Rupert Wates sees his role as a touring singer-songwriter as a continuous, endless journey.
“Performing is very satisfying, because you’re constantly finding new ways of interpreting songs,” he said. “There’s always more to find in songs that you’ve written, or in other people’s songs that you’re performing. You’re always finding new approaches, and every performance is incomplete. There’s always a better performance. That’s one of the many reasons why I’m attracted to music, because the story is never over.”
Wates’ journey and his story continue this weekend, when he appears locally at Voices Café, at 8 p.m. Saturday.
The traveling troubadour, who was born in London, graduated from Oxford University, came to the U.S. in 2006 after living in Paris for five years, and now has residencies in New York City and Colorado, sees life on the road as a given for his line of work.
“I am always traveling,” he said. “The fact is that for musicians today, the only way to make a living is to go on the road. It doesn’t matter who you are, because you can’t make a living selling records anymore, no matter how good they are. It’s got nothing to do with the quality of what you do. People can just steal it, download it, and you don’t get a penny from it. Album sales are nothing like they were 20 years ago, let alone 40 years ago. So very few people can make a living through recording. You have to play live, and to make that work, you have to go on the road. And that’s fine by me, because I like life on the road, even though it is exhausting.”
Wates averages 120 live shows a year, and almost half of those — at least 50 — are house concerts, where artists perform in the intimate environment of people’s homes.
“Right now they’re the most reliable form of income for most musicians. They’re actually some of the best gigs you can get, the most rewarding gigs in every sense,” he said. “For some years now, I’ve been writing songs specifically for that context — that I know I’m going to be able to reproduce with when it comes to performing live. So the songs are very lyric-based. They’re very full of stories, and they’re all songs I could do justice with just on the guitar.”
Wates is as prolific as he is accomplished and recognized. He’s released over half-a-dozen albums, and he has won more than 40 songwriting and performing awards. He was a finalist at this year’s Kerrville Folk Festival in Texas in the prestigious New Folk Contest, and he was chosen as an Emerging Artist at the 2018 Falcon Ridge Folk Festival in New York. Two CDs consisting entirely of his material have been recorded by other artists, “Crazy Puzzle” by the Nashville-based Roxie Rogers, and ‘”Wide Open Heart” by Los Angeles vocalist Susan Kohler.Read Full Article
“It’s very affirming for me, it’s the best thing that’s happened in terms of my morale, the feeling of being affirmed in what I’m doing,” he said, of the cover projects of his music. “That these people should invest so much time, energy and money in songs that I’ve written, it’s a very high compliment.”
Wates often ties the albums that he releases to specific themes.
“One thing I say about all my CDs is that they all have a governing theme and a governing sound and a governing style. I try to maintain that through each of my CDS, so each one is different,” he said.
His latest, “The Lights of Paris,” fits that formula.
“Paris has always been a very special place to me,” said Wates. “To me it’s a city for artists, not just practicing artists, but all people who have an aesthetic approach to life. As was pointed out to me recently, during World War II, Paris was one of the few cities which was not blacked out, because for most of the war it was not a target for the bombers. So the lights of Paris shone, and they were given a new significance as beacons of hope in that black time — which they are to me today, more than ever, in a world full of hatred and violence. Despite its title, most of the songs are not about Paris at all. The title song comes at the end of the album, which is my way of suggesting that the lights of Paris still promise a kind of solution — a symbol of love and beauty, of everything that is good about us as human beings, and an antidote, if you like, to the hatred and violence which surround us.”
Voices Café is located at The Unitarian Church in Westport, at 10 Lyons Plains Road. Visit voicescafe.org.
Mike Horyczun’s Sound Surfing column appears every Saturday in The Hour. Mike can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.