Renee_ruth“We are collaborating with sound in a unique way that I think is going to grab hold of those listening and take them on a journey with us.” Renee Ruth

Jacqueline Jax logo photoGETTING TO KNOW RENEE RUTH
Interview By Jacqueline Jax
Host/Music Journalist

How did you get your start in music? 

I grew up in a family of musicians.  “The Peckham’s” were a popular gospel trio in the 70’s, and on my mother’s side the entire family sang as a five-piece ensemble on a radio station in Sudbury Ontario.  So it was only fitting that before I could remember my parents had me with them on stage at church singing and playing with them.  My career start was five years ago when I completed my Master’s degree in Communication, appeasing my father’s instructions to “get a paying job” before chasing a dream that leaves people dream rich and penny poor.  It took that long to start writing again.  The last time I wrote a song was when my mom passed at 17.  I wrote the song for her, sang it at her funeral and then retired the keys and put the pen and paper to academic use.

Tell me about your song “Tortured”.

 The idea of a “tortured artist” has been well documented over history in all genres.  My passion for writing was born out of my need to heal from the cards life dealt me.  Some of those fateful cards were the plight of so many others: having loved and lost.  I had a college boyfriend who broke up with me numerous times, but was not ready to let go when I finally moved on.  The song “Wanting Me” is written about the males desire to have their cake and eat it too.  The idea that when we are “in love” we think there is no possible chance anyone else in the world will due, but the longer you move away from that relationship the more clearly you see, you were “better off alone.”  (MP3 attached in this file)

What’s the music scene like in your town?

 I am from an entertainment-rich city.  Toronto has produced an amazing amount of talent, most notably Michael Buble (though from Vancouver, had is break in Toronto), yet, I came to Liberty University in VA to get my undergraduate degree and it was here I met my bandmates and found a little life that has supported, fostered, and grown our musical dreams.  The unfortunate thing about the city I live in, as many people who visit our regular gig at Jimmy’s on the James have said, is that my music is bigger than the city we live in.  Lynchburg is very much a country, rock and roll, rockabilly town, as are the townships that surround it.  So the band and I are looking to spread our wings and soar a little further than our one-horse town.  The one fun thing I love to do, that I haven’t had a chance to do yet this season, is SKI!  Wintergreen is 45 minutes from Lynchburg, and this year we’ve had the chance to perform at the resort but I haven’t been there yet to strap in my boots, buckle in my skis and hit the slopes.  The groundhog said six more weeks of winter, so there’s still a chance J

What do you like about social media?

Social media has changed the face of every industry in the world.  The channels that one once had to travel to get to platforms of success are overgrown as the information superhighway has accumulated all traffic.  I made the decision five years ago to turn my Facebook into a “business” page promoting music, the things in life I love, but leaving my personal life, for the most part, behind the scenes.  That is the one thing about social media I do not enjoy.  It provides another avenue for haters to hate, but according to Taylor Swift, they’re going to do that anyway so just let them!

Why do you think it’s so hard for indie artists to break into the mainstream big markets and gain a solid fan base? 

The challenge for Indie artists were the same challenges I believe the mainstream artists once faced; you have to find that perfect storm.  There is a fair amount of persistence, determination and talent needed, but to break into the bigger markets, a lot of the times it is something you couldn’t create or duplicate.  Every artist that is on XM radio right now had that “right moment, right time” experience that blew open those doors and the band of brothers I play with, along with myself, are praying daily for that same opportunity.

Who is your favorite artist and how have they influence you?

