me to changing up my entire team and finding a way of putting out the music that meant the most to me. I teamed up with my friend Rich Cooper and we listened through about 100 demos and picked out the 10 that felt most real and most heartfelt, but I also wanted to pick songs that represented the chaos of it all. Although there isn’t any conceptual narrative to the flow, I do think you can hear the journey within the songs and I’m super proud of that.
Unheard Gems: What has been the response to the album so far? Any surprises?
Rhodes: The response has been wonderful! I guess the thing that has most surprised me are the songs that seem to connect the most are the ones I wrote first, all the way back in 2017/ 2018. It's a funny time to be releasing music and I think everyone is still trying to make sense of the world of TikTok and social media. What I love the most is knowing that after all this time the songs are now out there for people to discover.
Unheard Gems: I heard that you wrote over 100 songs over lockdown and this is just the 10 we get to hear…what was it like to narrow down the final album?
Rhodes: It's funny thinking about all of the demos I wrote. 100 seems like such a grand number but, honestly, some of them were terrible!! I think sometimes you need to write ten songs about the same thing before you land on one that makes the most sense. It wasn’t too difficult narrowing it down and the beauty of it is that all of the other ones still exist and actually one of them has made it on to the next record, which is almost finished!
Unheard Gems: My personal favorite from this album is Blue As Forget Me Nots. I know asking an artist to talk about their favorite track on an album is like asking a parent to pick a favorite child but I would love to know if you had a favorite or one you think more fans need to take a closer listen to and why?
Rhodes: I’m not sure which is my favorite, but I do also love "Blue As Forget Me Nots." I remember taking a walk in my favourite park in London, Hampstead Heath, and seeing these sweet little blue flowers blowing in the wind and being mesmerized by them. It reminded me of that link in the Silvia Plaith line ‘the grass is beating its head distractedly, it is too delicate for a life in such company’. It made me think that often the most beautiful and delicate things are the strongest. The blueness of them really resonated with me as this sadness or depression but despite everything you just keep going.
Unheard Gems: Do you have any favorite stories from the writing process that you would be open to sharing with us today?
Rhodes: When I wrote Friends Like These I was away from home and feeling very lost and detached from everything. I was staying in an old farmhouse in upstate New York where I was doing some writing and there was a 24hr gas station next door with neon lights shining in through the thin curtains, and that along with the jet lag made for a few sleepless and anxious nights. One of my friends called me from home in the middle of the night and it really brought me back down to earth, I realised all the good things around me and felt like that voice you need to hear always only a phone call away. I immediately came up with the line ‘with friends like these I can be whatever I want to be,’ and I think that feeling can resonate with all of us. It means so much to me because at the time it was a moment of realisation that I’m not alone. It made me think about how fearless and invincible you can sometimes feel when you keep the right company.
Unheard Gems: You are about to hit the road and play your EU/UK headline tour, as an LA fan I am a little bit jealous of your European fans right now. What can fans expect from the live show experience with you? Are there are any surprises or traditions you look forward to on the road?
Rhodes: The tour is going to be super intimate. I was lucky enough to spend a lot of the summer of ’22 out on the road in Europe touring around playing shows with just my acoustic guitar and it just felt so special to connect with people in that raw and simple form. I’ll have my friend Steven Weston with me onstage for some of the songs and he’ll be playing some accompanying textures and keys so the show swells and crescendos in the right places! It's funny to imagine standing on stage for 90 minutes playing songs, so I want to make sure the show is a journey with the songs, and a real mixture of old and new. I’d forgotten how vital touring is to an artist, it really gives the whole thing purpose!
Unheard Gems: I would love to know if you have any advice for other emerging artists these days, if you could have received advice starting out what do you wish you were told or knew?
Rhodes: I would really encourage them to speak from the most honest place they can, and to truly speak from their own experiences. I know from experience how tempting it is to try and fit in and fall in line with what is perceived to be mainstream in the moment, but you might end up losing yourself and what excites people about you in the first place. Be inspired and wear your influences on your sleeve, but be yourself, keep doing YOU and surround yourself with people you trust.
Unheard Gems: We always like to know who our Unheard Gems artists are listening to, if you could recommend to us another artist you think deserves more recognition in the music industry who would you recommend?
Rhodes: I'm listening to Natalia Salter and her track "Million and One." Also, Jerub is great, who is supporting me on tour. Listen to his new single "Cold."
Unheard Gems: Lastly, for all of our readers, where can they find you and your music, and is there anything else you want to leave us with that we didn’t talk about in our questions?
Rhodes: The best places to follow me are on Instagram and TikTok which are both @rhodesmusic
Interview by Hannah Schneider