Rumer has it she won’t go home

Share this article
Have your say

YOU couldn’t make it up, as they say.

Read through the biography of traffic-halting vocalist Rumer and you start to see the framework of a film script.

Born in Pakistan, raised in Tasmania, South Africa, Carlisle and the New Forest among other places as her engineer dad’s job kept the family moving, there’s a sense of transience which has kept this mellow miss one step ahead of a standard life until recent times.

She describes her often-beguiling album Seasons Of My Soul as ‘act one’ but admits her past has fuelled the spirit, as well as the contents, of the record.

“It was like trains, planes and automobiles, it was such an epic journey to get here; the characters I met, the places I went to, the scrapes I got into, no-one would believe it,” she says softly.

“The album documents a large portion of my 20s when I was going through a lot of difficulties; my mother dying and the subsequent grief period, so I talk about death a lot and the kind of existential musings that happen after someone you love dies.

“Music was a world I felt comfortable in. It was like a space I could be suspended in time and go into a different reality in the realm of the imagination – passion, love and grief and loss and hope – just feel human.”

The youngest of seven kids, before cancer claimed her mother, Rumer had to deal with discovering her real father wasn’t who she had thought, signalling a split and at 16 an unsettled phase, hitting art college before living in a wreckers yard caravan to be near her mum.

She began writing songs on a guitar gifted by her brother but it wasn’t until she’d spent time out of the rat-race, living in a commune in a stately home owned by a philanthropic baronet, that she really found her voice.

“I’ve always followed my heart and gone where the wind has blown me, always kept moving,” she says of her former life.

“I don’t really want to get stuck in some kind of socio-economic deprivation because that was my reality for quite a long time, living with pretty much nothing, just making the rent and the bills.

“I didn’t want to get stuck anywhere and I thought if I kept moving then I wouldn’t feel poor or trapped, if I didn’t have anything in this world.

“If I felt I was going round in circles I would just move, find a different environment, go and house-sit for somebody, live in a hippy commune, just to keep the vibrations up.

“When life gets you down, where you’re struggling every day like a lot of people are, it can cave in on you – the pressure of life and survival – so every six months or so I’d make a change.

“When I first went to the retreat as a visitor and saw the people living there I envied them.

“I remember thinking ‘I wish I could be like that. A few years later I was – but I’m not a New-Agey person into dolphins and crystals.”

Pivotal song Blackbird emerged from realisation that she was ready to confront the world again and returned to London to work jobs ranging from chambermaid and waitress to hairdresser and popcorn seller, while juggling music.

“When you’re working full time, doing things you have to, to survive and pay the rent, music takes a long time. I made that record one day a week for three years around all my jobs.

“Then any writer appreciates playing different characters, the people you meet. I made some great friends as a receptionist and working at the Apple store.

“Anyone who does a job, even if they don’t like it, the thing they value most is the people they work with – you can encourage each other.

“It’s people around you who keep you going and I valued every job I had. They taught me a lot about life.”

Rumer eventually got discovered at a gig by TV and musical composer Steve Brown, who once played Alan Partridge’s bandleader Glenn Ponder and fell for a voice he went on to produce.

Fast forward and it’s evident those same songs and lyrics have connected with a wide demographic for a variety of reasons, not least with a voice reminiscent of Karen Carpenter.

Rumer has even entered that club of artists tendering songs befitting wedding reception first dances and funerals.

“When Slow first hit the radio I got a lot of emails from people. One guy was telling me his wife came home from work and he put Slow on and he slow danced with her in the front room. She was shocked because he hadn’t done anything romantic for 20 years.

“Another couple who were getting married wanted me to sign their wedding card. I thought it was a bit weird that Slow was their song because it’s kind of a stalker anthem, but it’s lovely it’s affecting people, making them feel amorous or loving, alive.

“There’s a level we’re all the same and have been forever – only the environments and society we live in have changed.

“We still hurt and love, grieve the same. It’s something human beings share across the world. People still cry and breathe. It’s essentially the human spirit, that’s what I find so uplifting.”

Even now you sense Rumer, now 32, remains a restless soul, but she’s realised with success comes commitment, even if Seasons Of My Soul at least offers an element of financial independence.

“There is freedom but there’s also shackles as well because I have a lot of responsibility now.

“I have a schedule that goes on for the next 12 months, duties and people I don’t want to let down.”

And that includes fans at the City Hall on Saturday.

It’ll be the first time Rumer – aka Sarah Joyce – has played Sheffield since visiting the Leadmill in 2000 as part of the once much-touted band La Honda, supporting Drugstore.

“Backstage their singer Isabel was really ill,” recalls Rumer. “She walked off stage, was sick into a bag, and then went back on. I really admired her for that. For me, as a 20-year-old girl starting out, to see her be sick as a dog and then go back on was pretty incredible.”

Hopefully it won’t come to that when Rumer lands with her eight-piece band.

She’s not even expecting to come off tour with her bank account fattened.

“We try to keep the tickets as low a price as possible. We don’t make any money – we don’t even break even. We’re doing it because of passion really. It’s not a moneymaking exercise, it’s a sharing exercise.

“I love people. I’ve always been a people person and I like to meet everyone afterwards – two hours after the show I stay behind. I just think it’s nice and I learn things. Fans tell you which songs they like and why they like them, and that’s really beautiful.”