With three brilliant solo albums in his locker and another one on the way, you’d think Bill Ryder-Jones would be very much used to singing in public. And on the stage, of course he is, but watching his team at Goodison Park alongside near 40,000 other fans is a different matter…
“I don’t sing. I don’t even talk at the match, I’m so anxious. Very occasionally, if I’ve had a couple of beers, we’ve won, and they stick on “A Grand Old Team To Play For”, I’ll let go, but it takes an awful lot.
“Don’t get me wrong, I love supporting Everton. I get so much from being an Everton fan, there’s a real identity to it, the whole underdog thing. And it was all completely by luck, we moved from Manchester to the Wirral when I was young and there was a lad at school who had just moved from Walton, and his family were all Everton fans and he just said “Are you an Everton fan?” and that was it. That same kid is now my best friend in the world. I am particularly proud of what the club represents to the community, and what they have done as a club for the various people in that community. It’s something that others have copied, it’s just a shame we don’t win trophies and that!”
Ryder-Jones is speaking backstage before a landmark gig at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, at the Southbank Centre. This is as far removed as you can get from the typical indie venues that he has honed his craft in over the years. A few hours later, he will demonstrate in front of us, and a thousand others, that he’s one of the best solo artists around. He showcases a number of tracks, from his forthcoming album Yawn, our favourite being Mither which alludes to Jones taking a different tack.
“I felt like I wandered into a territory that I hate with my last couple of albums. At times I dipped my toe into this pool of an easy to hear, not particularly challenging, white 30-year-old from the North West. And I don’t know how that happened really, so I’ve been more experimental and a bit more challenging this time. Lyrically it’s less direct and there are not really any pay-off tunes. For me, the idea was to be a bit more esoteric. This record has made me realise that I can do something a bit more considered. I know what I’m good at, and it’s not necessarily sweaty rock n roll. I’ve not reinvented anything; I’m just going down a more chaotic route with it.”
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Bill Ryder-Jones record without a banging album cover. His previous effort West Kirby Primary saw the lad from the Leisure Peninsula naked in the bath, and he reckons he knows the reason it did so well.
“I was quite overweight at the time! But I’ve always been quite lucky with album artwork; I think the last record was saved by the front cover! Without that front cover, people wouldn’t have gone “there’s a dickhead, my expectations are already low” then they listened to it and gone “actually this is alright”. This one was really sweet; the photo is of my brother Daniel, who sadly passed away when I was a kid. I’m in the background with my babysitter at the time. She just got in touch last year and said “I’ve found these photos” – it was amazing. For me, I’ve always lived my life with my brother through photos, and I’d never seen it before. It was something I’d never known, and I saw it and said straight away that is an album cover in its own right, obviously, the story around it makes it even more special.
“I’ve been really happy with how the new tunes have been received so far. Really pleased that people have got onto me trying something else. Getting out on tour is always good; it’s great to be with the lads in the band. We’ve always got FIFA on the bus, and it’s very easy to get sucked into a hole playing it. I’m not playing it as much at the minute, as I’m waiting for the new one with the new Everton players. We’ve got it on the bus, and I was like “I’ll only play if I can put all of Everton’s new signings in and I can batter you”, and that’s exactly what happened.
“I’m in a good writing vein at the minute, already looking forward with what I’m going to do past this new album, so I won’t play it as much as I would like. But give it a bit of time and I’ll be on the new one, sitting in my boxer shorts eating pot noodles, shouting at the tele.
“Football is always a great starting point, particularly if you’re on tour. Me and the band were out recently and this South African fella started talking to us, and all I had to say was “Steven Pienaar” and we immediately had common ground. It brings people together in the most beautiful way. Inherently it’s a silly reason, but it’s so powerful. You look at it properly and think, “Why do I get so worked up about this?” But when you’re in a stadium with 40,000 people, it all just sort of works.”
Ryder-Jones love of the Beautiful Game proved the inspiration for the video for Wild Roses one of the standout tracks of his last album. Filmed at his local leisure centre, the singer (resplendent in an Argentina away shirt) and his bandmates face a team called FC Sporting Bastards. As their name suggests the opposition snatch a dramatic winner at the end, leaving Bill and his mates devastated in the pub post-match, but getting out and playing wasn’t just for the cameras.
“I play five-a-side every week, and once I get back off tour I’ll be playing twice a week. If I can’t play, I’m properly gutted. I love it, music is great, writing music is amazing, and even though it feels fairly natural and I seem to know what I’m doing, it’s still not as natural as playing football. In football, you see things two steps ahead and have a feeling where the ball is going, and music isn’t quite like that.
“My dream Everton 5-a-side team, and it’s only right I pick players that I’ve seen play myself, would obviously start with Neville Southall in goal, the bin man turned best goalie in the world turned Mr Woke 2018. In front of him, the Captain, Dave Watson a true Evertonian and hard as nails. Have to have Arteta in there, he single-handedly lead the charge turning the Everton uglies into FC handsome of Everton. Need some pace in there, so got to be Andrei Kanchelskis, still doesn’t really make sense that he played for us. I’d have Yakubu up front, the big sexy, smiling goal machine. Cool as you like and a much better toggerist than was given credit for. I’d be on the bench with Leighton Baines and Steven Pienaar and throw them on to repeat the left flank dreamscapes they wove around 2008.
“I’d come on for Yakubu every now and then. I’m a ‘poacher’, I can be lethal! I don’t really give a shit about anything else, and it’s hard in five-a-side ‘cause you’re supposed to track back and that, and I will at a push of course. Being a half decent footballer at the age of 35 is honestly, genuinely something I’m really proud of.”
Yawn is available from November 2nd on Domino Records and he plays Grand Central Hall in Liverpool on December 13th.