Think 'singer-songwriter' and you'll most likely picture a pale young man in a bedsit, head bowed in anguished introspection. Ruarri Joseph couldn't be more different. Eschewing the lovelorn angst of his peers, he deals in joy, not misery. In gossamer melodies, not gut-wrenching despair. Most of all, he writes about family, friends, good times, faith, hope. The ties that bind, not the pain that can drive us apart.
"I'm not here to set the world to rights," says Ruarri Joseph, lacing his fingers round a pre-gig coke in an East London pub. "I guess I write about the little things, the tiny details that make people unique."
Meet Ruarri in person and you'll understand why. He's disarmingly upbeat -a scruffy, flip-flop-wearing 25 year-old with a thatch of unruly hair and a voice like scuffed leather. There's something old-fashioned about him, like a man born out of time. To hear him sing is to be transported back to a world of fragile, folk-inflected troubadours: Nick Drake, John Martyn, Robert Wyatt. It's the sound of a forgotten England.
Yet it's also the sound of the future. Overlaid with the kind of just-so melodies that sound like you've known them forever, Joseph's gloriously laid-back acoustic lullabies - as blissful and carefree as the beaches of his native Newquay - will be the sun-dappled soundtrack to summer 2007.
Ruarri Joseph, then. It's an unusual name (pronounced like 'brewery', in case you were wondering). But then, Joseph doesn't really 'do' normal. This is a guy who, as a teenager playing in a 'jazz cabaret' band and attempted to blow up the guitarist. A guy who wrote a song about a mother encouraging her daughter to become a lesbian. A guy who deliberately chose to record his debut album in a haunted former army base.
The path leading Joseph to this point has been a circuitous one. The son of a microbiologist and wannabe novelist, he was born in Edinburgh, before relocating to the tiny Cornish village of Callestick aged 4. It was an idyllic, picture postcard kind of place. After seven untroubled years, he and his family moved to Newquay, at which point two things changed. First, his parents split up. And second, Joseph started playing guitar. He sees it now as a pivotal moment in his life.
"Songwriting suddenly became a really natural thing to retreat into," he explains. "I'm not saying I was some hopeless misfit, but at the same time I wasn't out playing football, or drinking with other kids. I wasn't Johnny Popular. So I just sat at home writing songs."
It wasn't all acoustic balladry. Grunge was in full swing at this time, and Joseph has fond memories of shredding his vocal cords to anthems by Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Smashing Pumpkins. At 17, having spent three years in New Zealand, he returned to Newquay and joined a series of local bands.
Ruarri Joseph was firmly on course for a future in music. However, his priorities abruptly changed in Summer 2000 with the birth of a daughter. Suddenly fatherhood responsibilities for a growing family - although Joseph was still only 19 at the time - meant that music ambitions had to be put on hold. He took jobs in nursing homes and bars, the next few years were punishing. "I almost gave up music," he says now. "There was just no money in it, and no time for it."
"My daughter changed everything," he explains. "she inspired so many songs. One of them, Baby Finn, is going to be on the album, which I'm really pleased about. She made me more determined than ever to make music."
He began performing again in October 2005 and things progressed at breakneck pace, within a year, he had been offered a recording contract with Atlantic Records. Weeks later Joseph arrived at Airfield Studios in Cornwall to start work on his debut album with producer Paul Reeve, known for his work on Muse's Showbiz/ Absolution. It was, by all accounts, an unforgettable experience.
"Airfield is an amazing place," recalls the singer. "It's in the middle of nowhere - you can't even get a signal on your phone, so it has a really tranquil vibe. It used to be an army base, and there's an old hospital and cinema, which people say is haunted.
Paranormal activity aside, the seclusion of Airfield Studios gave Joseph time and space to record his songs, some of which deal with decidedly unorthodox situations. Take, for example, The Perfect Man Is A Woman, which Joseph describes thus: "It's not about cross-dressing, no. It's about a mother giving her daughter advice about men. You don't think much of your parents when you're a kid, but when you're older you realise they've got your best interests at heart. Even when, er, they're telling you to go out and become a lesbian."
Other tracks on the album take a more nuanced view of human relations. One of the most venomous moments is Tales Of Grime And Grit, a swampy blues workout punctured with razor-throated a capella passages. At the other end of the emotional scale there's Won't Work, a joyous, heel-clicking jig that reels into the sunset like some lost Van Morrison classic, all celtic charm and wide-eyed wonder.
These are the kind of songs that can connect on a mass scale. It's easy to imagine the impact they will have at this summer's festivals, born aloft by the massed voices of sozzled, heat-addled punters.
"I'm not massively hungry for fame," he muses, staring down at his flip-flops. "I'm not chasing after a Number 1 hit. All I want is to create a body of work that lasts. In the old days people used to release an album every year. I love that idea."
He pauses, drains his drink and heads for the stage. "I guess what I really want is to make music forever."