It’s easy to forget that despite his doll face, angel hair and Leonardo DiCaprio circa Romeo + Juliet looks, Bill Ryder Jones has been playing music for about sixteen years already – half of his life actually. Yes, Bill is 32 and yes, when I was in 11th grade, he was already watching Kings of Leon opening for his band, The Coral, he was touring with The Strokes and counting the numerous “Dreaming of You” covers all the indie bands were doing at the time – remember the one The Libertines did in the back of a van in Spain?
It’s also easy to forget that since his departure from The Coral in 2008, Bill has never ever stopped playing and recording: he did some film soundtracks, he recorded music with the likes of Arctic Monkeys, The Last Shadow Puppets and Graham Coxon, he put out his first solo album in form of a musical and orchestral adaptation of Italo Calvino’s If on a winter’s night a traveller. And he released A Bad Wind Blows in My Heart, a beautiful second album that showed more than ever his deep love for Bill Callahan’s music.
We met Bill Ryder Jones in a café in Paris shortly before West Kirby County Primary, his third solo album, was released at the end of last year. He was wearing old khaki velvet trousers, a shirt which had become shapeless with age, and a colourful old sports jacket the 90s wanted back. He was smoking rolled cigarettes, and speaking with an accent that screamed “Northern England” – I’ve always found it quite poetic to be honest. His face was still unbelievably youthful, with locks of hair falling into his eyes and the general attitude of a boy who’s going to throw something at your car in a Tesco car park in Liverpool.
What’s fascinating in Bill’s character is the contrast between his pure nonchalance and his profound, overwhelming and moving music. He didn’t know what he was going to play. He didn’t even have a guitar strap but he didn’t really care either. He sat here, in this little bucolic street, he started to sing “Wild Roses” with his soothing, but not appeased, voice, and what was going on around him didn’t really matter anymore. The wind was blowing through his hair and it was blowing through his guitar notes, until it became some sort of second instrument in the not-so-simple and troubling folk song he was playing.
And it’s only when he started playing “Put it Down Before You Break It” while walking back to the streets until the Post Office nearby that the city’s noises brought us back to a reality that he momentarily helped us to escape from.
West Kirby County Primary is available on Domino label website. Bill Ryder Jones will start a European and UK tour at the end of January and will be back in Paris with Mumford & Sons at the Zénith on May 22nd and 23rd. Find all his tour dates on his official website.
Special thanks to the lovely Sam for reading and correcting this article translated from the French version.