British singer/songwriter Rumer has been on a remarkable journey since her album Seasons Of My Soul, released in 2010, catapulted her to international stardom.
Since then, the talented half-Pakistani artist has performed around the world, including for Barack Obama at the White House and collaborated with big names, including legendary musician Burt Bacharach.
Rumer has also recorded more acclaimed songs and found love in the arms of renowned arranger, composer and orchestrator, Rob Shirakbari, whom she married in 2015.
The various musical pathways have led Rumer towards her fourth album This Girl’s In Love: A Bacharach And David Songbook, which will be released on November 21.
The album features some of music legends Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s most memorable co-compositions, which are still loved around the world. Rumer has collaborated with Shirakbari, who has worked for 25 years with Bacharach and spent 30 years with Dionne Warwick as a musical director, on the soundtrack.
The timeless tracks on the album include The Look Of Love, (They Long To Be) Close To You and What The World Needs Now Is Love.
Eastern Eye caught up with platinum-selling artist Rumer to talk about her musical journey, new album, inspirations and more.
How do you look back on the remarkable journey since your debut album Seasons Of My Soul came out?
I feel really happy that I had a talent, developed it and then made something of it, because so many people have talent and maybe, you know, lose their confidence, and don’t do anything with it. There were times where I had lost my confidence and I wasn’t sure whether it would work or not. But I am very proud that I persevered and I spent the years that I did sacrificing a lot to make it happen, to make the music and to develop my work.
You struggled to make it musically but it all changed with the release of the amazing Seasons Of My Soul. When did you realise it was going to be a huge turning point in your life?
I think when I saw the billboards, including one in particular in London. It was a giant billboard and one day I drove past it in a taxi. (Laughs) I looked up and thought, ‘oh my god.’
Did you ever think your music would take you to one of the all-time greatest composers Burt Bacharach, whom you met and worked with?
Do you know what? I didn’t believe anything would happen. I just didn’t think about anything beyond finishing the album, which in itself was so difficult to create on my own, because I had made the album before I signed a record deal. So getting the album made over several years was so difficult that I never really thought about what would happen afterwards, I didn’t consider meeting anyone or anything like that.
But of course it’s been really amazing to meet one of the, if not the, greatest living composer in the world.
What was it like to meet such a music legend? As an artist, were you intimidated or excited?
I think a little bit of both. In terms of intimidation, I guess you don’t think you’re worthy. You just feel so ordinary. You can’t help think about the incredible body of work that he has created and how many iconic hits he has had. So yes, of course, it was a little bit intimidating.
How did you get the idea for the album This Girl’s In Love: A Bacharach And David Songbook?
Well, it wasn’t my idea. Actually, it was the record company that came up with the plan, which I said ‘sure’ to when they presented it to me. It was kind of quite natural, because I had met Burt Bacharach and recorded one of his songs from a new musical he had written. I had done a video for Alfie as a B-side for that single that I had put out. I had performed for him at the White House. I had sung the duet Hasbrook Heights with Dionne Warwick at London’s Royal Albert Hall. So I had been on this Bacharach path for a long time.
Which, of course, included you meeting your husband Rob Shirakbari?
Yes. I had met my husband, who has been a music director for Dionne Warwick and Burt Bacharach for many years, so there is so a lot of connections there. But there was an air of inevitability about it. So yes, while it was an idea that came from the record company, it didn’t come out of the blue and was kind of natural.
I imagine the biggest challenge for you would have been to select which songs to sing, because they have made so many hits over the years that are still so popular today?
Well, you start with about 30 songs, you make a list and then you whittle them down slowly. You try them out. I am very fortunate that my husband has spent many decades with both Dionne and Burt. So we had a domestic situation going on – washing the dishes and playing the piano, trying stuff out in a very natural way, eliminating songs then adding different ones based on whether they suit me or whether I connect with them. There are so many reasons we all create song selections.
There’s a great eclectic selection on the album.
Obviously we wanted to have songs that people knew but at the same time, I wanted to find some lesser-known ones as well. So it was about getting that balance right as well.
My favourite song on your album is (They Long To Be) Close To You. Which is yours?
What The World Needs Now Is Love.
When you were recording these classic songs, how wary were you about them being compared to the originals?
I didn’t listen much to the originals. I just heard them a few times, I didn’t study them or anything like that. Rob didn’t have to listen to them because he knows them already. I had them in the back of my subconscious because I knew all the music, but I tried not to listen too much to the originals.
So we tried to take them at face value, to say ‘ok, here is the song, what is it about, what is going on, who is the character, what’s the character doing, what is the atmosphere and what kind of vibe are we going for?’ Then we would just try different approaches.
The songs on the new album are written by legendary lyricist Hal David, who had passed away aged 91 in 2012. You never met him, but what had you heard about him?
I just heard that he was a wonderful and down-to-earth man and I learnt a lot about him from studying his work. He was just a phenomenal talent.
What’s the musical master plan for you going forward?
I am writing new music at the moment. After such a rich decadent songbook record like this, I feel like I need to clean my palate a little bit and go back to basics and simple songwriting. The majority of songs have been created on my guitar with very few chords and simple ideas. I feel like a return to that. Just me, Rob, a guitar and a keyboard. We are working on new ideas and stuff like that.
What turned me into a huge fan of yours is the very real feelings you generate in your voice. Where does that emotion come from?
I don’t know. It’s funny, isn’t it, that I just don’t know. I believe that I am communicating with something. I think there is some definite sort of channelling connection going on. Or maybe I am just listening to my heart or tuning into how I feel. And that has a different way of communicating itself, I think.
What kind of music do you listen to when you are not working?
I listen to a lot of instrumental music, actually. I like jazz and classical stuff. I’ve been enjoying a lot of Spotify playlists at the moment, just listening to different compilations. But yes, jazz, classical and Brazilian music, tracks without any words because when I try to write lyrics, I don’t really wanna listen to any words.
What inspires you?
Nature and the land. I see that as God. I see God as the land, the earth and all the living things on it. That is why I love America so much because there is so much vast, beautiful land everywhere. Also trees, lakes and mountains – nature really inspires me.
Finally, why do you love music?
I love music because it is a wonderful way of communicating from my heart to your heart. It is the shortest possible distance from my heart to yours.
This Girl’s In Love: A Bacharach And David Songbook will be out on November 21. Rumer plays Cadogan Hall, London, next Monday (17).