Rumer has it

Rumer. Photo: PA Photo/Handout
Rumer. Photo: PA Photo/Handout

With an 11-date tour rapidly approaching, you might expect to find Rumer deep in rehearsal mode right now.

But no. In fact, she’s on her way to Grenada, in the Caribbean, for relaxing break.

“It’s a good idea to get myself out of the environment and have a think about everything,” says the 35-year-old.

Her partner Rob Shirakbari is going too.

Formerly musical director to Burt Bacharach and Dionne Warwick, Shirakbari is now Rumer’s key collaborator, arranger and producer, as well as a mainstay of her live band; the holiday will be a good chance to remind each other that their relationship isn’t solely based on work though.

“It can feel like we’re colleagues, so it’s good to go away together away from music,” she says.

The pair will be on tour pretty solidly for the next two months. However, when Rumer released her almost-million-selling debut album Seasons Of My Soul in 2010, her touring schedule was booked up two years, so two months is a mere jaunt in comparison.

“And in the old days, before I was signed, I couldn’t even deal with, ‘Can you come round for dinner on Friday?’” she recalls. “I never knew where I was going to be, and I was very how-the-wind-blows about planning, never scheduled. Then I got a two-year calendar slapped in front of me, and suddenly there was no room for spontaneity or magic.”

Lack of spontaneity wasn’t the only thing she had to contend with - the pressures of touring and promoting Seasons Of My Soul actually left her extremely anxious, and Rumer has spoken of her experiences of bipolar disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress, too.

Much of her most recent album, Into Colour, deals with these issues, as well as a miscarriage and a previous failed relationship.

The result is a confessional, emotionally candid collection, although it never sounds morose or morbid. If anything, it’s uplifting, especially given some of the lively arrangements.

Performing these songs on a nightly basis is not without its challenges, but Rumer, born Sarah Joyce in Islamabad, Pakistan in 1979 (she moved to the UK as a schoolgirl), manages to rise to the occasion.

“I live the emotion in the song each time. The material does take me to that place, but there are songs that counteract it, like Thankful, which was written in a state of balance. Most of the time, no one feels that state of grace, so it can be healing.

“But On My Way Home, I find very hard to perform,” she says, referring to a track from her debut which details her grief after her mother died from breast cancer in 2003.

She says she’s much happier these days, and having Rob on tour with her means she’s not lonely, as she was previously when her band was populated by session musicians on just another job.

“They could go to the pub together after the gig and that was it for them, whereas I felt isolated from that in my role. All eyes were on me, my name is on the ticket, but now it’s easier to deal with, because we’re a team.”

She talks in detail about the support she got from her record label when she wanted to release a small, artistic project for her second album, Boys Don’t Cry.

She had envisaged an album of covers of torch songs made famous by male singers, and wanted to quietly release it without much promotion. Her label had other ideas, but they got behind her and made the album far more of a commercial success than she’d hoped.0

“I have a very good team at the label,” she says. “And I’m deeply grateful that they pushed me, because it opened the door to so many things. Through releasing a version of Jimmy Webb’s P.F. Sloan, it was played on the radio and I ended up meeting P.F. Sloan,” she says, referring to the s ongwriter who found success writing for the likes of Herman’s Hermits and The Mamas And The Papas.

“I sang that song with Jimmy Webb, who wrote it, in Macarthur Park with P.F. Sloan as my date. I mean, that was incredible. It led to so many other things, too, meeting Terry Reid, meeting Stephen Bishop, lots of things.”

A lot of Rumer’s success can be put down to the former executive at Atlantic Music who signed her in 2010. “He’s a closet Rumer fan,” she says of Max Lousada, now chairman of Warner Music.

She tells a great story about how, after a London gig, he walked into her dressing room and said, ‘I want this, don’t sign to anybody else’ - a nd then he just flounced out,” she says.

By this point, Rumer had been rejected by just about every other record label in the country, and was getting tired of performing at showcase after showcase, only to be met with another limp handshake and another, ‘No thank you’.

“I did see someone from a label at a gig one night, someone who had rejected me previously, and they said, ‘We’ve got to hand it to you Rumer, you’re still here’, but that was me all over. If I got a rejection, I’d go away and regroup, get a better band, write better songs, be better myself. Regroup, regroup, regroup.”

It’s a strategy she’s taking into her new venture, a record label, production and management company she’s founded with Rob, called Nightowl; they’ll put out their first release soon.

“I will tell the bands to move on if someone isn’t interested, and that it’s the other person’s loss. The rejections were at least good for something, if only advice I can pass on.

“For a long time, I had a dream to be a singer,” she adds. “It was a long-term thing, and it was all I wanted, involving a 10-year journey. Five years after getting signed and getting my first record out, I want a new dream, so this is it.

“I had an interesting and varied career before being signed, too; I was a teacher, a community music developer, live music promoter, I did a lot of stuff, as well as a load of rubbish jobs, so this is a natural thing for me to want to do, to bring people through and to use any influence I might have.”

As someone whose name is never mentioned without her age also cropping up (she wasn’t signed until she was 30), Rumer is very aware of age discrimination in the industry, and will not succumb to it - she’s currently working with a band of teenagers and a pensioner.

“What do you know when you’re young?” she says. “You can feel things, of course, and you can have talent at any age, but wisdom comes with experience.”

Rumer’s third album Into Colour is out now. She began a UK tour on February 15, visit www.rumer.co.uk