With five critically acclaimed albums and four EPs to his name since 2007, singer songwriter Richard Walters is nothing if not prolific. And now the solo artist is on the cusp of releasing a digital single called The Man I Loved from his upcoming EP in January 2022. There are further strings to his bow: Richard is also part of the band LYR, which he formed with poet laureate Simon Armitage and multi instrumentalist Patrick Pearson. His music has featured on a number of hit TV shows including Grey’s Anatomy, Tin Star and CSI: Miami.
I spoke to Richard as he was reaching the end of an October tour with LYR, and just before he heads out again on a solo tour with Declan O’Rourke.
Hi Richard. You’re about to release a new work called The Man I Loved – it’s a beautiful, absorbing and intense number. What was the catalyst for this track, and what prompted you to release it now?
Thank you so much! The song is about losing a friend, someone who was a huge part of my life, like a brother really. Since he passed away he’s been constantly on my mind, and I’ve tried writing about that weird mix of emotions… this is the song that eventually came, just a summing up of my feelings and regrets. It felt like it was time to get something finished for him.
Your upcoming EP is set to launch in January next year. Is there an overall theme to the work? Who was involved in the production?
I worked with my friend and LYR bandmate Patrick Pearson on these tracks, the idea was to just try and capture a moment, keeping everything as raw and stripped back as we could get away with. I think it’s important to let it happen sometimes, not over-bake it.
For some artists, the past year and a half of lockdown has been a difficult period in which the creative process was stifled, whereas for others, it was the opposite. How did things go for you? And where did you spend the time?
I was at home, with my family – we’ve got two young children, so there was a lot of home-schooling and Lego building – but I actually felt incredibly lucky. I did lots of email based collaboration and finished up a big stack of songs I’ve been neglecting. The pause was needed.
“I love working with other people, I get such a kick from
that collaborative spark”
You have been prolific as an artist, and have managed to work both independently and collaboratively. This appears to be something that suits you creatively, having different projects on the go..?
I love working with other people, I get such a kick from that collaborative spark, and for me I like to have little brain compartments for what I’m doing creatively… I hate having nothing to do, so I like to load up my desk and then work through it. Sometimes it means things get slowed down by other things but when the plates all spin as they should, it’s a beautiful thing.
I understand you were the initial driving force behind LYR [with Simon Armitage, poet laureate, and Patrick Pearson]. What was it that drew you to work with spoken word… and specifically with Simon Armitage?
I grew up with Simon’s poetry and short stories – he’s been a big presence in my life in that respect. I approached him via a mutual friend around 2010, and we hung out a bit and worked on some songs in a more traditional sense – he provided words and sang them. But the spoken word thing was always an idea, we just needed a push to get it moving, and Pat was part of that.
Can you talk to me about the effect landscape has on your music? You’ve had to immerse yourself into the dramatic and often bleakly beautiful West Yorkshire landscape for LYR and Simon Armitage’s vision, and then there’s your own environment?
Yes, I think environment plays a huge part in what comes out. I’ve been really lucky to have lived in some beautiful places but I’m happiest now, because I have a permanent studio space at the end of the garden. I just need my things on hand, my pictures up, a little daylight and I can get my head anywhere.
I love your recent EP Devon or Las Vegas, it’s very atmospheric and reflective. I’m intrigued by the song Judee Sill, why you felt compelled to write a song about her. Was it inspired by a dream? How much of an influential force has she been in your music?
Thank you! Judee Sill is my ‘tell everyone’ artist, she’s criminally unknown and that’s just not right. I’ve always been fascinated by her story, the ultimate bad luck in the music business cautionary tale. I had a very vivid dream about her last year, more like a visitation, where she talked me through some doubts about music and life – maybe it wasn’t a dream.
In your down time (if you have any!) who/what are you listening to at the moment?
I love Laura Barton’s various music-related podcasts, which are all on BBC Sounds. She’s a fantastic writer and brings a beautiful flow to anything she talks about – it’s quite dreamlike. Music wise, I’ve been really enjoying an artist called Clara Mann, and also digging back into albums by Burial and Portishead, autumn records for me.
What is in store for next year after the EP release? Will you be touring? Festivals?
I’m touring this month with the Irish singer Declan O’Rourke, then I’ve got a few small headlines in the pipeline. There is lots of LYR touring ahead too, and perhaps a new project incoming…
Can you reveal more about the new project?
During lockdown I collaborated on a few electronic music projects, and it was something I found so satisfying and new, this different way of working. The new project is a fully formed, album length set of songs in that area. I’m very excited to share more soon…