Canadian Musician - May/June 2021 - Page 35

It ’ s not that Ruth B .’ s time in the spotlight is up - if anything , her star is about to burn brighter with the impending release of her second full-length album , Moments in Between . At just 25-years-old , it ’ s a collection of songs that seem destined to cement her place among the finest Canadian singersongwriters performing today . No less an expert than Sir Elton John has listed Ruth B . as one of his favourite Canadian artists .
But despite her accomplishments , despite her momentum , despite having earned a legion of adoring fans , Ruth B . still can ’ t get recognized in her hometown . Of course , the circumstances that find her back in Edmonton could be a contributing factor - as she prepares to release Moments in Between , the COVID-19 pandemic is still very much a thing and masks are a de rigueur fashion statement .
“ I keep it pretty chill . The mask thing has been really nice , it kinda just blends with everyone else at this point . But I ’ m always grateful when somebody ’ s appreciative of my music . It ’ s really humbling ,” she says .
Eventually , bare faces will be seen in public again . With a killer set of new songs , collaborations with some of pop music ’ s leading producers , and momentum on her side , it seems Ruth B .’ s days of casually blending in are numbered .
The story of Ruth Berhe may start in Edmonton , but the story of Ruth B . starts on the now-defunct social media platform Vine .
Back in 2013 , a teenage Berhe began posting videos onto the app . Soon , her content included her singing brief snippets of cover songs . Though limited by the six-second time limit of Vines , her talent was immediately obvious - her soulful , plaintive voice , usually accompanied by a few piano chords , was immediately distinctive for its innate musicality .
To paraphrase a great Canadian author , if you post it , they will come . A brief clip of Berhe singing a line she wrote about being one of Peter Pan ’ s Lost Boys went viral , getting tens of thousands of hits within a day . That single line was turned into an entire song , which she self-released on YouTube and iTunes . Her Vine fans took notice ; history repeated itself , as many took to their own social media accounts to post their own versions . And they weren ’ t the only ones taking note of Ruth B .’ s talent — she
was soon signed to a deal with Columbia , who released “ Lost Boy ” as a single . It proved to be a smash hit , charting in Canada and across Europe and peaking at 24 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number six on the Adult Top 40 in the United States . Multiple Juno Award nominations followed , including a win for Breakthrough Artist of the Year . Perhaps a more significant impact can be found online : The video for “ Lost Boy ” has been watched more than 150 million times
on YouTube and has over half a billion plays on Spotify .
With a mask on , she might be hanging onto the last vestiges of her privacy , but that kind of success is definitely life changing . As we ’ ve seen too many times with others who have found massive success at a young age , these stories don ’ t always have a happy ending . But as her music illustrates , Ruth B . has been wise beyond her years for a long time .
“ I think in the beginning , I struggled with it a lot . It ’ s like a different life . But I think at the core of it , I feel like I really stayed the same . The essence of who I am and what matters to me really just hasn ’ t changed . I ’ m still obsessed with reading and hanging out with my close friends and all that stuff . So , it ’ s crazy , because the world around you changes and when that happens , if you stay the same , it ’ s not as overwhelming . I think in the beginning , I felt like I had to change , which is what freaked me out . But I think as you grow older , you just figure out you don ’ t have to do that .”
Even with a strong sense of self , with so much success coming before she hit her mid-20s , you could say the past few years have been a bit of a whirlwind . Yet in that time , she never stopped writing . Rather than a rushed job , Moments in Between is the result of years of work , in two very different environments .
“ The past four years have been pretty much all over the place . And this album , I ’ ve been working on the songs , I guess , ever since Safe Haven came out . But me being kind of a perfectionist and not wanting to rush the music , I just kind of wanted to take my time and let the songs come organically ,” she says . “ So , I ’ m really excited for people to hear them just because it really is like a collection of moments and stories over the past few years of my life . And when you put these 10 songs together , I think they describe who I ’ ve become as a person really well .”
There ’ s a truism among artists that the first album is the easiest to write . After all , you ’ ve had your entire life to craft and perfect the songs . The second album , though , is the tricky one – that ’ s when the pressure is on to follow up a well-received debut , but in a compressed time frame . Yet , Ruth B . says the opposite was true – that Safe Haven came with the stress of following up an ultra-successful first single . Moments in Between , on the other hand , has the confidence of an artist who knows her own voice , knows her way around writing a hook , and isn ’ t intimidated by the studios or producers .
“ With ‘ Lost Boy ,’ I was super anxious about making sure people liked everything else I was doing . I was new to writing , new to working in studios — I was just frazzled . But with this one , it was just way more relaxed , and I wanted to have fun with it and enjoy it . A lot of the earlier songs that I wrote for this , I had moved out to New York and was living there and was , like , in this new season of my life where I was just young and in New York and exploring and
PHOTO : GABRIEL LN / WWW . GABRIELLN . COM
CANADIAN MUSICIAN 35