The New Classic: Our Interview With Rumer

Rumer's Seasons Of My Soul is currently a Top 10 album on iTunes and with good reason: she's an extremely talented singer-songwriter whose sound harkens back to the music coming from your family's station wagon's AM Radio in the '70s. She was nice enough to chat with us about hitting #1 on iTunes, her US tour, her influences, her contemporaries, and Katy Perry.

Your album, Seasons Of My Soul, was finally released in the US on January 24th where it soon went to #1 on iTunes.
I know. Isn't it crazy?

How's your week been?
I got a little bit sick early in the week. I had to go see an ear, nose, and throat surgeon because I had problems with my voice and it just turns out that the altitude and everything was just making me really dry. So I was a little bit down in the dumps and then I went to Target and Ian, my manager, said, "Oh no. Your CD's not in the supermarket." I was like, "Oh why?" And he said, "Because it's just on Amazon." And I was like, "Oh."

So I was just a little bit down. I wasn't feeling very well. I couldn't buy my CD in the supermarket. We were playing to thirty, forty people every night and thinking this was like a mountain. And then the next day, for [reaching #1 on iTunes] to happen, was just massively encouraging.

Given your success in the UK, were you surprised to see your album hit #1 on the iTunes chart?
I was. Very surprised. To me, it's still like a niche album, like a jazz album.

You're currently in the middle of a short tour in the US. How's that going?
Oh, it's great. I love it. I love meeting people. I love it because I get to meet everyone after the shows, talk to every single person.

You had a unique upbringing. Can you talk about it and tell how it shaped you musically?
My parents married and moved to western Australia in 1962 and then traveled around the world, living in remote parts of the world because my dad was helping build the infrastructure. They were living in places with no infrastructure, which meant there was very little access to the western world. So my family was quite old fashioned, like a 1950s kind of family. That meant that it was perfectly normal to pick up a guitar and sing a song or write a poem or read a poem or whatever. It's kind of old fashioned in that way and that created an atmosphere where we were creative and that shaped my music. I'm influenced by my brothers and sisters who are talented musicians as well.

You've received praise from Elton John, Carly Simon, Burt Bacharach, and several others. What celebrity accolade has meant the most to you?
Which one?

I got a letter from Richard Carpenter, which was really cool.

What did he say?
He said that I sang beautifully and that I created something that's actually musical.

Did he say that you reminded him a lot of Karen Carpenter?
No, he didn't mention her at all.

Really? Because I'm sure you get that a lot, don't you?
I do.

Who are your musical influences?
All the greats, you know? I listen to all the best people like Dusty Springfield, Nina Simone, Aretha Franklin, Etta James, Ella Fitzgerald. To me, it's just obvious. It's the best! Just the greats!

I've heard your great cover of Hall & Oates's "Sara Smile" on YouTube.
Oh yeah?

What other songs do you love to cover?
I do "Lady Day And John Coltrane" by Gil Scott-Heron and I do "Sara Smile." I'm making a record of obscure covers from the seventies which is coming out in May. I'm learning "Dinner At Eight" by Rufus Wainwright which is a beautiful song. I just like beautiful songs. I like songs that are direct communication. That's why I like songs like "Alfie," where you're talking directly to one person.

Even though you all have your own styles, Adele, Amy Winehouse, Duffy, and yourself are bringing back the retro female singer. Why do you think people are so into these retro sounds?
I don't know. I think something really weird happened in the '80s, didn't it? In the '80s and '90s, it was like The Dark Ages.

You think so?
Well, something weird happened musically. But then again, we had Sade, Chrissie Hynde, Tracey Thorn, Tracy Chapman, actually quite a lot good music. But it was different.

I love Duffy. She's great. A sweetheart. She rang me the other day. Adele, I know from my neighborhood because she used to live half a mile away from me. She's someone I used to see around on her journey.

It's nice. Duffy kind of brings back that Scott Walker vibe. I think Adele's quite modern actually, although she taps into bluegrass and country and blues and stuff like that. I would say people still sing the blues. I wouldn't say Adele's that retro.

Even though Seasons Of My Soul was just released here last week, it's been out for over a year in the UK. Have you begun work on new songs for a follow-up album?
Uh-huh. I've started writing my next record. I've also just finished recording an interim record called Boys Don't Cry, which is coming out in May.

That's the cover album, right? Who all are you covering on that?
Isaac Hayes, Richie Havens, Tim Hardin, Paul Williams, Gilbert O'Sullivan, Stephen Bishop, John Sebastian. It's a real '70s record.

So your follow-up album: no new direction or anything like that?
It will be a slightly different direction. It will be more positive, more upbeat. Still singer-songwriter, still kind of warm and fuzzy, still light and breezy, but not as sad. More hopeful.

Could you ever see yourself recording a straight-up pop song like Katy Perry?
No. When I was a little girl, I loved Madonna. I think that pop stars like Katy Perry and Lady Gaga, Britney Spears or whatever, it's nice for kids. It is what it is and it could be something special if you're seven years old.

I've got one last questions for you. You're in charge of a music festival. You can have any five artists, alive or dead, appear on the bill with you. Which five artists do you choose and what is the song you all perform for the finale?
Oh my God. It would probably be Mama Cass, Judee Sill, Lauren Nyro, Judy Garland, and Barbara.

Streisand? And what song do you all sing?
I think we all sing "Wedding Bell Blues."

Great! Well thanks for taking the time to talk with me today. Best of luck to you!
Thanks very much!

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