Thrust into the limelight at a young age after showing early songwriting talent, RuthAnne found herself coping with higher expectations. Now building her own brand as a singer, RuthAnne talked with TheBerlinClub. about her experiences & ambitions.
6 minute read
Interview: Sam // Words: Ollie
RuthAnne's new single 'Unrequited' is out now.
“You have to be a student in whatever you pursue…”
Speaking from a restaurant in Clapham, South West London, award winning singer-songwriter, RuthAnne, takes us on her journey from karaoke to collaborating with the likes of Westlife, Britney Spears & One Direction.
“Don’t compare yourself to others, everyone’s gifts & paths are different…just practice the craft you have chosen” she continues.
The Beginning. //
Born in Donaghmede, Ireland, RuthAnne was invested in music at an early age: “When I was 4, I was being put on chairs to sing in pubs. I was always obsessed by it, I can’t remember not being obsessed!”.
Growing up in a musical family with a piano-playing mother & a guitar-playing father, the Irish creative recalls: “Music was all around me, the whole family sang in church. I became a student from the age of 7, teaching myself harmonies & rifts before taking to the piano & playing what I had heard on the radio”.
While many children grow up dreaming of a life in the spotlight, RuthAnne recollects the first moments her passion became profession: “We went to a karaoke competition while on holiday in Portugal. I sang a song from the film Grease and people were filming my performance because I was so confident. I won the competition & the DJ recorded it - he gave the tape to my dad & told him I was going to be a star…when people say when did you turn professional? I am like I don’t know, 12!”.
Following all the hard work at an early age, taking the next steps towards a career in music came rapidly: “My dad knew someone with a studio, so I gained recording experience from age 13 onwards. At 17, my dad, without me knowing, sent a demo of mine to a song writing contest for under 20-year olds. After winning that, the former manager of The Script got in contact & wanted to take me to LA to make me a star. He didn’t want the band I was in at the time, he just wanted me. My parents talked to some of my bandmates’ parents & it turned out they saw it more as a hobby for their kids, whereas my parents really believed in me doing music…it was my first experience of making a big decision in the industry”.
After finishing her high school exams, RuthAnne left for the City of Angels the following day. Being away from her family for the first time did not hinder the lyricist; a week into the trip RuthAnne co-wrote ‘Too Little Too Late’, a song which remains American singer JoJo’s biggest hit. “That’s really where it all began!” she says excitedly.
Bursting Onto The Scene. //
Explaining what followed the release of that hit, the former X Factor vocal coach explains: “When it came out, everything went from 0 to 100 because I was this unknown Irish girl who suddenly had a global hit song. A lot of friends in the industry graft for 10 years & then have a hit age 30…but I just came out of the gate which meant I had to develop as an artist quickly. I instantly became a songwriter that other artists wanted to work with”.
Her sudden thrust in to the limelight may have been craved by fellow musicians, but while the rewards were raised, so to, were the expectations. “You want to write hits, but you don’t plan them. I immediately felt pressure aged 19. I realise looking back now that I was prepared, I had written 600 songs between 7 & 17, but at the time I felt a bit like a fraud…I didn’t feel I deserved it” she reveals.
Reflecting on that time, she continues: “Despite knowing you can’t hit a homerun every day, I put a lot of pressure on myself. Looking back, those years after that song were basically the college years of writing. Being in LA & Hollywood, it is easy to become a small fish in a huge pond, so I knew I had to improve if I was to do more globally dominating music”.
Having gone on to pencil worldwide hits such as ‘Work Bitch’ by Britney Spears & ‘Slow Hands’ by Niall Horan, as well as featuring as a vocalist on ‘Remedy’ by English rapper Professor Green, it is fair to say the ASCAP Pop Award winner’s early success has shown itself to be far from fraudulent.