 This is one of the most asked questions, but probably one of the hardest ones to answer.  “Favorite” is hard to label because it is rarely just one.  Since I believe that is true, I’ll list the three biggest influences in my music.  I recently saw Sarah McLachlan play in Charlottesville VA.  It was cathartic in so many ways as she has been one of my biggest musical inspirations and someone I always wanted to emulate.  The music was something she used to touch people’s lives, teach people and give back to those who have given so much to her.  That concert was a charity show and all the money was going to a charity in Charlottesville.  That would be my dream one day.  Plus, she’s Canadian J  She got her start at a Canadian label I have always dreamed of being signed to – Nettwerk Music Group.  I even friended Terry McBride on FB five years ago with the intent of contacting him when I had developed my music enough to do so.  My respect for Nettwerk grew when I found out they had also signed my favorite electronic artist BT. Brian Transeau and I met musically in 1997 and I actually met him back stage at one of his Baltimore shows a number of years later. What I loved about BT was that he wasn’t just a sound engineer he was a musician.  It became a goal of mine to make music that blended both and that’s how the SpinnZinn remix was born J The artist that I have seen a number of times and have always dreamed of is my band inspiration : U2.  That band has transcended time musically and overcome the expected interpersonal hurdles of being in a band for decades.  I never wanted a band because most are not as successful as U2, but I think I have found a group that will go with me to the moon and back!

 How do you want to be remembered for your music?

 I had a fan message me on Facebook late one night.  The statement was, “listening to your music keeps me from getting into trouble.”  I laughed and asked him what he meant, and he said listening to our latest album (Legacy) kept him out of the strip clubs and bars.  I have often said, I write to free my soul from the chains that bind it and sing to free others.  The legacy that I hope to leave, whether it be grand by the worlds standards or not, is one that speaks to those who hear it and frees them in the same way it freed me.

How do you remove the monetary value as a means of influence over or judgement of your art?

 So my dad’s admonition when I was younger has given me the freedom to pay my bills and remain in the US while pursuing art.  As a University professor, I am able to teach with a lot of freedom now (over 10 years of experience) and that gives me the time to chase music “after school.”  I also never had the fortune of marrying and having children, so that gave me similar free time to artists in their 20’s.

Are you religious? Do you believe in fate?

 I wouldn’t call myself “religious.”  There are a lot of negative connotations to that word our culture has ascribed to it, and they are not ones I adhere to.  I am a Christ-follower.  I work to live my life as Jesus Christ lived His.  I have often had friends of mine say that I live life in “Technicolor.”  I wasn’t raised with a lot of money, I still don’t make a lot of money, but money is not what fuels my life and it does not bring happiness.  Living for something/someone other than yourself is the only way you can find happiness, and for me that is living for the Lord.

 What are you thankful for?

There are so many things I am thankful for…daily!!  I am thankful that I am blessed each day with breath and the ability to go through the work I must do and the work I love to do.  That I was blessed to be born into a musical family and granted musical talent!  Truly, I wake up thankful each day that I am alive.  I was knocking on deaths door a few years ago, and so little mattered then when you didn’t know how long you may or may not have to live.  Each day is a gift!

Where do you hope to see yourself in 5 years?

 The band and I were watching Katy Perry at halftime this past Sunday’s Super bowl.  I literally said that I wanted to be performing at Super Bowl in under five years.  The band is moving into uncharted territory for ourselves musically and for what is considered mainstream.  We are collaborating with sound in a unique way that I think is going to grab hold of those listening and take them on a journey with us.  The breakdown in five years is to be signed by an independent label (preferably Nettwerk), be touring with a major artist and get a spot at Superbowl.  Go big or go home right?  J

What do you want most and how do you know it will make you happy?

 What I want to do the most is create music, record music, perform music and meet PEOPLE.  I love people, getting to know them, their stories, who they are and where they came from.  It is why I’ve loved teaching university for the last 10 years.  It’s been a chance to perform AND get to know people.  It’s been my passion throughout my life and has made me happy this far, so I know it will continue to!

Have you ever stepped back to look at the bigger picture of who you are and where you fit in this world?

It’s very hard to watch your mom take her last breaths as a teenager and not have to evaluate your place in this world.  I don’t think that evaluation is static but that we are constantly reevaluating where we fit in the world, and what our role in this thing called life is to be.  I have learned a lot about life, loss and love in the event since my mom’s passing, but I have yet to learn how those experiences are going to shape my future musically here in the US.  That future discovery is invigorating though, and keeps me in front of my keyboard, on a microphone and learning something new everyday, like iMovie to record our first music video or Abelton to do our own engineering.

In your opinion what is the best way for someone to discover what they are good at and or what will make them happy?

