Gruff Rhys: 2024

Gruff Rhys (photo by Gus Philippas for FUV)
by Kara Manning | 05/27/2024 | 12:01am

Gruff Rhys (photo by Gus Philippas for FUV)

This  FUV Live session is also available as a podcast, "FUV Live Sessions." We're elevating WFUV's long history of live sessions and interviews via a podcast that you can find on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and Amazon Podcasts. New episodes drop every Monday.

Gruff Rhys' beautiful new album, Sadness Sets Me Free, perfectly encompasses what makes him one of Britain's best — and woefully underrated — songwriters. His gentle nature and buoyant melodies belie what are some of the most acerbic, witty lyrics this year aimed at British and global political and socioeconomic chaos ("Cover Up the Cover Up," "On the Far Side of the Dollar"), as well as the labyrinthine complexities of love, friendship and keeping your spirit afloat ("Bad Friend," "Silver Lining (Lead Balloons)").

Sadness Sets Me Free, his eighth official solo album, falls in an impressive chain of at least 25 albums that Rhys has released over 35 years with Super Furry Animals, Neon Neon, film scores, theatre and far more. He's collaborated with Gorillaz, Imarhan, and Mogwai and has produced friends and peers, including This Is the Kit.

It's been a privilege to chat with Gruff several times over the years at FUV, most recently in 2018, and he was back this year with his Welsh compadres, keyboardist/pianist Osian Gwynedd, bassist Huw Williams, and Rhodri Brooks on pedal steel, all of whom recorded the album with Rhys (only drummer Kliph Scurlock was missing in this session).

Gruff and I also chatted about how the pandemic affected the course of this album, activism, and the challenges that musicians face today, trying to survive financially while certain corporations engulf most of their streaming profits. The man might speak softly, but Rhys has much to say that's important and resonant. And his songs are just plain gorgeous — including the three from Sadness Sets Me Free that Rhys and his bandmates played in Studio A: "Bad Friend," "I Tendered My Resignation," and the album's title track.

[Recorded: 3/7/24; Engineered by Jim O'Hara with Allen Wang and Gwen Taylor; produced by Meghan Offtermatt; Videographers: Nikki Estelami, Jim O'Hara, Ava Anselmo, and Nikki Phillips.]

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