Richard Walters

Richard Walters

BandPop

Richard Walters gentle falsetto and delicate songs have been described as the most haunting balladry you'll hear outside of Jeff Buckley or Antony and the Johnsons.

Biography

Richard Walters sings in such a beautifully gentle falsetto, without theatrics or histrionics, like a choirboy, when he really hits the high notes, that the subjects of his songs might come as a surprise. This is someone who sings about “losing the plot” or having a seizure, about the anxiety you feel at the start of a new affair, or about domestic abuse from the point of view of the abuser. He even covers a song by notorious manic depressive American musician Daniel Johnston, while one of his songs, a fragile confessional called ‘All At Sea’, was recently picked for the soundtrack of hit US forensic crime drama CSI: Miami. On the sleeve of his debut album of exquisitely minimal, hushed and haunting piano and guitar ballads adorned with the merest hint of strings, he is shown wearing headphones and tucking into a delicious plate of black cable as if the style of this record was zany electronica. It catches you off guard, because in its quiet majesty, the sound he makes is far removed from that world. The title of his debut LP, The Animal, is no less jarring because this music is more ethereal than bestial.

Richard Walters, at 26 years old, has been performing solo for eleven years, and has been a voice-for-hire for many prominent musical projects. He has also appeared in several bands such as Polysoul, Missing Pieces and Theremin, with members of various successful indie rock bands, although you might be a bit taken aback to discover that he once toured France with a Bob Dylan tribute act called The Zimmer Men. Whilst Guy Sigsworth (Madonna, Bjork) produced one of his early EPs, David Kosten (Bat For Lashes, Faultline) came onboard as one of the producers of The Animal.

Unsurprisingly then, people are reacting very favourably to his extremely pretty songs about pretty extreme things, saying of The Animal that “It is awash with a yearning, a dreamlike sadness, so ephemeral that you worry that if you press eject on the stereo, the CD will simply dissipate to dust. Richard’s slight, limpid voice is a genuine wonder, a voice with the ability to make your heart stop...”

The Animal, an album of solemn sorrow and serious sadness, was written in a three-year period during which Richard experienced the ecstatic highs and numbing lows that come with being single. He felt galvanised to write and record it only after he had fallen in love again with an American girl and had moved with her from his home town of Oxford to Paris.

“Moving from Oxford made me get my act together instead of wasting my time getting pissed,” he says. “That’s when music became more than just a hobby. Paris was the catalyst.”
The sleeve of The Animal was, he explains, the result of a chance meeting with a photographer from New Zealand living two streets away from him in the French capital who was busy putting together an art exhibition of “people eating stuff”. As for the name of the LP, it was originally going to be ‘Red Brick’, another track on the album, but he wanted a more stark contrast between title and content. “I decided that because it’s such a gentle album it needed a more upfront title. And the title track is the key song on the album; it packs an emotional punch.”

But it does so in a velvet glove: ‘The Animal’ sounds like a regular love song, a waltz-time paean to a paramour, although it’s actually about the sordid pleasure which a sadistic husband derives from beating his wife. “I'm alive when I hit you now,” sings the protagonist of the song, “the crack of your bones, stage blood that you throw... Relax your back,” he advises, “close your eyes...” It took some doing for Richard to assume the role of the titular monster. “It needed to be graphically descriptive and as nasty as possible,” he insists. “Obviously it’s not autobiographical: it’s about a friend from school who experienced domestic abuse and how it really affected him. I put myself in the mindset of the person; I had to be the complete opposite of the calm singer-songwriter. I had to be ... a cunt. People said they were surprised to hear me singing about hitting someone. But I was playing a part; I wasn’t empathising with that person, just trying to understand the resentment of someone who does that kind of thing.”

As with most of the album, opening track ‘Brittle Bones’ sees Richard playing all the instrumentation himself, apart from the strings (which were provided by Izzi Dunn who plays cello for Kanye West) – including piano, guitar, bass and keyboards. It’s a quiet, restrained start to an album which, throughout, resolutely refuses to “rock out”. It sets the tone; the mood is of quiet despair and unfulfilled desire, of anxiety and dismay, of meditative melancholy, of lovelessness and longing.

“They’re all love – or rather, lack-of-love songs,” he reveals of the 10 tracks on The Animal, “and they were written when I was single. It was a cathartic experience, writing them. ‘Brittle Bones’ is about meeting a girl who already has a boyfriend, a

Discography

Date. Product. Title. Label.
July 2007. EP. Pilot Lights EP. Big Scary Monsters
27.07.09. Single. True love will find you in the end. Kartel.
(Playlisted on BBC6 music and BBC Radio 2)
05.10.09. Album. The Animal. Kartel

Set List

1) Brittle Bones
2) Weather Song
3) All at Sea
4) Crawl up to my room
5) We have your head
6) The animal
7) Red brick
8) American stitches
9) True love will find you in the end
10) Spirit of the stairway

Typical set: 40 minutes