“I’m not a very good musician,” says Gruff Rhys over the phone, “I find it relatively easy to write new songs, but that doesn’t mean they’re any good!”
The Welsh singer-songwriter will be appearing at the Adam Smith Theatre later this month in the first of three shows in the ‘Tae Sup Wi’ A Fifer’ series, curated by Fife musician James Yorkston.
But despite Gruff’s own doubts, anyone who sees him playing on the evening of May 18, will witness a master of the craft of songwriting.
Playing completely solo is another step in the fascinating career of Rhys who first appeared in the mid-’90s at the height of Britpop as the lead singer of Super Furry Animals.
Despite the timing of their arrival, they were a band far too experimental and interesting to be lumped into such a dreary movement.
They would go on to enjoy success with their first album ‘Fuzzy Logic’, which was followed by a stream of further hit singles and albums whilst the members still find time to branch out and work in other area.
Gruff’s first venture outside the confines of the band came in 2007 as part of the electronic duo Neon Neon. Their first album ‘Stainless Style’ was followed in 2013 by a second ‘Praxis Makes Perfect’.
His career as a solo artist began in 2005 with the album ‘Yr Atal Genhedlaeth’ recorded entirely in his native Welsh language, with ‘Candylion’, the award-winning ‘Hotel Shampoo’, ‘American Interior’, and last year’s critically acclaimed ‘Babelsberg’ coming after.
Songs from the album will doubtless feature at the Kirkcaldy show when Gruff will play along with Brìghde Chaimbeul and James Yorkston himself, who will play a full set on the night, rather than his usual one or two songs whilst hosting the evening.
“I’m a fan of James’s work so I’m really looking forward to the night,” Gruff says.
“I always keep an ear out for his stuff and the whole line-up is amazing.
“I’ve been listening a lot to James’s new record (‘The Road To The Harmonium’) so I was really happy to be asked to come and play.”
When playing solo Gruff does sometimes employ a full band, but says he enjoys venturing out completely on his own.
“It is very different,” he says.
“As a songwriter it is the most immediate way of getting the songs across. There’s nowhere to hide.
“I suppose people have different expectations and listen in a different way to something that’s a bit more intricate.
“It’s also a chance to experiment and when you’re playing alone you can just go off on one at any moment and improvise a lot more.
“I might try out a couple of new songs and things like that.”
Gruff says being he has slowly developed the ability to strip his songs down and present them in a live situation over many years of performing.
He said: “It’s something that I’ve got into very gradually.
“I started off as a drummer and then I began writing songs and had to use an instrument to be able to play them.
“At first I couldn’t have played them on my own and even after writing songs for 30 years or something, I feel like I’m still learning as a solo musician.
“I really enjoy it because I still feel like I’m exploring new ground for myself.
“It’s something I’ve been doing for the last 15 years or so and this gig is perfect for that.”
A a musician Gruff says, despite his own self-confessed limitations, he works very prolifically.
“I write all the time but I don’t force myself to do it either,” he says.
“I just let the songs arrive and then figure out how they’re going to fit together.
“I’m not a great musician as I said, but it’s about the sound and experimenting.
“I’ve been recording quite a lot recently so I’ll try out some new things soon.
Gruff’s plans for the rest of the year include playing shows across the UK whilst working on some new recordings.
“I put an album out last year (Babelsberg) so I’ll be finishing off touring a bit of that .
I’m going to be doing a lot of solo gigs this summer and this one is actually going to be the first.
“So I’m going to be able to try some new things out
“Then I’ll developing a new batch of songs.
“It’ll probably be some solo stuff rather than with Super Furry Animals once I figure out what to do with it.”
And what of Super Furry Animals?
The band haven’t released a new album in 10 years since 2009’s ‘Dark Days/Light Years’. Their last release was a single called ‘Bing Bong’ in 2016, and played together for the final time to date that same year.
Gruff says all the members of the band are busy working on different projects, but doesn’t say when they’ll next play together.
“All the band have been busy doing our own sorts of things,” he said.
“Guto (Pryce) the bass player is in an amazing band called Gulp with Lindsey Leven from Fife singing.
“They put a brilliant album out last year.
“Cian (Ciaran) and Dafydd (Ieuan) have their own record label called Strangetown and they release a lot of their own projects and music by other people too.
“They’ve got their own studio so they’re always busy.
“So we’re all just doing our own thing at the moment really. We’ll just have to see what happens.”
• Tickets for all ‘Tae Sup Wi’ A Fifer’ shows are now on sale.
On June 15 Josephine Foster, Jenny Lindsay and Adrian Crowley will play, followed by Horse McDonald, Daoirí Farrell and Kaviraj Singh on August 24.
Tickets can be bought from the Adam Smith box office, by calling 01592 583302 or via the website www.onfife.com.