There are a number of times in my life, I’ve looked at people and wondered what compelled them to do what they had chosen to do or be what they decided to become.  The way that I have always discovered the path I need to take and identified what I was good at was to take a collective poll of people who know me and love me, strangers, acquaintances, professionals, experts, laymen, anyone really that life brings my way and evaluate their ideas/opinions of what I’m doing.  For example, with music, I have been told by so many people who are completely unrelated and from all over the world that I need to keep working away at this.  I have also had my share of “haters” but the balance is still in favor of those who support the dream.  You truly won’t be happy unless you are following your heart and living the way you were designed to live; that is the bottom line.

How can your life become more rich?

When people hear the word “rich,” they immediately think money.  I have always valued wealth in terms of time.  How much of the time in my life belongs to me and what I want to be doing and how much belongs to someone else and what they are making me do.  Like all things in life, there needs to be a balance and in my life a healthy balance of time is what makes me happy!  Money comes and goes, but you only have one moment to live in each moment and once you’ve lived it, it’s gone forever!  Make the most of each moment.

How do you handle conflict in your life?

I don’t know if it’s a Northern thing, a Canadian thing, or just a me thing, but I need to handle conflict head on and immediately as it arises.  It might be part of my Biblical upbringing too, as my mom reminded me often never to let the sun go down on my anger.  Conflict is a part of living, but effectively handling it is something we are not necessarily equipped for.  In fact, if it weren’t for my bachelors in psychology and masters in human services, I might not know how either.  If anyone reading this has been in a band, or a group of any kind, they know conflict arises often.  The ability to be like the U2’s of the world partly rests in the ability to mediate conflict.  When my band and I don’t see eye to eye, the best way I manage it is to sit down with the individual(s) and hear first what they are thinking, ask to be heard and find a way to either resolve it or come to a compromise.

Do you feel that there is anything that prevents you from living up to your full potential?  

The only thing that is stopping me from living up to my full potential is when I let myself get in the way.  I am the one who makes choices in my life, if I am going to practice, what I’m going to do on the weekend, how I’m going to spend my free time.  Chasing a dream requires devotion and dedication and I think that there are a lot of virtuosos’ out there who fail to reach their potential because – as one of my songs states – “life gets in the way.”  I am choosing to not allow life to get in the way and make daily strides towards the future goals I mentioned earlier.

What is your personal definition of success? 

Success, to me, is refusing to settle for anything less than what you are capable of.

Do you feel that you have limits to what you can do and achieve? Explain. 

This question spins off the full potential discussion above.  I don’t believe there are limits in life.  The limits that exist are ones we put on ourselves, or allow others to put on us.  You only have one life to live, make sure you are living it to its absolute fullest!  In my estimation, living for the Lord means that He will see that you are given the desires of your heart – if your desires are pure.

If heaven exists what’s the first thing you would like to hear god say when you arrive at the pearly gates?

As I read this, I wonder if the person who designed these questions is a Christian – the “pearly gates” are a Biblical reference for sure.  The Biblical response is, “well done, my good and faithful servant.”  (Matt 25:21).  That is the first thing I would like to hear God say.

From her earliest days growing up just North of Toronto, she seemed on track for a career in music. Blessed with a lovely birthright, that voice, and a natural affinity for music her happy trajectory toward the spotlight was cut short on July 21, 1996, when, at the age of 17, Renee Ruth lost her mother to cancer.
For a time, she left music. “I just didn’t think I could pursue it. My dad told me that there’s no future in music, you can’t pay bills with that, you’ll never make it. I lost the desire to write after I lost my mom.” Instead, she went off to university and eventually becoming a faculty member at a number of institutions; yet the dream never waned.
Dec 2009, Renee Ruth was back on stage, this time performing her own music, drawing inspiration from the tragic, formative experiences of a life that had once seemed to be “in the way.” “I want to create music that makes people stop and listen.”
Five years later, she’s found herself with a band of brothers that are working together to do what they love for what she loves the most in life: people. “I write to free my soul, and in turn free others.” This band has high hopes for 2015 and are moving into a new sound that is going to unite those who hear it. With hopes to meet her fans on stage in person one day soon, she sends all her love.

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