After the hazy and electric convolutions of Yawn, the songwriter from West Kirby, a small town nestling on the Wirral peninsula between Liverpool and Wales, puts an end to five troubled years with “Iechyd Da”. More complex and full of strings, in his fifth album melancholy gives way to light.

What guides your creation?

Um, it’s a good question. It’s quite simple, really. I find it easier to understand things that are happening to me if I can put them into musical terms. Um, so that’s one thing. But I think it helps me focus. I have ADHD and my mind struggles to focus on one thing. I also think there’s a need for attention. Loneliness is a big one, you know. Connection. Good ways to spend your time. As long as there’s a piece of music that I’m working on, not much else matters. So I don’t really get as upset by things as I would, if I wasn’t writing. Drugs, as well.

Is one factor greater than the others?

Feeling less lonely. It’s the need. Because I am alone all the time, you know? I don’t have a partner or children or a social life, particularly. And music is company. But it’s a challenging thing to be asked because there’s so many things at any one time. Recently, my sadness and my agoraphobia and my drinking and two bad relationships are driving the words and the melodies. But the reason I do it always is because it just feels like who I am. Other than that, I get lonely, I’d say.

Does it work?

Well, no, it doesn’t work. Because it’s not going to fix anything. It helps but it doesn’t cure, and that’s fine. It’s quite isolating as well. Caring about something else would be great. Going to the gym and paying your bills and shit, you know.

Many of your song titles refer to the passing of time, like “If Tomorrow Starts Without Me”, “It’s Today Again”, or previously “Time Will Be The Only Savior” on Yawn. What is your relationship with time?

A large part of me is locked to traumas that happened when I was very young, and I’m aware of that. I feel it’s very hard to move on with life and move away from the trauma. I have flashbacks quite often. And I do a lot of work in therapy about what happened to me when I was young. And I don’t feel 40, you know? I still feel quite afraid, a bit like a child, really. I’m not comfortable with the passing of time. It’s like seeing your parents getting really old. Particularly my mother, who drinks more than I do and had a sort of stroke. I have no siblings. It’s weird to know the date when everything unraveled, all your problems started. It comes around every year and it’s very hard to move on. That’s why I speak about time a lot.

Bill Ryder-Jones - If Tomorrow Starts Without Me (Official Video)

Bill Ryder-Jones

It’s been five years between Yawn and Iechyd Da. What have you done in that time?

Not a lot. Um... two bad breakups. Two failed relationships. I’ve just worked and fell back into drug addiction and drinking. That takes up a lot of time, you know. I moved flats.

After Yawn, Iechyd Da feels uplifted by joy and amplitude, with all its soaring strings.

Yawn was not fun to play live and it was not fun to promote it. It dragged me down. I made the album thinking that’s what I wanted to make, but it looks horrible to live in that album. A lot of the music I listen to is really beautiful and makes you go, “Ah, the world is good.” So I wanted to do that. People always told me that even though my music is sad, it makes them feel happy. My fans do. But it wasn’t easy to do because a lot of the record was done.

Bill Ryder-Jones
Bill Ryder-Jones © Marieke Macklon

Things have been so bad that I think I’ve done some damage. I don’t feel as quick as I was. Music used to be very quick and I used to think very quickly. Now, sometimes I forget what I’m saying, and it worries me. I had to make the music a bit more uplifting because it was so fucking bad. During those five years, I was doing half a bottle of vodka a day, 3 or 4 Valiums, and that’s largely better now. Music had to have more hope in it because I do have hope. I’m a quite positive person. I like having fun and laughing. I don’t just sit at home and cry.

This Can’t Go On’s music video and album cover both refer to the same small coastal town in Scotland, Crail. What came first, the cover or the video?

I picked the cover first and when James Slater, who’s doing most of my videos, asked what we should do for this one, I just told him maybe go up there? I wasn’t there when he did the video as I was producing a record. I just let people who are good at what they do, do what they do. So he had an idea and I just said go and do it. He also got the little kid for it.

Bill Ryder-Jones - This Can't Go On (Official Video)

Bill Ryder-Jones

And the cover?

I was just scrolling through Instagram one day and it was like, oh, wow. With all my other records, I’ve known what it’s going to be called, and I’ve known what I wanted it to look like quite early on. But with this one, I didn’t have a fucking clue what to call it, and I didn’t know what the imagery was going to say to people, and it was stressing me out. I had lots of different options, and I just saw that and was like, “Ah, that’s it.” So I called my manager and asked him to get in touch with this person and ask if we can use it. I was hoping the painter was going to be like an old man who has like a hat and a stick. But when I followed him on Instagram, I realised that he’s really good looking and in the gym all the time.

Why was this painting so obvious for Iechyd Da?

I wanted the album to be a safe space for people, and I thought the house looked really nice. I felt like I’d want to walk in. I liked the idea that you go into the house and the album lives there and you can visually see a place to be, which is like a visualisation trick I have to do when I experience dissociative disorder. It’s when your brain loses track of what’s real. You can feel like a giant or very little. It’s very confusing. Anyway, visualising somewhere is one of the tricks they tell you to do in CBT therapy.

You said this record is the one you are the most proud of. Why?

Because I wasn’t particularly happy with the two previous ones, West Kirby County Primary and Yawn. I felt like I wasn’t making music that I wanted to listen to. I felt the songs were good on all of them, but I didn’t execute my vision well enough. And with this album, I tried to push myself. I’m very critical when I don’t feel I’ve produced a song correctly or I haven’t given it the time it deserves. I really fucking worked hard. I knew I wanted to put a lot of information on the record. I love those experimental Beatles albums. Lots of information, lots of music going on, ideas. And that’s not as easy as just having lots of ideas. It’s about editing, trying things and retrying things. It takes time to get it right. And this record sounds more like me. Like, I would listen to it, whereas I don’t listen to the other records.

____________Solo Concerts & Tour

Bill Ryder-Jones Tour

Friday 12 January - Rough Trade East, London (solo) Saturday 13 January - Spillers, Cardiff (solo) Tuesday 16 January - Monorail, Glasgow (solo) Wednesday 17 January - Piccadilly, Manchester (solo) Thursday 18 January - Applestump Records, Nantwich (solo)

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