Rhys Williams - 'Great Falls'

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Rhys Williams - 'Great Falls'

Release date: 24 th September 2012

Label: Right Track Records

Format: 1CD & Digital Download

Cat #: RTRCD28

Rhys Williams is a Welsh singer-songwriter based in London. He’s recorded at Abbey Road, sung in the Royal Albert Hall and, most thrillingly, was once Morrissey's flautist. His work with Morrissey was described as 'striking' by Radio 4, 'delightful' by Q Magazine and 'horrific' by the NME. ‘Great Falls’ is Rhys’ debut album and is released on 24 th September 2012 on Right Track Records.

‘Great Falls’ is an album dedicated to the majesty of the heroic plummet. It was inspired by a moment when Rhys, aged four, flung himself from a climbing frame, believing he could fly. For one beautiful instant, it seemed like he could. Rhys describes the moment just before his body clattered into the Tarmac as a defining one in his life.

Recorded in London, England and Reston, VA, USA with Danish producer Thomas Johansen, ‘Great Falls’ was originally meant to be a seventies-style rock album. But it didn’t turn out like Rhys planned. His innate melodic instincts led him to make the most pop sounding record he could imagine.

The result is a joyous collection of impossibly catchy and immaculately crafted pop songs, each proudly influenced by the inspiration Rhys has taken throughout his life from artists such as The Beach Boys, The Beatles, Fleetwood Mac and Steely Dan.

As well as featuring Williams on piano and vocals and long-time band members Sam Stopford and Mark Ferguson on drums and bass respectively, the album also features pedal steel from living legend BJ Cole and strings arranged by Paul Frith (Sufjan Stevens, Radiohead). 

A fan of the contrast between sweet music and bitter lyrics, Rhys originally wanted to call the album ‘Sex and Death’, as he explains, “I’d only ever written about death before, so this represented something of a thematic branching out for me.”

The songs on ‘Great Falls’ span a range of subjects: a series of chance sexual encounters in a kitchen, a bandstand and a cathedral (Downhill), a drunken fight between an estranged father and his own reflection (Diamond Tears), a suicidal man getting talked down from a skyscraper (The Top) and a morality play about strippers and the men who orbit them (Masquerade).



Rhys Williams was born in Caerphilly in South Wales. He doesn’t sound like Ruth Madoc or Windsor Davies, but he’s Valley Commando through and through. Like most Welshmen, Rhys loves music and strong drink. But he loves pop music more than anything.

During Rhys’ formative years, his mum and dad only owned four records, but those four records were enough to spark a lifelong obsession: The Beatles’ Red and Blue albums, Abba’s Greatest Hits, and Simon and Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water. Those records inspired Rhys, and they still define how he sounds today.

For Rhys, music is about melody, harmony, poetry and brevity. He has experimented with indie, flirted with folk and dabbled with the monsters of rock. However, all Rhys has ever wanted to do is write three-and-a-half minute pop songs. If it can’t be said in 210 seconds, he doesn’t want to say it.

After a childhood that revolved around trashing drums kits and wrestling with electric organs that took up half of his parents’ living room, Rhys started playing the guitar when he was fifteen. Within a year he’d joined his first band, describing the experience as “the first moment in my life that I felt like myself.”

Rhys moved to Sheffield when he was 18, spending the next four years starting a dubious radio station, playing keyboards on countless low-quality dance records, and joining another band, The Ankle Stars, who for a time were the unofficial in-house band at Sheffield music venue, The Leadmill.

During The Ankle Stars’ golden years, Rhys played with bands such as Supergrass, Oasis, Pulp, Strangelove, Shed Seven and The Longpigs. Although the door marked ‘glory’ was never to open for The Ankle Stars, Rhys recalls a Spinal Tap-esque two-word review from defunct music bible Melody Maker, who described a gig they played at the In The City festival in Manchester as “instantly forgettable”.

Rhys’ band did, however, manage to stick in the mind of at least one person: Morrissey’s guitarist and musical director, Boz Boorer.

The Ankle Stars’ lead singer had met Boz at a T-Rex convention and handed him a cassette. Boz came to see them play at the Powerhaus in Islington and offered to manage the band on the spot. They recorded with him and put out a number of records on his label.

Sadly, The Ankle Stars eventually split up to widespread indifference, but Rhys kept in touch with Boz, as he explains. “When I moved to London, I started recording my songs with him at his studios in West Hampstead. Boz introduced me to drummer Dave Barbe, an original Ant and founder member of Bow Wow Wow. Dave heard my songs and asked me why I wasn’t living on a yacht. He offered to play drums for me and advised me to play my music full time. He told me I’d have

less money, but at least I’d have my life back. He was right on both counts.”

Boz also introduced Rhys to Morrissey. Morrissey was about to make a comeback with ‘You Are The Quarry’. Boz had written a track called ‘I’m Not Sorry’ with Morrissey and the demo included a flute sample, taken from an album recorded by virtuoso flautist Paul Horn inside the Taj Mahal: “They didn’t think they’d get clearance on the sample, so they wanted someone to play something original in the same vein.”

Boz knew Rhys played the flute, so asked him if he was interested in the session. After thinking long and hard for approximately one second, he said “Yes”.

It was only when Rhys put the phone down that it dawned on him that he hadn’t played the flute for eleven years, admitting, “I’d only taken it up in the first place because the school orchestra had an all-girl flute section.”

Rhys headed to Denmark Street and bought himself a book called Teach Yourself The Flute Grades 1-6 and practiced eight hours a day for a month.

The resulting session took approximately fifteen minutes. “Morrissey was kind, charming and ever so slightly intimidating when viewed through the glass from the live room”, Rhys recalls. “What you hear on the track is the last minute of the last take. It can still be found on a loop in shoe shops and service stations across Britain.”

As well as playing on the album, Rhys’s performance was immortalised In front of 20,000 people at the MEN Arena in Manchester. It also led to an internet death threat. Even as the acclaim was ringing in Rhys’ ears, a poster on hardcore Morrissey fansite threatened to “shoot him in the face” if he ever appeared live with Morrissey again. Maybe he’s still out there? The show was filmed for the DVD ‘Who Put The ‘M’ in Manchester’ and it’s since been shown on MTV, Channel 4 and in cinemas across the world. Rhys lobbied for it to be called ‘Who Put The ‘R’ In Manchester’ but the label was having none of it.

Rhys Williams releases ‘Great Falls’ on September 24 th 2012 on Right Track Records.