From Vine to Billboard Hot 100, Ruth B is here to stayBy Calkie Fisseha | 23/5/17 2:35pm
You may know Ruth B as the Viner who got a record deal or as the voice behind the Peter Pan inspired hit, “Lost Boy." Before her show at Jammin’ Java, we had the opportunity to talk to Ruth B about her new album Ethiopia, and the death of Vine.
SPOILER ALERT: With millions of YouTube views and Spotify streams at 21 years old, I don’t know how she remains so humble. No exaggeration: her voice is one of the best in the industry. If you have the chance to see her perform, do it!
Calkie: Your first album, Safe Haven, dropped earlier this month. What was the feeling you had on release day?
Ruth B: It was so crazy! It didn’t feel real. I’ve been living with these songs for 3 years or so. It was awesome to know that they were finally being given to the world.
Calkie: What was the biggest surprise in the recording and writing process?
Ruth B: Recording was brand new to me. I had never been in a studio, so it was interesting. I did it all in LA with Joel Little and it was really fun. Taking your songs from the piano and turning them into something bigger is an amazing process. In terms of writing, I just did that by myself, in random places like hotel rooms and airplanes. That was more like a diary entry, so I never thought about it too much.
Calkie: Who are your biggest influences?
Ruth B: I love Lauryn Hill, she’s probably my all-time favorite. I really love The Beatles too. More currently, I appreciate Ed Sheeran and Lana Del Rey. Storytellers are definitely my vibe.
Calkie: When did you realize you had a love for music? What gravitated you to songwriting?
Ruth B: I’ve always loved music, there wasn’t a time where I wasn’t obsessed with it. The love came naturally; I was always singing in the house. Songwriting came a little later. I was always into reading and writing short stories. I put love for music and writing together when I wrote “Lost Boy”. That was the moment I realized Oh, this is even better than just singing! Singing my own words is cool.
Calkie: How did your family play a part in your love for music? Was Ethiopian music an influence?
Ruth B: My family was always super supportive, they put me in lessons and were constantly encouraging me and my brother to do what we love. Regardless of what level it was, as long as I was singing and happy- that’s what mattered to them. I grew up listening to Habesha worship music and going to church, I think that seeped its way into my music too.
Calkie: I feel like Ethiopian music is one of those things you don’t appreciate when you’re younger. I always remember complaining like whyyyy do we have to listen to this? Turn on the radio, mom.
Ruth B: Yeah! Later on you realize it’s so fire!
Calkie: What is the most rewarding part of being both an Ethiopian and Canadian artist?
Ruth B: You get the best of both worlds. Canada is a great place to grow up in. My Ethiopian side plays a big part in my life, too. I grew up with Ethiopian culture all around me. I like being multi-cultural because there are many different influences in my life.
Calkie: When did you start playing the piano? Do you play other instruments?
Ruth B: I started piano when I was about 8 years old. My parents put me in piano lessons and I did that for 5 years. After that, I started playing by ear. The only other instrument I can kind of play is the flute. That’s what I played in middle school, but I’m rusty.
Calkie: Older people are quick to hate on social media, but for you, it changed your life. What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned from social media?
Ruth B: The biggest lesson I’ve learned is how powerful of a tool it can be. If someone told me 3 years ago, that my life would change because of these 6 second videos--I wouldn’t believe them! It’s amazing how you can put little things out into the world and the right people at the right time will come across them. That’s all because of social media! It’s pretty wild!
Calkie: I remember me and my friends freaking out that an Ethiopian girl was blowing up on Vine. When we heard “Lost Boy” on the radio and were like “WHAAATTTT!” How have you grown since posting your first vine?
Ruth B: When I first posted on Vine, that was my first introduction into the world of writing songs. I was making these 6 second posts and they would eventually turn into full songs. Vine pushed me to be as creative as I can, in such a short amount of time. So, now when I write, I try to make every line as impactful as it can be. I’ve grown a lot, and a lot of it is because of Vine.
Calkie: What’s one thing you’d tell the Ruth B from 3 years ago, when you first started posting vines?
Ruth B: I’d tell myself to keep pushing. It’s so easy to say oh, this is going nowhere. You have to follow your passion. It doesn’t matter whether you’re making 6 second videos or selling out Madison Square Garden, as long as you’re doing what you love- that’s what defines success.
Calkie: It’s been awesome to see a young Habesha woman get millions of views on Youtube and tons of radio play. What is one piece of advice you’d give to any black woman trying to make their way into the music industry?
Ruth B: Don’t change who you are. There’s a lot of people in this industry who will try to modify and make you something you’re not, but just do you. Dress how you want to dress, do your hair how you want to do your hair, wear your makeup how you want to wear your makeup. Most importantly, convey your truth in the way you act, write, and sing. Be you. That will carry you through.
Calkie: Yeah that make sense! That ties into your love for Lauryn Hill. When she decided she wanted to stop making music, she stopped. She listened to herself.
Ruth B: Exactly! It’s all about doing what fuels you.
Calkie: How has touring been?
Ruth B: It’s been so much fun! It’s also been very new experience. I’m a homebody. My family and friends know that, so I’m really used to just being at home and having a normal life. It’s been very different traveling everyday, but it’s been cool. Singing these songs and seeing people’s reactions in real time has been so awesome.
Calkie: This is the first part of the Safe Haven tour. What’s next for you?
Ruth B: We’re putting together more dates for Canada and the US. I also really want to immerse myself in the writing world, like writing for and with other people. Right now, I’m pretty introverted when it comes to that. No one writes with me, because I just write for myself. I want to dive into a new part of the writing world.
Calkie: That’s going to be an interesting balance, since it’s not just your voice anymore.
Ruth B: Sometimes you write a song and you’re like do I really mean this? I think someone else would probably deliver it better than me.
Calkie: Do you have anything to say about the death of Vine?
Ruth B: Oh man!
Calkie: That’s a personal one! For me it was just sitting around and watching videos, but for you it’s so much more.
Ruth B: It used to be my life! By the time they announced it was going away, I had moved on from it. It definitely had its time. Vine changed a lot of people’s lives. There are a lot of comedians and musicians who owe a lot of their beginnings to the app. Shoutout to Vine! I’m always gonna rep it.
Calkie: The humble beginnings of Ruth B.
Ruth B: Exactly! There’s always a place in my heart for Vine.