When we recall 2016’s best music, Ruth B. would definitely be a standout. Originally released in intervals on Vine, her Peter Pan-inspired piano ballad ‘Lost Boy’ captured a classic sound one rarely hears anymore. Her music captures something real in a world where most things are fleeting by convenience. We only need to look to our #throwbackthursdays, timelines, and incessant smartphone swiping to recognize our craving for music like Ruth’s.
In person, she’s poised and lovely. At only 21, she’s refreshingly honest and self-aware about who is she, where she’s been, and what she hopes to do. We met the day after Vine announced its demise—interesting timing, considering her relationship with it—and talk music, social media, and old-school inspiration.
Your success is a great example of how technology brings people together. Before your success, how did you feel about social media?
I don’t think I took it as seriously as I do now, and see how important it can be in launching a career. I think social media’s cool for connecting you with people who you would typically not connect with.
I don’t know if I was super into it, but I definitely liked it—seeing what was going on in the world, keeping connected. Especially now, just to see what’s going on in our culture, our world. It can be a great tool.
Is it how you keep in touch with your fans?
Yeah, that’s what’s so great about it. It’s that instant connection I can have with someone I would never otherwise run into back home. One of my best friends I actually met on Vine. He’s a singer-songwriter as well. We started talking about music, and that’s how we became great friends.
“It’s been a huge adjustment to go from just myself and a keyboard, no one really listening, to… well, a lot of people listening. But it’s also been so satisfying and fulfilling knowing that something I’m doing is resonating with people.”
Any thoughts on Vine—
Shutting down? It’s crazy! It’s weird—I hadn’t actually posted anything on Vine in a really long time, but it doesn’t take away my love or respect for it. It’s really changed my life, so. I’m going to miss Vine.
Lost Boy is inspired by Peter Pan. Are there other fairytales that really speak to you?
I loved fairytales growing up. I was really into make-believe and all that. I don’t know if there’s one that I’d write about again, but I love a good story. I liked the movie Up—it’s one that always comes to mind. I love the music in that movie too. The piano in that soundtrack… Again, it’s that “finding yourself in someone else” theme.
You went from singing to your living room to paying live shows for hundreds of people, doing interviews, photoshoots, all that… what’s it like to translate your music from a quieter, more solitary space to something bigger?
It’s crazy. It’s been a huge adjustment to go from just myself and a keyboard, no one really listening, to… well, a lot of people listening. But it’s also been so satisfying and fulfilling knowing that something I’m doing is resonating with people. It means the world.
Does knowing that more people are listening change your creative process?
Nothing’s really changed my creative process, but it’s made me more aware. I was always writing, but at a point, I didn’t want to write about exactly how I was feeling, because what if I get judged? Or what if people don’t feel the same way? I think, as a writer, the best thing you can do is to just be as authentic and real about your music as you possibly can.
I try to keep it like a diary entry: honest and pure. In terms of my audience, I try to write about things that matter. I could write about nonsense—partying all the time, and that crap. But I’d rather write about things that could actually have a positive effect on someone’s life.
Has anyone’s music ever touched you in that way?
Ed Sheehan’s album really touched me. That was the first album I listened to that I felt like really connected with me, really understood me. That was the first time I saw music than what I originally thought of it as—which were just melodies I loved humming—to something that I could actually understand. Anytime music makes you feel that way, you know you’re listening to something important.
“I was always writing, but at a point, I didn’t want to write about exactly how I was feeling, because what if I get judged? Or what if people don’t feel the same way?”
As you get busier and you’re travelling more, how do you find that peace and quiet you need to write?
It’s tough to find alone time nowadays. Anytime there’s a keyboard around, though, I feel like I can write. Even if there’s a thousand people in the room. That’s when my inspiration juices start flowing.
That’s awesome you can do that. Enjoying music alone is pretty special—like listening to an album during a late night drive.
Yeah, I used to do that all that time. Like a late night Timmie’s run, listening to some new album that I got… I love music anytime, any place, anywhere. I’m always down for something new, exploring new sounds and artists and messages.
Who are you listening to now?
Right now? Not anyone new. I’ve been listening to a lot of throwbacks, which is usually what I do. I don’t have the mental capacity for someone new. When I find a new artist, I usually take my time to listen. So now I’m all about the classics—Lauryn Hill, the Beatles, Stevie Wonder.
Lauryn. The best.
My favourite artist. I’m dying to see her live. And Paul McCartney. Those are the two I need to see ASAP. If I could’ve seen Prince, that would’ve been awesome. MJ. Whitney.
Speaking of nostalgia, any reason you’re more in tune with classics?
It reminds me of a time when it was just about making good music. It wasn’t about what you were wearing, or who you were friends with. It was just about the kind of music you’re making.
“I don’t like the word ‘old,’ because what does that even mean? I’ll grow, and I’m not afraid to grow.”
You write a lot about age. How’d you feel about turning 21?
It was really cool, though it wasn’t that big of a deal. I’m from Edmonton, so you could do all that stuff at 18. I feel like I’m an adult now, and that’s always fun.
I don’t like the word ‘old,’ because what does that even mean? I’ll grow, and I’m not afraid to grow. I’m not afraid of getting older. Your body might, but I try to be as youthful as I can. I’m going to keep writing about youth, because that’s such an important concept, especially now. I have a lot of younger people in my life, cousins and whatnot, and I always encourage them to just live in the moment and not wanting to grow up. A lot of my friends just wanted to grow up, and did all that grown-up stuff when they were too little. For me, it’s always been about living in the moment, not rushing anything, taking my time.