Rupert Wates returns to his roots

Posted 9/18/19

Just a man and his guitar. That’s Englishman Rupert Wates’ distillation of his latest album: “Full Circle.”

“All of the influences that worked on me when I was a younger man are evident in the writing and the performing of that CD,” Wates said. Plus, unlike earlier outings, he recorded with no accompanists filling out the sound. “It is just me and my guitar.”

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Rupert Wates returns to his roots

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Just a man and his guitar. That’s Englishman Rupert Wates’ distillation of his latest album: “Full Circle.”

“All of the influences that worked on me when I was a younger man are evident in the writing and the performing of that CD,” Wates said. Plus, unlike earlier outings, he recorded with no accompanists filling out the sound. “It is just me and my guitar.”

Wates also prefers playing in smaller venues where he can intimately connect with the audience through his music, he said.

“I don’t like big spaces. I’d much rather perform where the audience is much closer and you don’t have to force things.”

Wates will perform in such an intimate setting 7:30 p.m. Sept. 21 at the Laurel B. Johnson Community Center, 923 Hazel Point Road in Coyle, which seats about 70.

Entry to this all-ages event, part of the ongoing Concerts in the Woods series, is by donation. Complimentary cookies and coffee are available at intermission.

“Rupert Wates played an amazing show in Coyle in July 2012,” said Norm Johnson, series founder. “He returns now after receiving many critical awards for his songwriting skills and many appearances at major folk festivals around the nation and across the world,” Johnson said. “We are pleased to have him back here again to hear his latest works.”

In addition to selections from his latest album, Wates will present new material as well, he said.

Wates described his music as an eclectic mix of acoustic, melodic art/folk, with flavors of jazz, vaudeville and cabaret.

“Melodic art folk is a very wide label,” he said. “I don’t think it is really folk music because there is a lot of jazz and a lot of cabaret. The one thing it does have is melody, because the melody is very important.”

One-man British Invasion

Wates was born in London and studied English literature at Oxford University.

“I didn’t know what else to do,” he said. “I had the qualifications but wasn’t into anything in particular so English is what you do when you don’t know what to do with the rest of your life. It seemed logical to read books in our language, so that is what I did. I read quite a lot of them in fact.”

Such a background certainly has had an impact on Wates’ lyrics, he said.

“I did learn a lot about how to analyze texts — rhymes and novels and stories. I think writing songs is very similar to writing poems or short stories with the same kind of discipline and skills. None of that has changed in thousands of years, so the basic rules of writing are the same as they ever were. You have to capture people’s attention and do it with economy. That applies to all forms of writing.”

Wates has been a full-time songwriter since the late 1990s, when he signed a publishing contract with Eaton Music Limited, according to his bio.

Moving in 2001 to Paris, Wates formed his own quartet, heavily influenced by cabaret, he said.

“I did quite a bit of acting while I was at Oxford and some of that was cabaret. Then when I lived in Paris, I performed in cabaret. It seems to suit my outlook, my voice, my sense of humor or my sense of irony,” he said. “Cabaret depends quite a bit on wordplay and I am quite good at word play.”

Wates described his outlook as slightly cynical, and said music has been a perfect medium for his unique creativity.

In fall 2006, Wates came to the States. He is now based in New York City and Colorado. Since coming to the U.S., he has won more than 40 songwriting and performing awards. In 2018, Wates was a finalist in the Kerrville New Folk Song Contest, and an “Emerging Artist” at Falconridge Folk Festival.

Wates said he did not become a musician to live the high life.

“You don’t get rich playing music unless you get very lucky, but you can make a living,” he said. “I do it for the passion. The rewards are manifold but they are not the kind you can put down on paper.”

Performance art

The greatest draw to being a musician is being able to practice his art form live in front of an audience, Wates said.

“It is not like other art forms where you finish the piece of work and then it is over. Music has to be reinterpreted and performed in order to stay alive, and I like that aspect of it because it means it is continually being renewed. Every performance is slightly different and every audience is different. That gives it continued life which I value.”

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