Singer Meilyr Jones has been crowned the winner of the sixth Welsh Music Prize for his debut solo album 2013.
The former frontman of Race Horses came top of a shortlist of 12 albums ranging from folk to metal, and alternative Welsh language to pop.
The 29-year-old went to Rome in 2013 following the break up of the band and the visit inspired the album.
“Winning was a big shock, I really had no idea – I am nervous but overall, it is great to have won,” he said.
“I made the record on my own, away from the industry with the help of my family and my good friends. It meant I got to really explore and experiment.”
From ballads to art house pop, the album captured the judges’ attention with its 30-strong orchestra, sounds of three trombonists in a cemetery and recordings of birds.
Jones, who divides his time between his home town Aberystwyth and London, said of making the album: “I had no expectations, all I wanted to was experiment and explore the length of my imagination and all my interests from Renaissance music, to pop music, to art, Duke Ellington and dance.
“I didn’t think of it as an album, I wasn’t expecting to make an album.
“I wanted to make a record like Frank Sinatra with an orchestra, but they were all people I knew and friends of friends, so it wasn’t like hiring an orchestra.
“From video to stage, I always wanted to feel different.”
Jones joined an impressive line-up of successors including Gwenno Saunders, Future of the Left and Super Furry Animals’ Gruff Rhys, after all being given the chance to showcase their original music on a national level.
Organiser John Rostron said: “It’s been a terrific year for Meilyr Jones, and it’s great that what felt like many peoples’ favourite to scoop the accolade did indeed manage to impress the 12 judges and claim the Welsh Music Prize.
“It wasn’t an easy win though – the strength of this year’s shortlist made for a very long discussion and it could have been one of several records written inside the winner’s envelope.”
Co-founder of the prize, Radio 1 DJ Huw Stephens, described Jones as a “one off”, adding: “It’s an ambitious, bold, beautiful album. Meilyr has been making music for 10 years now and I’m very happy for him, he’s worked very hard and made a real statement.”
As well as debut albums and first solo records for established artists, there was a strong presence for Welsh language music in the shortlist for the awards which were held in Cardiff.
This included the return of alternative duo Datblygu, favourites of the late John Peel and revered for their role in the emergence of the new wave of Welsh music more than 30 years ago.
Others already known beyond Wales included 9Bach, whose previous album was a BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards winner, the critically acclaimed Cate Le Bon and Jones, attracting his fair share of BBC 6 Music airplay this year.
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