RAG'N'BONE MAN

RAG'N'BONE MAN

 

Neo-blues & soul singer Rory Graham was born and raised in the small town of Uckfield in the southeast of England. Growing up on early blues and soul, he taught himself to sing by mimicking Muddy Waters, before discovering hip-hop. Starting out as an MC with a local drum'n'bass crew at age 15, he progressed to hip-hop open-mike nights in nearby Brighton, where he later moved, teaming up with local hip-hop crew the Rum Committee. At the same time, he continued to practice singing in private. At 19, he took part in a blues open-mike night at the encouragement of his father, and the rapturous response to his singing boosted his confidence enough to make him consider it as a career rather than rapping.

Graham's Rag 'n' Bone Man moniker came from his childhood memories of sitting in front of the TV with his grandfather, watching repeats of the British '60s sitcom Steptoe and Son, about a pair of rag-and-bone men -- dirt-poor street collectors who in bygone days gathered up rubbish in an attempt to find useful rags, bones, and scrap metal that could be sold to merchants for a few pennies. With his massive bulk, tattoo-covered arms, nose ring, shaved head, enormous beard, and typical garb of hoodie and jeans, Graham looked like an escapee from an early-2000s nu-metal band, but he blew crowds away as soon as he opened his mouth with his deep, powerful, soulful, bluesy vocals.

He released his debut EP, Bluestown, in 2012, followed by several EPs over the next few years, with 2014's Wolves and 2015's Disfigured standing out. His early releases were more acoustic, but he evolved toward a more electronic sound with hip-hop-styled beats. In 2013, he signed a publishing deal with Warner Chappell, which enabled him to give up his day job as a caregiver for people with Asperger's syndrome. His increasing profile brought him to the attention of Columbia Records, which signed him in 2016. His debut single for Columbia, "Human," dropped in September of that year and was a big hit in several European countries. His first full-length effort (also entitled Human) saw release in early 2017. ~ John D. Buchanan