THE name of Wirral songwriter Bill Ryder-Jones' fantastic new album Iechyd Da means 'good health' in Welsh.

But good health and Bill have not always gone hand in hand. Finding fame while still a teenager as a founder member and lead guitarist with The Coral, Bill would play on the band's first five albums before stopping touring and eventually leaving them in 2008 due to a stress-related illness.

Since then, the 40-year-old has emerged enigmatically from his West Kirby bolthole every few years with a succession of critically acclaimed albums complementing the production work Bill carries out at his Yawn studios and the odd stint playing guest guitar with the likes of the Arctic Monkeys.

But the mood music around this new album feels slightly different. Iechyd Da has had the music press in raptures and there's a sense of newly found confidence about the shy musician that suggests he could finally become than just a cult concern. 

"There is a noticeable difference to how this album has been received compared to the last one," said Bill. "It's been quite nice - you always pretend that you're not bothered but of course you are.

"The sales have been much better but it's been the type of things people have been saying and that they're giving it time to get it - I'm buzzing really."

Bill has mentioned how he has taken a deeply wide-screen approach to making the album - one that has Mick Head reading Ulysses over an instrumental one moment to sampling the Brazilian singer Gal Costa and even getting children involved with his use of Bidston Avenue Primary School choir on a number of tracks. 

He said: "I always knew the melodies and the songs themselves wouldn't be that different - they're always about things that are happening to me or things that have happened to me but the approach was different.

"My production work has played into it but theme-wise it's the same. There's always something that is at the forefront of my brain - whether it's money worries or issues with my weight or panic attacks. I get obsessed with things and that could be a relationship or something someone's said and writing about it under the blueprint of a melody eases the pressure.

"It's interesting that the things on my mind at the moment are money and that I'm struggling to lose weight - they're two things I haven't written about ever and wouldn't even know where to begin. You might be able to find a line or two here and there about it but they're not the sort of things I should be tackling."

Like his former band mates in The Coral, Bill speaks affectionately about his Wirral roots and upbringing and the influence of its geography and sense of place on the edge of things on his song writing. Place names frequently crop up in his lyrics and Two To Birkenhead remains one of his best-loved songs.

"It is important to me," he said, adding how helpful the ongoing support of his mum and dad, who both still live in Wirral has been. "I think it would be very strange for me to write a song about myself and set it somewhere where I'm not. 

"I love coming back here. Sometimes you can go a little stir crazy because I don't leave West Kirby often unless it's for work. You can end up staying here for months on end and you do go a bit nutty - I think the staff at The White Lion get a bit sick of me. 

"I don't have any real desire to get the keys for the borough or anything but if I ever move - which is probable - I would still write about West Kirby but just in a different way and I'd write about wherever I moved to as well. 

"With The Coral we all felt like outsiders by simply not being from Liverpool - I was 16 going over to town and playing gigs and all the other musicians were Liverpudlian so you're always going to feel slightly on the outside and as a result I think we embraced this little place. James (Skelly, frontman of The Coral) was very instrumental in that.

"A lot of childhoods and teens were spent near various bits of water, listening to music and talking about music and when you've had something so powerful, so young, it stays in the blood."

Wirral Globe: Bill Ryder-JonesBill Ryder-Jones (Image: Marieke Macklon)

Given his previous issues with the rock n roll lifestyle of touring his forthcoming dates across the country (including Liverpool's Content on March 21) could be cause for concern but not any more according to Bill.

"I'm not daunted by it," he said. "I've spent the last couple of years working on the things that used to worry me about touring. I've really got my drinking under control as well as the diazepam dependency that had really come through lockdown and as a result of having panic attacks when on stage. 

"Through the 'world tour' of West Kirby we did and a few little shows I've managed to get myself back into a place where I'm not completely overwhelmed by a gig or a performance. I'm not quite there with a whole tour though and it's very much something I'm having to think about week to week.

"The main thing is I have a cracking band who are really laid back, great players and a lovely tour manager. Where we're going to fit rehearsals in and how I'm going to pay for it is more of a worry!"

The other aspect that is inspiring confidence in Bill is the clear love for him and his music so many of his fans have - plus an understanding of the sometimes torturous route it's been to get that music out there. 

"I should hope they get it!" he laughs. "I've been going on about it for ten years - it's sort of my whole game isn't it? It's my long ball tactic or my high-press but if it goes wrong I have no subs to bring on. 

"It's always felt like that and I definitely want to amend some of the mistakes I made around the release of Yawn (Bill's 2018 album) and not taking some of the performances seriously and just assuming I couldn't do them and relying on alcohol a bit too much meaning I could sense the concern from people at some of those gigs. I can't remember a lot of those gigs but I remember reading messages the next day. I definitely want to avoid that and I will avoid that. 

"If you're fan of someone and you know a little bit about them your heart goes out to them. It's that underdog thing and I get the impression a lot of people are really happy to see me back at my best and know I've made something musically that is more positive. I can feel the love."


Upcoming 2024 live dates

Tuesday 12th March – Room 2, Glasgow

Wednesday 13th March - Brudenell Social Club, Leeds

Friday 15th March – The Castle & Falcon, Birmingham

Saturday 16th March – New Century Hall, Manchester

Sunday 17th March – Thekla, Bristol

Tuesday 19th March – CHALK, Brighton

Wednesday 20th March – Islington Assembly Hall, London

Thursday 21st March – Content, Liverpool

Saturday 23rd March – Paradiso, Amsterdam

Sunday 24th March – Hafenklang, Hamburg

Monday 25th March – Kantine am Berghain, Berlin

Wednesday 27th March – Trix Bar, Antwerp

Thursday 28th March – La Maroquinerie, Paris

Saturday 30th March – The Workman’s Club, Dublin

Sunday 31st March – Black Box, Belfast