Rhodes: "I think the most important thing about being an artist is to surround yourself with people that you trust."
Alice Gee | 19/01/2022
Having just become a parent and navigated himself and his music career through the pandemic Rhodes is back, with a newfound self-confidence and a new album, candidly sharing his experiences with his mental health. Having listened to “Suffering” I can feel the self-doubt he’s felt over the past few years and the standstill he’s found himself in through no fault of his own. But something pivotal comes from the new album, as much as it’s an ode to his previous experiences, he seems to have had a personal breakthrough, something I ask about and the mental health focuses you can hear throughout.
“It’s difficult because it’s a daily struggle with the anxiety I feel. As much as you try and work through it, and come up with ways of dealing with things, it is always going to be there. So it’s been finding ways of breaking through. Music for me has always been my kind of escape. It’s always been about getting lost in it and finding that escapism, but I think what was strange with this whole album process is that I addressed it a lot, I didn’t just try and escape it.
I’ve had to escape quite a few toxic relationships, working relationships that I was in, I think the most important thing about being an artist is to surround yourself with people that you trust. And I think if you don’t, you can find yourself in some very dark situations. People can be very manipulative, trying to get something out of you that you’re not sure about, and they’ll try and persuade you to do things that you don’t necessarily want to do.
For the last few years, I’ve been trying to get out of those kinds of relationships. A lot of the songs that are on the record, are songs that I’ve had for a very long time and always loved and believed in, but the people that I was working with before and who were around me, were always telling me that they weren’t right. I think in my head I felt that if I’d written all these songs and I love them, then surely other people will like them. I couldn’t quite get my head around it. There was this gatekeeper situation where you have somebody saying yes or no to you. And more often than not in music, it’s a no, because people are too afraid to take a risk. So when it came to came to it, I decided to leave the label that I was working with, leave the management that I was working with, and just start afresh somewhere else. When I started afresh with this new label, it was just amazing, because they were just like, we love this, we don’t want to do anything with to this, we’ll just release this album. It was a real breakthrough for me mentally. It was a huge deal in finding some confidence that what I do is enough. For a long time, I was asked, if I’m good enough. I think for me, it was a real turning point. Once I started to build a team around me, who believed in me and what I was doing, rather than just wanting to shape and mould me into something that they wanted me to be, I started to trust myself a bit more and just believe in what I was doing.”
Having interviewed Rhodes in 2015 when we were both up and coming, me a journalist fresh out of college and he on the verge of releasing his debut album, I can see what he means. The person in front of me is beginning to understand his self-worth and the true talent he’s always encompassed. I can’t deny that I’ve been a fan from day one, from the very first EP I heard ‘Raise Your Love’ but the proof is in the pudding when it comes to his talent and sound, especially in his upcoming album, lyrically and melodically. Moving into new circles and taking back control is a process that I can imagine is freeing.
“It was very freeing. But I’m always going to have that kind of little voice in the back of my mind. I always think when someone plants a seed of doubt, it grows. I’ll love something I’ve created one day and hate it the next. I can be doing something, then I’ll just hear the person saying, “this isn’t good, this won’t be on the radio, this isn’t a song that we can sell” so I scrap the idea and write something new. I find myself almost like a collector, with all these little snippets of songs. I might be going through my voice notes and I’ll see a voice note from November last year, and it will have like a little star next to it where I thought it was a good idea and I’ll listen to it and be like, what the hell this is great, why didn’t I carry on working on this idea? And it will be because I showed it to someone and they didn’t like it and then I instantly think if you don’t like it, it must be rubbish. But I don’t think that’s how great art is made. It’s still a struggle at times because I feel I’ve been conditioned to think the way that I was told to. But I’ve come to believe you have to believe in yourself and what you’re doing and see it through. I’m trying to break free of all these old thought patterns and let the creativity flow. It’s a working progress.”
I feel that Rhode’s words speak to so many not just musically. I find myself thinking back to personal experiences like Rhodes where confidence and success have been decided by others, and as he mentions it’s a behaviour that takes time to rebut. Some themes that thread through the album explore another side to his experiences. Tracks including ‘No words’ feature the essence of loss and emotions that comes with moments of lucidity, a contrast to reality, something he opens up on acclimatizing to.
“I’m glad that the song resonated with you. It was one of those, where I just knew that I had to capture the feelings as I was feeling them. Many times you try and look back on something that you’ve experienced and write a song about it. But this was very much in the moment, I woke up from one of those very real vivid dreams where you can feel the emotions from a dream. I struggle with a lot of things with anxiety, like, lying awake, and thinking of people. I always find that things I’m thinking about or worrying about find their way into my dreams, and manifest in some way or another. In those moments you’re experiencing real vivid emotion, it’s easy to sort of translate that into song.
