Ruarri's rolling along on a fresh wave of surfing and song collaboration
When Ruarri Joseph was first living in Newquay at the age of 11, one of his neighbours was a lad of about the same age called Alan Stokes; the two boys used to hang out together, before Ruarri and his family moved to New Zealand a couple of years later.
Wind forward almost two decades and Ruarri is a highly acclaimed singer songwriter, firmly settled back in the Cornish town with his wife and children, and Alan is still based there, close to his beloved Atlantic north coast, but rides waves across the world as a UK Pro Surfing Tour Champion.
Their lives and stories reconnect quite beautifully in the new video for Ruarri's No More Sins, a track from his most recent album, Brother. Released to accompany his current UK tour, which includes a couple of Westcountry dates, it features footage of Alan travelling and surfing in Costa Rica, Bali and France – including some spectacular barrel-wave shots – interspersed with simple straight-to-camera images of Ruarri singing.
"I think it shows surfing in a slightly different light. The first edit looked more like a surf movie and a bit too much fun… now it has a darker edge to it," says Ruarri, 31.
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"It was only couple of years ago that I bumped into Alan again at the screening of a movie; we recognised each other and figured out we knew each other back then. This guy really is living the dream and he has absolutely no ego about it."
Made by Tim Davies, No More Sins makes a fitting follow-up to Ruarri's last video, Until The Luck Runs Dry which this weekend has its competition screening at the London Surf Film Festival – one of the handful of shortlisted entries in the 2013 Shorties category.
Filmed in Newquay by Tim Boydell, it follows inventive local artist Tony Plant as he makes dramatic temporary patterns in the sand, with the Atlantic in the background poised to wash them away at high tide.
"I'm really thrilled it has made the shortlist," says Ruarri. "I think they are trying to expand into different kinds of film, and I think it has a pretty good chance."
He's hoping to get up to London for the festival, but he has rather a lot on his plate at the moment, not least trying to spend some precious time with his family – wife Mandy and children Alfie, Tilly and Harper.
For a man who isn't that keen on leaving home, and walked away from a major deal with Atlantic records, he's been on the road rather a lot of late. Most recently he went on a solo Song and Surf tour of Ireland – an entirely new, more organic, approach to gigging that suited Ruarri down to the ground.
Prompted by a couple of fans in Ireland and their Gigstarter initiative, which involved contacting people who had shown an interest in Ruarri's work on websites like Facebook or YouTube.
If enough people pledged to buy a ticket if he gigged at a particular location, then he set up a show there. He hopped in his van armed with guitar – and his surfboard, to catch some Irish waves – and played four of his owns shows, plus some support dates with John Smith.
"It's a really exciting way to do things, talking to the people who are actually going to be there; and the gigs are more like a big friendly gathering or a party. It was really cool," says Ruarri, who admits to being a less than enthusiastic social networker, who is now appreciating its benefits.
With a minimum of 25 people pledging – and many more turning up to the shows – he was not only able to break even on the trip, but sell merchandise too. "I remember going out on tour on my own six years ago and not making a bean. A few weeks ago I only had 10 fans in Ireland and now I've got hundreds; it was so successful that I'm going back to do a bigger tour in February and using the same concept to go to Scotland."
Getting out on the road is continuing to extend the success of Brother, his fourth album – a record that simply refuses to retire to his back catalogue in spite of there being at least two more albums worth of material waiting in the wings. Ruarri released it on his own Pip Productions label more than a year ago; this spring it had a fresh digital and CD release through Warner Label Services, taking its songs to a much broader audience. BBC Radio 2 DJs Janice Long and Bob Harris have both praised it, and it's been reviewed in some of the major music magazines.
"It's definitely a really, really slow burner and it still seems to be spreading," he says. "Brother means enough to me for me to be happy to keep playing these songs; it really is a special one for me."
An honest, touching and uplifting album, it perfectly showcases Ruarri's strengths as a writer, his rich, buttery voice and boasts some wonderful band arrangements. It is effortlessly melodic, lyrically poetic, intensely personal and inspired and propelled by ideas of friendship, relationships and family. In particular it marks the loss of Ruarri's close friend, Hayle teacher and musician Matt Upsher who died in a surfing accident in 2010.
Many of its songs will, of course, feature on the setlist for his current UK dates with his band – drummer Harry Harding and Naomi Holmes on bass and keyboards. He's delighted to be returning to one of his favourite Cornish venues – the Acorn at Penzance.
"I had my first album launch there in 2007, so it's great to play there again," says Ruarri, adding that he also likes to explore new venues and audiences. "I normally play the Phoenix in Exeter, but this time we'll be going to Mama Stones for the first time."
Ruarri Joseph plays at Mama Stones, Exeter, on November 7 and at The Acorn, Penzance on November 30. Support comes from Falmouth acoustic duo Lily and Me.