A few weeks ago I found myself at The Cricketers about to watch Ben Marwood's triumphant return to Kingston. I'd arrived early and being socially awkward planted myself firmly in the corner, a drink in hand, with the sole intention of staring at my phone until Ben was on. Then Ruby Day started singing and my carefully crafted plan came crashing down. I'd known vaguely about her, Ruby won a YouTube competition run by John Green (one half of the VlogBrothers and essentially King of YouTube). That night the line-up was already stacked with a number of great songwriters (Tim O-T and Rob The Liar, both well worth checking out) but it was Ruby who really blew me away. She writes simple acoustic songs with chords that are all familiar, but somehow creates melodies that are unique and songs that are heartfelt with just the right amount of angst. Although she may not have played many shows she certainly impressed many that night. With a mixture of her own songs and brilliant cover of Bruce Springsteen's Thunder Road, if you were looking for a songwriter with real sincerity than you need look no further than Ruby Day.
With the imminent release of her first EP I conducted an interview with her a few days after the gig.
1)You've just finished recording your first EP, how did you find the recording process?
Ruby: It was certainly lengthy. My understanding of music tech is extremely limited. When I finally figured stuff out the actual recording only took two weeks, but I spent half a year before that messing about and just trying to wrap my head around this whole new world of garageband and inputs and outputs and mono and stereo and I'm fucked if I understand what's going on.
2)Can you tell me a little bit about the EP, how many songs, is there a theme and do you have a favourite track from it?
Ruby: Seven songs. The theme is just kind of songs from this period of my life, if that makes any sense at all. I'm thinking of calling it 'the London years', because chances are next year my family are going to move out of this city and I'll be off to uni. Some of the songs are actually about this city, others are just about growing up, getting your heart broken and having fun. I guess I was trying to take a seven-song snapshot of these past few years before I leave.
3)Were there any records or artists you were listening to that influenced the recording of this EP?
Ruby: The songs have been written over such a long period of time, but I'd always have to list Frank Turner as an influence. As a writing exercise, I find it fun to take other people's songs and write them from the perspective of the person they're writing about. 'A Little Seasick', despite being very personally accurate, was also a trial response to Frank's general 'wanderlustful gent leaving his lover' tunes - imagine being the person left behind. Aside from that, Springsteen, The Gaslight Anthem and Damien Rice.
4)People may know you from YouTube. How do you think YouTube has helped you so far and are there any drawbacks?
Ruby: YouTube has done more for me than I thought a website could. Which is partly why I remain loyal to it despite all the shit that's currently going on with the sexual abuse allegations, Google+ takeover and weird digerati culture. I (rather inadvisably) started posting videos when I was around 13/14 and truly shit at what I was doing, but it helped me grow and gave me confidence. I also learnt to play guitar and piano predominantly from YouTube videos. But Christ, I mean, YouTube has led to me, amongst other things:
- Meeting my favourite band when I was 15
- Meeting Tim - now one of my best friends
- Getting to chat to my favourite YA author to arrange working with DFTBA Records.
I owe everything I've accomplished musically to YouTube. I think it was a great way to start out as a musician, if you're not quite ready to dive headfirst into gigging yet. On the other hand, nowadays it's very segregated and next to impossible to be 'discovered' or even build up a minor following. Mine was done over the period of 3 or 4 years, and, in internet terms, is relatively small, but I'm still one of the lucky ones - I don't think it works out so well for everyone.
5)You're good friends with other songwriters and in some ways you could even say a new "song writing scene" is emerging, what does it feel like to be a part of that? Or perhaps it was always there but people are only starting to take notice?
Ruby: I'm not even sure you could call it a 'scene'. I'm definitely friends with a few people who do the same kind of thing, but (as one such friend, Rob the Liar, pointed out) the word scene tends to imply a kind of in-group, with power structures and codes and such - and I'm not sure we're operating like that yet. And I kind of hope we never will. The way it is now encourages creative diversity: Tim, for instance, can be quite politicised, where I rarely ever am; someone like Mark Wynn sounds completely different to, Will Varley, say; but we all seem to kind of operate in the same circuit. I suppose you could argue that people are beginning to appreciate stripped-back song-writing again, and that we're all part of that - it's nice that just one guy/girl with an acoustic guitar can still stand on a stage and still hold an audience's attention. I wish there were a few more girls around though - I'm nearly always the only girl on the line-up, which is a bit sad.
6)Are there any musicians you'd like to collaborate with in the future?
Ruby: I'd love to do something with some of my friends - Tim and I were chatting about doing something one day, as our voices seem to go quite well together. We were thinking a super upbeat cheesy folk love song. Aside from that, I worship the ground upon which Chuck Ragan walks, and would kill to join him and his friends on the Revival Tour and get the chance to be part of that magical community for a little while.
7)Finally what plans do you have next?
Ruby: God knows, honestly. I'm still figuring out what I'm doing with my life in regards to uni, which obviously has a massive effect on what I can do with my music over the next few years. I'm trying to get the EP out as soon as possible. Keep up with the YouTube stuff - a lot of 'youtube musicians' tend to leave that behind when things progress in the offline world, but I genuinely believe YouTube is a fantastic place for creative people to collect and share their ideas without any restrictions, and that's something I want to remain a part of. Aside from that, I'm going to try and start playing shows more often, as I recently realised that doing that makes me happier than anything else in the world.
Ruby Day: Kerouac and The History Boys
If you want to find out more about Ruby, and after reading this and watching how great she is, why wouldn't you?! You can find all you need to know here: Ruby Day