In the distant future, when cultural historians look back on the year of 2017 in British music, they will see a remarkable anomaly. Rag'n'Bone Man, aka Rory Charles Graham, didn’t look or sound like a popstar. He was heavily tattooed, stood over 6ft tall, and was known across Brighton as a rapper with a fondness for singing blues; and part of the hip-hop crew, Rum Collective. Very few outside of Sussex had ever heard his name. Then he released the song ‘Human’ and the world turned upside down.
In six months, Rag'n'Bone Man went from local artist to global success story, as his first hit single soared to number two in the UK charts, eventually amassing 522,000 sales and 75 million streams. His subsequent album of the same name (Human) was a stirring collection of rootsy soul songs, led by his enchanting vocals and pained lyrics. It has now sold over 2.2 million copies in just over nine months. Not bad for a 32-year-old artist who had been struggling through the lower echelons of the music industry for nearly a decade.
This year, his critical acclaim has been cemented by an unrelenting stream of awards. In February, he took home two Brit Awards, just two weeks after the release of his album. And for the last two months he’s been on a relentless tour of Europe, packing out thousand plus seater arenas from Belgium to Germany, with a string of homecoming UK dates to finish it off. “I still feel nervous on stage,” he told New Era earlier this year. “I’m a different person to how I am in everyday life. So to just let everything out and make people feel your lyrics onstage is a beautiful thing.”