This specific song I remembered quite a bit of it. I tried to write it down as soon as I woke up. But it’s weird, when I was a kid, I had a dream journal. My mum was very spiritual. She was into Reiki and crystal healing so she was very in tune with that side of her. She told me to write them down growing up. I seem to have very vivid dreams and I seem to remember quite a lot of them. I don’t write them down as much anymore but with this one, I turned it into a song after jotting it down.
Trying to understand it is the scary side of it because there are all these very strange theories on dream meanings, a little bit like with Tarot when you get a certain card, it could mean this but it could also mean this which tends to be opposites of each other. I always wonder how can it mean both of those things? But I’m very open to the idea of it, I like to think I’m very spiritual so I do find myself falling into these things. I believe there are deeper meanings to things even if to me it’s a little confusing that it could either mean opposites.”
It seems the past few years have been a real transformative period not just professionally but personally. Having started a family and reconnected with his music I wondered where he’s found a newfound perspective when it comes to his life and how he approaches it?
“It’s been amazing having this kind of hindsight because I’m able to look back on everything and learn from it. I think it’s really easy to catastrophise things especially as I struggle with my mental health. On top of the pandemic, just before, I was diagnosed with ADHD, which made my whole life make sense more. It allowed me to realise that the ways I deal and do things aren’t weird, it’s just because of the way my brain operates. It’s just that my system’s a bit different. I do overthink, I do procrastinate and I do doubt myself. But if I can just find a healthier way of navigating through those experiences and emotions and I learn not to hate myself for it and life can become so much easier. It’s affected so much of my life. With songwriting decisions, making them is so incredibly hard for me. Even to decisions of what am I going to have for lunch? It’s excruciating. And more often than not, I end up not doing the very thing because I can’t be bothered to think about it. Now when I’m doubting or questioning something I move through it. Having started taking medication it’s allowed me to become a little less clouded. It played hugely into how I wrote the new album. I know that if I hadn’t started to try and understand myself more how I process thoughts and stuff like that, I may not have written the album.”
Hearing Rhodes’s adaptation to his diagnosis is encouraging. With many finding discomfort initially to hear Rhodes embrace his understanding of why so many things didn’t make sense, something I say will surely add to his armoury when moving forward.
“Exactly. I think it’s one of those things, a lot of people say, ‘what’s the point in knowing this now’, especially with cognitive disorders. People always talk about therapy, which is very important. But if you know in yourself that there’s something deeper, more underlying, going on within yourself, I think finding out, getting a diagnosis speaking to somebody who knows what they’re talking about, is so important. Like you just said, it allows you to be a bit easier on yourself for the things that you’ve done, you can be more forgiving on yourself.”
Having come so far with understanding himself over the past couple of years I wonder how much the support of others has played in when it comes to himself and the album?
“It’s so key to have good friends, I think that’s so important. I’ve always had great friends who understand perhaps I’m not the easiest person at times. But my friends Jack Galway, and James Kenosha, I’ve known them through the music we’ve made, James did my first record with me and Jack and I met whilst writing this one, and have become very close friends. We (Rhodes and Jack) wrote, ‘even when it hurts’ together, which is on the album. At one point they kind of staged a mini intervention on me as they saw me spiralling. They were like, ‘you’re not doing this to yourself, you need to pull yourself up off the floor. You’re coming to the studio, and we’re going to make some music because that’s what you do and that’s what you’re good at.’ At the time I think I just thought that I wasn’t good enough. They just made me believe that I was, at the moment I needed it the most. But of course, my partner Natalia, who’s also a singer, and songwriter, has been instrumental in everything. I guess you have to be cruel to be kind sometimes with interventions. At the time I was drinking loads and I was depressed, but I was at the point where I wasn’t helping myself get out of it, I was feeding into it. It’s such a vicious spiralling cycle. So to have had friends around me to say we’re doing it with you was quite a revelation for me.”
The balance Rhodes has found in his friends is obvious, and key to him starting to feel better in himself. Now he finds himself in a better place I’m curious as to what’s next, what is he hoping for?
“With this album, I guess, my ambition is to just tour around the world and just scale up. I feel in leaving a major label and joining an independent (even though they are big) I’m going to be able to scale up what I do because I’m going to be able to create more of a flow. That’s my mission for this album, although, in all honesty, I’m already writing the next one. Now it’s about this continuous flow. That’s what I aiming for. I’ve been very lucky, I’ve seen the world through music. I want to spend my life playing shows to people who enjoy my music. And each time I go back or go to a different city, I want it to just get bigger and bigger. I don’t want to have any more gaps, breaks, or rests, the last few years have been weird, not only because of my personal situation but because the whole world has been shut down. But I’m ready. I want to get out there and do what I love and do best.”
And do what he does best he will. Rhodes’s second pivotal and self-discovering album is on its way, and fall in love with it you will.
Words: Alice Gee
Photography: Charlie Moore