A blind singer from Oldham is taking his music career to the next level with an album release.
Richard Howarth, 21, who performs under the stage name Rikky James was covered by MM last year after being approached by a charity initiative to help break down barriers in the music industry.
Since then, he has attended the prestigious Institute of Contemporary Music Performance (ICMP), studying for a Vocal Higher Diploma, an experience he thinks has helped to mould him both as a singer and a person.
He said: “I had an amazing time studying there, meeting so many different people and learning vocal skills that otherwise would have taken me years to perfect.
“I think one of the biggest things I learnt was how to fit in, as a blind artist, to everyday activities and the need for being prepared for any eventuality.”
His time at the ICMP acted as a springboard for the aspiring singer-songwriter and he embarked on a project to record and release a full album, entitled New Beginnings.
Rikky told MM that it was a rewarding challenge.
“That was the best time of my life really. To see a vision that we’d had at the beginning and then to hear it as a final piece of music was just crazy, really crazy,” he added
“I just can’t explain all of my emotions that I felt at the moment I was called in to hear the fully mixed and mastered version of the album.
“It’s been two years of highs and lows, you think you’re getting somewhere and then you lose what you did have.
“It’s like having a piece of cake and then having it taken away from you before you can start eating it!”
Despite attempts to downplay his disability, Rikky still feels that there needs to be more progress in the music industry to make it more inclusive.
He said: “I can’t say being blind is a big problem, but it definitely impacts how people respond to you.
“I would say that the main problem really is that it’s insanely hard for truly talented people to get a record deal in the current climate.
“Lots of people don’t even consider anything or anyone that seems out of the ordinary, that doesn’t look right or doesn’t fit with the style of the current stars.”
Rikky, who has amassed more than 20,000 Twitter followers, @RikkyJames, is now focused on keeping his feet on the ground amidst the hectic hustle and bustle of an album release.
“I hope that things will go well with this new album, with some great people supporting my cause but really, no one knows,” he added.
New Beginnings was released on October 7. To find out more click here.
Main image courtesy of Richard Howarth with thanks.