Canadian Musician - May/June 2021 - Page 37

DIGITAL READERS CLICK HERE breakthrough , a plea of raw honesty that perfectly resonates with the time . Of any song in her catalogue so far , it is the one that is begging to be rediscovered by future generations ; the subject matter , tragically , is timeless .
“ Writing that was very much therapeutic for me and very much just writing in a journal . When I sat down to write that , it was more me just being so torn up and not knowing how to feel and not wanting to look at my phone because everything I was seeing was so stressful and just overwhelming ,” she says . “ So , I sat at my keyword to write the song and now , looking back , I think it ’ s the song I ’ ve been wanting to write and been wanting to share . I didn ’ t know how to get that real in music , to get that honest and vulnerable . But I think it just opened up this new part of me that wants to talk about stuff that really matters . And you know that you don ’ t have to keep it surface level . Like there ’ s real , real stuff that people go through on an everyday basis that a lot of people don ’ t even understand . And so , for me , that ’ s all I wanted to do was let people know this is real and people deal with it . It ’ s not just a hashtag on Twitter .”
It ’ s become de rigueur for celebrities to take a stand on social issues . The state of the world has made it impossible for anything to not become politicized – with the stakes being what they are , saying nothing is still seen as a stance . The result has been a lot of empty rhetoric and low-effort , symbolic gestures . If the world could be healed by Instagram posts , we ’ d be in utopia by now . A song and accompanying video like “ If I Have a Son ” is an act of real courage , of an artist undeniably tying herself to a movement that has no shortage of enemies . But while Ruth B . says she understands that some of her peers are more reluctant to have some skin in the game , she says that her own experiences made taking a stand a choice that was easy to make .
“ It ’ s something I ’ m passionate about . I know that it ’ s something I ’ ve dealt with , in terms of prejudice and racism , it ’ s been a part of my life as a kid , so it just is genuine for me ,” she says . “ There ’ s definitely a sense of , like , how are people going to receive this ? I know some people aren ’ t going to like it . But ultimately , you just have to stick with what you believe . Not everyone ’ s going to rock with that , but that ’ s okay .”
Like others of her generation , Ruth B .’ s path to stardom has taken a very different form from pop hitmakers from the past . Take the boy and girl bands of the ‘ 90s - they were carefully groomed and styled from inception , tooled to resemble what executives believed would generate the maximum popularity . While that era undeniably produced some catchy music and even some enduring stars , it was a soulless exercise in converting art into pure commerce ; as the formula was perfected , it was essentially an algorithm brought to life .
But the new generation is finding fame on their own without record company makeovers . That has let figures like Billie Eilish be legitimately weird without sacrificing their marketability .
“ It gave me the freedom to create my own stuff ,” says Ruth . “ And I think that ’ s where , really , my love for writing and the importance , for me , in creating my own music came from . Because for two years , that ’ s exactly what I was doing , creating what I want to create and saying what I want to say .”
For now , that involves telling personal stories , whether it ’ s about what it ’ s like to grow up as a Black Canadian , or the heartbreak that a ratty pair of sneakers can bring bubbling to the surface . Moments in Between is a pop album , for sure , but it ’ s a dignified , stately , often subdued affair . It ’ s a song for bedrooms and chilled out study sessions , not for lighting up the dance floor . We ’ ve seen artists take a turn for the bombastic before ( hi , Taylor Swift !), but for now , Ruth B . is happy to go back to her childhood bedroom and write songs about the moment she ’ s living in .
“ I love to listen to that kind of music every now and then . I love to dance to it and enjoy it with my friends . But for me , it ’ s just , I don ’ t connect with making that kind of music . And maybe one day , well , I really don ’ t know . But right now , I think what I ’ m super interested in is just , you know , telling my honest stories , and I don ’ t think they ever sound like that .”
RUTH B . ACCEPTING HER 2017 JUNO AWARD FOR BREAKTHROUGH ARTIST OF THE YEAR
She ’ s not getting recognized on the streets of New York City or Edmonton . But with a strong sophomore effort , a stronger sense of self , and an end to a global pandemic in sight , that likely won ’ t be the case much longer .
Adam Kovac is a freelance journalist based out of Montreal .
CANADIAN MUSICIAN 37