Recording artist Ruby James rocks the road with art, heart and soul
The roads of life—specifically those routes traveled by the unfortunate who feel called as touring musicians—are littered with the road kill of those who weren’t prepared for the realities of living on the road.
Many are the touring musician who has been legally bound to people who had nothing more in mind than the next hit song…the next big sound…the rumbling applause of stadiums full of people who loved and adored their American idols along with all of the fortune they brought until the next big thing came along. The wheels of the big machine leave them splattered across the memorial stretch of one-hit-wonder-land and their brief flash in the pan is quieted by the rolling of rubber.
For every hundred or so budding VH-1 “I love the (fill in decade)” guests-in-training littering the musical landscape on the road to fame, there are the lucky few who learn to keep their eyes on the road ahead of them. They remain firmly entrenched behind the wheel of their lives and their careers with hands firmly placed at three and nine o’clock. The radio is blasting, the windows are rolled down and their foot is at the pedal always moving on down the road.
Touring musician Ruby James once almost found herself soaking up some sun on the pavement but managed to pull out of the spin before it was too late. James—the granddaughter of a man who as a child lived in the back of a wagon traveling from place to place “Grapes of Wrath” style—was fortunate enough to be able to listen to her heart and the legacy of the road that she inherited form her grandfather.
Now the powerfully moving vocals and soulful, sweet-as-sin presence of the fiery-haired South Carolina via California native have made their way to the hearts and minds of hundreds of people around the country. From stages as intimate as The Continental in Austin or The Viper Room in L.A. to larger concert venues like Hard Rock Live, James is rock diva personified. She’s captivating audiences and capturing new fans on every stage she hits. Sharing stages with bands such as Soul Asylum, 7Mary3, War and Fastball while also headlining her own shows and the numbers keep mounting.
She is currently working on her first full length record in Austin, Texas with Austin legends Charlie and brother Will Sexton. Not only producing, but playing on the sessions, Charlie and Will bring their legendary, classic sound to James’ fresh and innovative talent. The band features well-known percussionist Sam Aliano on drums, string virtuoso Rene Reyes on Guitars and The Incredible Taki on Bass.
Ruby James will lend her breathtaking voice and talent to benefit MusiCares in Nashville at The Rutledge on June 13. MusiCares provides a safety net of critical assistance for music people in times of need. Their services and resources cover a wide range of financial, medical and personal emergencies - http://www.grammy.com/MusiCares/Who_We_Are/. General tickets are $5 and $8 for those under 21.
Recently, Ruby James spoke to O&AN in an exclusive phone interview about the traveling musician potholes and how she learned to avoid them. For more information on Ruby James and to listen to exclusive samples of her music please visit www.myspace.com/rubyjames.
O&AN: I’ve heard a great deal about your grandfather. You credit him with most of your inspiration to pursue a career as a musician. Tell me more about him.
RJ: My Grandpa is my hero. He just turned 80 and he’s still a bad ass. He grew up moving around in a tarp-covered wagon during the Great Depression, and they were so poor they would move between mining sites that his father would get jobs on. When he was 13 he had to live in a cave. His parents sent him into town so that he could go to school and every week they would come up and bring him a pot of beans that he could eat for a week. He’s one of the last 13 survivors of Iwo Jima from World War II, and there is a picture of him on the cover of an old Life magazine peeping up over a foxhole. He’s probably the deepest, most incredible person I’ve ever known and he was the one who taught me everything I know early in life about music. He would sing me old Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings songs and the there were songs like “Red River Valley” that I had never even heard before.
O&AN: With so many different opportunities to gain exposure out there why, do you feel so drawn to touring?
RJ: My whole life is the road. For me the journey is more important than the destination. That may sound cliché but when I learned that lesson it seemed like my world just became flooded with all of these great things. If I can be on the road and do what I do, then I’m content. I think there’s something deep within me that’s challenged by always being uncomfortable, unsettled and off balance because I’m always in a different place. I’m weird that way. Here and now the road is my home and I can’t imagine it being any different for any reason. I don’t want to ever become so big that I’d have to sell my soul to anyone. I just want to do what I’m doing with the people around me that I trust and love and I wouldn’t have it any different at all.
O&AN: You have some legendary talent backing you up on your upcoming release. Tell me about working with Charlie and Will Sexton.
RJ: The stars really seem to be aligning for me because everything is really starting to come together. I feel honored and blessed that everything came together the way it did for the album I’m working on in Austin. Charlie Sexton will be playing drums on the album, which I believe is the first time he has ever played drums on a record and his brother Will Sexton is producing the album and he is also playing bass and doing a few of the guitar tracks as well.
O&AN: Before you were in a place where you were able to make this record you had a number of personal setbacks that made your chosen profession a much more difficult journey for you. What change did you find was needed for you to get back on the road and doing what you do best?
RJ: I’ve had a lot of things pushed on me. There always seemed to be someone who wanted to try and turn me into the next pop princess. One day I looked in the mirror and I didn’t recognize the person I had become. I don’t have to be Madonna because there’s already a Madonna. I just wan to be Ruby. Ruby is who I am. I’ve learned that people will let you down a lot, but I try to let that go and keep moving forward.