Rumer spent the early years of her life in Pakistan. Her father was the chief-engineer involved in the construction of the enormous Tarbela Dam, 30 miles to the northwest of Islamabad. Previously, the job had taken him, together with his young family, to the Western Australian outback and Tasmania as well as to South Africa. Rumer was the youngest of seven children who found themselves living in this expat colony, with no TV or newspapers: an enclosed community where the kids would run wild, and the adults would play bridge, golf, and engage in the occasional spot of amateur dramatics.
This closed, though oddly liberating, community also provided Rumer with her first taste of music. Her family were "quite churchy, but in a mellow, 70s sort of way," and her brothers and sisters were especially musical: they would often sing and write songs together, determined to provide their own entertainment. Her brother Rob gave Rumer her first guitar; which she taught herself to play.Â And so the family lived what seemed like a charmed existence; for Rumer, this period of her life is now remembered as an idyll. "It was an otherworldly landscape," she recalls. "Our universe wasn't defined by anything other than ourselves."Â Â Â
Life changed when the family returned to the UK and settled in the New Forest. Having never seen a television before, Rumer became obsessed with the technicolor movie musical, watching Judy Garland on repeat.
It wasn't long after her family's return to England that her parents split up - circumstances with which Rumer herself only became acquainted at the age of eleven. For it emerged that her biological father was not, in fact, the man she had been calling Dad (and the dad to her six siblings). Instead, Rumer's father was the family's Pakistani cook, with whom her mother, who was a linguist, had struck up a relationship. "My Mum and my biological father couldn't have been more different," Rumer says. "My mother was this well-educated and beautiful, fair haired English woman. This quite old man was working to support his own family in a mountain village. But they had a connection. My Dad was very noble about it. He didn't treat me any differently, though yes, it has been very painful for everyone."
Her parents having separated, Rumer was educated in Carlisle with her Dad, and spent summers in the New Forest. She left school at 16, and began to drift; studying at Art College in Devon and then joining a fledgling indie rock band, La Honda. Plays from Radio 1 followed, as did early support from NME. Then, Rumer's mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, and so she moved back to the New Forest to be near her. There, she rented a caravan in a wreckers yard, surrounded by old fridges and furniture, supporting herself by putting on bands at local venues, teaching drama at a local college (despite a lack of qualifications) and briefly working for the Arts Council. As she grew closer to and began to fully understand her mother, Rumer started writing her own songs. "I went back to my roots in that caravan," she says.
Her mother died in 2003, and Rumer hit rock bottom. And so Rumer returned to London, and tried to build everything up again from scratch. Working every job she could to make space for her music, it was then that she had something of a Peter Sellers moment. "Yes!" she laughs, "someone told me I was like Peter Sellers, because they'd seen me in three different outlets in one day. I just popped up all over South London, doing every job you could possibly imagine: waitress, barmaid, deli girl, hotel chambermaid, popcorn seller, teacher, promoter, hairdresser...and I worked in the Apple store on Regent Street, where I diagnosed broken I-pods."
As surprising as it might sound when you hear her voice, not to mention her music, success was not handed to Rumer on a plate. She has fought long and hard to get her break; ten years, to be precise, during which she performed anywhere and everywhere she could, trying to meet anyone in the industry who would give her a chance, all the while essentially propping up South London's job-count. "You have to be tough," she says. "I was constantly rejected, and I kept trying to improve. You see a lot of amazing musicians quit, because you have to sacrifice."
Rumer's luck changed when she met award-winning TV and musical composer Steve Brown (It's A Wonderful Life, Spend, Spend Spend), who was reluctantly watching a gig at the Cobden Club in Kensal Rise, where his bass player son was performing with his band. Perhaps Steve Brown hasn't led a life quite as turbulent as Rumer's, but anyone who's written songs for Harry Hill and featured in the Alan Partridge TV show 'Knowing Me, Knowing You' as band leader Glenn Ponder... well, it's quite a CV in itself. "I have to be dragged kicking and screaming to those open mic nights," he recalls. "I was only there for my son. I saw this nervous girl and her guitar and feared the worst. After ten seconds I was mesmerised." Brown quickly became Rumer's producer. "Nobody would put us together," Rumer laughs, "but we're united by a love of great music. He's of the same tradition as George Martin, who also began his musical career in comedy, with the Goons." Together, Rumer and Steve began to bring to life a set of songs that anyone with ears is destined to fall in love with.
In early 2010, and at the age of 31, the word-of-mouth chain of events that surrounded Rumer's career began to pay dividends. She was found by her manager when he posted a question not at all related to music on his Facebook page: "Who Is The Most Underrated Person You Know?" Five separate people, none of whom knew each other, replied with the word 'Rumer'. Having been signed to ATC Management, all corners of the industry quickly began angling for her signature. Then, in March, her hard work paid off, and Rumer finally signed to Atlantic Records. She will release Seasons of My Soul, her self-penned debut album this autumn.
Whilst Rumer is prepared for the comparisons with classic artists - the likes of Carole King and Karen Carpenter are certain to crop up - she is certainly not intimidated by them. "I've always felt a bit outside society," she says. "I'm not concerned with what's musically popular or fashionable, really. All I wanted was to make something of quality that would stand the test of time, that people could come back to, and that was rooted in authenticity. Because that's the kind of music I listen to." It's taken Rumer a long time to get here, but now she's finally out of hiding, you'd be hard pressed to think she got lucky.