Well-Traveled Road Brings Singer-Songwriter Rupert Wates to East Lansing

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Thursday, September 27, 2018, 8:30 am
By: 
Christopher A. Wardell

Photo: Courtest of Rupert Wates

London born singer-songwriter Rupert Wates has performed a lot of shows in many different places. While it’s hard for the musician to pinpoint a singular city or town as his favorite, an argument could be made that it’s Paris.

Paris serves as the inspiration for his latest album, “The Lights of Paris,” his ninth studio album.

Wates will pull into the Orchard Street Pump House for a show Saturday, September 29th at 7:00 p.m., with doors opening at 6:30.

“I'm based in New York City and in Colorado, so inspiration comes mainly from the wish to write, that is, if you're actively looking for ideas, your eyes and ears are more alert and you notice patterns. Memorable phrases and other things that might suggest a song,” Wates said. “These things are everywhere all the time, but when you're not in a writing mood, you're less likely to notice them. It's like having your antennae raised. In my case I like to have an idea for a whole CD - a governing sound and theme - before I begin to write. Once I have this governing idea, ideas for individual songs tend to come quite quickly.”

Music is almost certainly in his DNA.

“I'm a twin, and when my twin brother picked up a sax at the edge of sixteen, I had to follow suit but with a guitar,” Wates said. “I actually started on the bass guitar, but moved on fairly quickly to six strings. At that age, my influences were quite eclectic. I listened to staple artists like The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, The Kinks, and Bob Dylan, but also lesser known performers like Leo Kottke and John Martyn. My sister brought in female performers such as Joni Mitchell, Carole King and Carly Simon. I also listened to some classical composers including Stravinsky and Debussy.”

Wates’ music is carefully crafted, but for ‘Paris,’ Wates took a less-is-more approach to recording.

“When I lived in London I used to record in a very painstaking way, layering tracks one after another, aligning them digitally,” Wates said. “We would spend days on an individual song and it was no fun at all. By the end of the session, you never wanted to hear the song ever again. I find it much more rewarding to record live - that is, with all the performers playing together at the same time, without overdubs. You can do this with sufficient rehearsal beforehand and when the musicians are excellent. Inevitably there are flaws here and there, but I know that if they don't bother me (and they don't) they won't bother anyone else. It's much more organic and a whole lot cheaper!”

The musician has a number of songwriting awards, and the accolades as well as invitations to high profile music events keep rolling in. In October, Wates will take part in the Folk Alliance Region Midwest (FARM) as part of the festival’s official showcase.

Pump House Concerts promoter Dudley “Smitty” Smith, who is also a board member at FARM, first saw Wates at a FARM event. Soon after, Smith was convinced the mid-Michigan area needed to hear and experience Wates’ music.

“In addition to his strong, literary songwriting, I was very impressed with his guitar playing,” Smith said. “Anybody coming to see Rupert will enjoy this exceptional singer-songwriter, and in this case, they'll see an above average guitar picker.”

When he’s not at home in New York or Colorado, you’ll find Wates out on the road, performing his music in living rooms, concert halls, or festivals. Wates logs an average 120 shows a year.

But, he sees it as a necessary evil, and takes life on the road all in stride.

“Life on the road is absolutely exhausting, challenging, and rewarding,” Wates said. “It's unlikely to make you rich, but to do what you love to do is itself a high privilege. It's also absolutely necessary today for any musician to go on the road, as there is really no other way to make a living unless you're teaching, writing for television, or playing in an orchestra pit. My favorite place to play is anywhere where there is a truly listening audience.”

Wates goes on to add, “Music brings you together, which in today's world is vital for us all.”

 

 

 

 

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