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Gruff Rhys journeyed to follow ancestor's journey in America

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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Gruff Rhys has never been short of ambition, but the Welsh singer, songwriter and member of the groups Super Furry Animals and Neon Neon certainly outdid himself with his latest project.

The just-released "American Interior" is an album, but it's also a book, documentary film and app. It represents Rhys' investigation into Welsh explorer John Evans, a distant relative, who came to the U.S. in 1792 to find a "lost tribe" of Welsh-speaking First Americans, routing his 2012 concert tour to follow the path of Evans' travels.

"I asked my (manager) whether it would be feasible to take a tour along that route today, and luckily he didn't throw me out of the office," says Rhys, 44, who's also collaborated with Gorillaz, Mogwai, Simian Mobile Disco, Sparklehorse and others. "Within a year, we were actually on that tour."

Rhys says he "wrote a bunch of songs before leaving" on the tour, but following Evans' path and learning more about his story definitely changed the tone of the music as he moved forward. "I wrote quite a lot during the tour, finding things about him, and the more I found out the more severe and downbeat the songs got," Rhys recalls. "A lot of very dark kinds of things happened to (Evans) during his journey, more than is commonly known back in Wales."

Rhys is still a bit awe-struck by the scope of the project - "I'd never had experience with writing anything longer than a song," he notes -- but he still says doing "American Interior" was "very enjoyable. To be completely taken over by this guy's story for two years of my life was overwhelming, and now I'm on tour promoting it, still telling his story. But I'm never tired of telling the story, and I'm really proud of all it turned into."

Nevertheless, Rhys predicts that "doing an album and a book and a film and an app is...an anomaly," and his next project was, understandably, smaller -- the soundtrack for "Set Fire to the Stars," the Elijah Wood-starring film about American poet John M. Brinnin's relationship with his hero, Dylan Thomas.

Gruff Rhys

Tuesday, Nov. 11. Doors open at 8 p.m.

The Loving Touch, 22634 Woodward Ave., Ferndale.

Tickets are $12.

Call 248-546-3644 or visit www.thelovingtouchferndale.com.

Web Site: www.lovingtouchferndale.com

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