Describing the science behind the evolving artistry, she says: “Writing those songs came from just living my life, that was when I got the best stories. People go to schools to be educated on song writing, but my improvements just came from experience. When I was younger I wrote imaginary stories, now I write about what I or others have experienced – my creative process is the living of it. You will always find me listening for a sentence or phrase someone might say as inspiration…I talk a lot, but I listen much more!”.
Trusting The Process. //
Despite all the evident accomplishments, RuthAnne is keen to point out her naivety in the infancy of her career: “As I had that early success, I will admit that I did think music was easy. However, I appreciated over time no matter how talented you are, if you don’t know how to navigate the industry, you will drown in it”.
That adaption to the often-brutal realities of the music business is something RuthAnne is keen to share: “I may have had a hit seemingly straightaway, but I wasn’t handed it, I had been working towards it from the age of 7. I have certainly had more disappointments than I have had successes over the years. The main thing I have learned is just to trust the process. When you are younger you want it all now, but with this industry it really is a rollercoaster ride & there are going to be bumps in the road. It takes an incredible amount of determination & hustle to stay in that fire because you get burned all the time”.
Recovering from being “burned” is something that requires a great deal of humbleness to do, a trait RuthAnne thinks is essential in what can be an egotistical industry: “I do believe in celebrating your achievements, but you shouldn’t wallow in them either. As a singer, I am always trying to beat the last time I performed”.
Eager to share her experience with up & coming musicians, handling failure is a necessary skill she is keen to highlight: “It’s okay to trial & error things, it’s part of working your way up. Some people feel entitled to rush ahead, but if they get there it’s pointless because they won’t be ready. You have to be prepared to do the bitch work in any job to build yourself & gain experience - I am glad I have had that practice of climbing up from lows, it’s helped me develop the work ethic I have now”.
When there have been dark times, reminding herself of the reasons she does what she does is what has guided her to the light: “Every story has a moment in time where you have an option to give up, especially in creative work where there are no rules. When I was tested, the love of music & not wanting to go home to my parents with no money is what kept me going. Sometimes we put too much pressure on being successful straight away, but when you’re starting from scratch you must appreciate you can’t compete with those who are already established. My focus has always been longer term, I am constantly questioning what my history is going to be…I want to build something that reflects me & lasts”.
The Journey Ahead. //
Despite the early age of entry into the music scene, RuthAnne has only recently began building her own brand as an artist. The soulful 2018 debut single ‘The Vow’ elevated her status from backroom songwriter, to centre stage performer. Three more songs have followed since & the singer is succinctly clear on what we should expect from her in the coming months: “The last year has really been about, one step at a time, introducing people to me, the artist. I will be doing more of that with a few more singles in anticipation for my debut album”.
One of those singles is the newly released ‘Unrequited’, a song that covers both sides of the love divide through a soothing 90’s R&B vibe: “I wrote the song when I was in this repetitive pattern of he’s just not that into me, but then I would have guys who would come along who were in to me, but the feeling wasn’t mutual. I found it an interesting concept to talk about both sides – we all break hearts and have ours broken. The song developed like a stream of consciousness, as soon as I heard the chords, I was able to create the melody with the lyrics I had written”.
Discussing the content for her forthcoming album (due to be released in October 2019), the songstress states: “I actually wrote the bulk of it in 3 weeks, because I had a tonne of experiences from my time in America that were dying to come out. When I was younger I hid behind characters, whereas this is going to be me sharing who I really am. The sound is RnB & Hip Hop, while the focus is storytelling matters of the heart…it’s every situation you could be in as a man or woman. I am excited to start touring with it!”.
We finish the interview briefly discussing the role of social media for public figures: “People can’t argue with honesty, you should portray the truth. I like keeping things authentic with my followers by showing the good, the bad and not being afraid to be self-deprecating!”.
While a seasoned musician, the drive to develop as an artist is clearly as strong as it ever has been and whatever the future may hold for her, the authentic RuthAnne will be the one pursuing it.
RuthAnne's new single 'Unrequited' is out now. Buy and stream here.
Follow RuthAnne on Instagram @thisisruthanne