20-year-old singer Ruth B has seen her career skyrocket this past year, all thanks to a spontaneous six-second song about Peter Pan and pixie dust. Hailing from Edmonton, Canada, Ruth's online buzz began after she posted the original composition, titled "Lost Boy", on popular social media network Vine. It would go on to garner more than 80,000 likes within a week, prompting Ruth to finish writing the song and post it on YouTube in January of last year. She woke the next morning to find the video had clocked up more than 100,000 views, and the song's surge up the US iTunes chart drew the attention of executives at Columbia Records (Sony), who flew her out to New York soon after. She didn't know it then, but her life was about to change.
In this interview, during her first time in London, Ruth reflects on the whirlwind journey so far, her musical influences and the recent dominance of Canadian music acts.
Life before "Lost Boy"
"Before 'Lost Boy' I was singing, doing six-second covers on Vine, working part-time and in school, but music was always my true love", Ruth begins. "It's weird because I think I always knew that was what I was going to do as well. I felt like that was my calling. I just didn't know how I was going to get my voice out of Edmonton, but I definitely knew that music was what I was going to do with my life."
All about Peter Pan
"'Lost Boy' initially started off as just a Vine", the young star recalls. "I'd been watching the show Once Upon A Time, and it was all about Peter Pan, so I was on my keyboard, and I happened to sing, 'I am a lost boy from Neverland usually hanging out with Peter Pan.'" The impromptu Vine clip sparked interest, as overnight Ruth's followers shot up from 50 to 1000, and a week later the clip had surpassed 80,000 likes. "It got a huge reaction, so I decided I should write the [full] song. When I posted the Vine, it was all about Peter Pan and pixie dust, but when I wrote the song I really wanted to make it more than that and give it a deeper meaning, so I related it to real life and how everyone's been lonely at some point and in need of a friend. I sat down and then wrote the song in 20 minutes and put it on YouTube that same day."
Hitting the big time
"When I posted the YouTube video, I remember feeling like something special was gonna happen, but I definitely did not see it blowing up nearly as much as it did", Ruth recollects. "I remember I posted it, and people from all over the world were sending me tweets saying, 'Oh my gosh, I waited up all night just to hear it', and so I think that's when I said, "Wow, I could make something out of this, for sure." Waking up the next morning to more than 100,000 views was all the confirmation she needed. "I literally ran to my parents and was like, 'You guys, this is major. This is the big time. This is no longer Vine. This is YouTube. We're getting serious here.' 100,000 views -it was really massive. I was shocked."
Relating to her fans
"I think 'Lost Boy' is just really relatable. You can be any age from any place in life and you're bound to feel lonely at some point. Little kids get it. Older people get it. The majority of the response that I got was, 'Hey, I understand this song. This song makes me feel understood', so I think that's why it's resonating with people."
Signing to Columbia Records
"It was amazing. It was really crazy. For someone from Edmonton that kinda thing never happens. Even to be flown out to New York was mind boggling for me, and signing with Columbia was great because they really understood my vision. Of all the labels that I met, they were the ones that really seemed to understand that I was really about the music, the writing and the lyrics, so it was really fulfilling to sign with them."
Working on debut EP The Intro with no pressure
"It's actually funny because I wrote the songs on the EP prior to being signed. I put up 'Lost Boy' on YouTube, and that's when a lot of labels started reaching out, and I was like, 'I can't go to New York with just one song', so I sat down for a week, and I wrote the other songs-'Golden', 'Superficial Love' and '2 Poor Kids', and I didn't even know that I was making my EP. But I made it way before I was signed, so I didn't really feel pressure; I still don't. I just kinda feel like whatever I wanna write is what I'm gonna write, and if they like it, they like it; but if they don't, I don't really care, because I like it."
Converting listeners of "Lost Boy" into longer-term fans that would buy into an EP of brand-new material could have proved difficult, but Ruth tells a different story. "It's been great. It's been really awesome. People have been so embracing of the new music and new songs. Every day people just keep wanting more, and that's the best thing you could ask for as an artist-to have people want to hear what you have to say."
Learning to write songs
"I'd always been really into writing stories, reading books, writing short poems, and I'd always been into music, but I'd never put the two together. Writing comes really naturally to me. It's not really something I've ever had to work really hard at. It's just a part of me, which is why I always thought that I was gonna do music because it's second nature. It just kinda happens most of the time where there's a piece of paper in front of me, and 30 minutes later there's a full song."
Musical influences and Ed Sheeran collaboration
"I really love Lauryn Hill", Ruth reveals. "She's probably my all-time favourite artist. I love the Beatles, Ed Sheeran, Carole King, and I'm getting into Lana Del Rey, so a lot of storyteller type people." Although preferring to write her own lyrics, the rising singer is also open to collaborating with the right person. "I love Ed Sheeran. He's probably one of my favourite artists, and I think it would just be awesome to write with him. I'm actually pretty reserved when it comes to writing with people. I haven't collaborated with anyone when it comes to writing, as I do all my writing myself, but I think if I were to write with someone, it would be someone like Ed Sheeran because I really respect his music. I think probably the best music comes out of the UK in my opinion. I love Adele, and the Beatles are my favourite band ever. There's just always timeless music coming out of here."
All eyes on Canada
Accountable for several of the world's biggest-selling albums in 2015, Canadian artists are selling more albums globally now than ever before, something that has been much talked about in the media. Track sales have also rocketed, and at one point during December last year, 7 of the top 10 tracks on the US Billboard Hot 100 belonged to artists from Canada, including newcomer Alessia Cara, whilst in the UK there have been 3 chart-toppers by Canadian acts already this year, marking only the second time this feat has been achieved. "I think it's great", Ruth says proudly. "It's awesome. There's a lot of good music coming out, and it's really cool just to see real music coming back, like Alessia Cara. I love her stuff; she really tells you a story. So, I think it's awesome, and I'm just so happy to be part of it." Although unsure of the reasons behind the resurgence, Ruth is certain there is more to come, particularly from the city that counts the likes of Drake and the Weeknd as residents. "Toronto is just such a good place for music right now. I'm from the other side of Canada, but I think there's a lot of good things coming and will continue to come out of Toronto and Canada in general."
Hitting the road with new music
"I think touring is definitely in the forefront of my mind right now. I'm really focussed on getting an album out there so that I can have songs to actually play at my shows, but a full album [is coming] hopefully in September or maybe early next year and then a tour."
How to catch your big break on social media
Given Ruth's meteoric rise from Vine sensation to being label mates with Adele and Beyoncé, all within a six-month window, who better to give advice to the millions of other aspiring artists looking for their big break online? "I think just always remain true to yourself", Ruth shares. "I know you hear that all the time, but it really is the most helpful thing, especially when it comes to music. Make music that matters to you, and write about stuff that's important to you because people aren't gonna believe you if you're lying. I think music is in a time where it just needs honesty and realness, and so just keep it real. Keep it honest. Keep it humble, and I think things will go well."
"This is so random, but I really wanna get into skiing. It's so weird, but it's a big thing where I'm from in Canada, and I've never really been into it. I've tried it a few times, and it usually ends up with me being really hurt, but it's something I wanna do because I feel like you can just release a lot of stress when you're skiing. So, fun fact: I wanna get into skiing!
Ruth B's debut EP, The Intro, is available to buy now.
Interview by Nathan Miller.
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