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‘As musicians we have a responsibility’Meet: Talulah Ruby

by George Ellerby

Newcomer Talulah Ruby shares her thoughts on climate change, news of her forthcoming single, and growing up on a Spanish island.

Raised on the Spanish island of Lanzarote, Talulah Ruby is a relative newcomer on the London music scene. Having released her debut ‘Hot Water’, her next single ‘I Don’t Feel Like Me’ is anticipated for release in July. Daubed with the label ‘post-soul’, Ruby has demonstrated on ‘Hot Water’ a track with a complex fusion of genres and inventive constructions commanded by a powerful alto. Possibly out of homage to her home region, Ruby’s debut opens with an isolated Spanish guitar before the introduction of her rich, controlled vocals and a technical jazzy beat, providing groove and flair. Sounds of the sea softly breaking onshore ease the listener into the chorus and supplement the narrative of the lyrics. Expressive, vivid, and varied, ‘Hot Water’ is a sign of great things to come, and we look forward to hearing her forthcoming ‘I Don’t Feel Like Me’.

With an impressive vocal range, it might be assumed that Ruby has had formal vocal training. This, however, is not the case. “I went to a music conservatory when I was 8 years old,” Ruby explains, “but I did piano and they wouldn’t let me sing because you had to 14 to be taught how to sing. […] I had to get my training from live work. My dad was in a band, so I would just sing in his band on school nights.”

It was her parents that informed her musical tastes and interests too. Growing up in Lanzarote, Ruby had a fairly atypical musical upbringing; deriving influences from her parents, BBC6 Music, Radio 3, and the music native to the island. “We didn’t listen to radio except, because my parents are both British, my dad listened to BBC 6 because that was the only [radio channel] we got and also happened to be the only one that we liked.” Ruby elaborates “So, we listened to a lot of BBC 6 radio and in Spain, there’s a station called Radio 3, and it’s the equivalent of radio 6. It was eclectic and [with] genres from around the world.”

“We listened to quality music in terms of production and approach. So, I’d say my dad was likely super in the music [and] got me into stuff like jazz and afrobeat quite young. Being on an island where Cuban music is quite prevalent [and] just having a huge mix of people around you with different tastes I think defines my freedom in it and allowing myself to really listen to what I wanted rather than what was cool at the time and what was being played at the time and what my friends were listening to. My friends didn’t really listen to much music when I was a kid.

Beyond her father’s influence, Ruby discusses the music her mother introduced her to. “She definitely introduced me to singers like India Arie [and] Eva Cassidy. She’s the one that actually inspired me to sing, but my dad was my more musical background.”

The subject of ‘Hot Water’ largely derives from climate concerns, focusing on how islands such as Lanzarote are affected by the warming planet. For Ruby, growing up on a small island presented perhaps more immediately the effect of global warming and its impact on her island. “It’s quite obvious when things like climate change are occurring.” Ruby explains. “It’s obvious because of things like the tides [and] weather changes. We had hail when I was at school and that’s just not thing there. I remember when I was in the UK, my mum called me and told me that it’d snowed [in] Lanzarote, which is one of the most tropical islands in Europe. It’s quite obvious when you’re from a small island like that. Tourism changes, which is our main income. From a small island, you get quite a big perspective on how important climate change is. It wasn’t just my island that I saw climate change. There was a small island that I went to when I was 18 that was actually disappearing due to rising sea levels.”

Although there’s a more immediacy when perceiving the effects of climate change on an island such as Lanzarote, Ruby believes it is in cities such as London where you have a much more intimate understanding of climate change. “In London, you have a different kind of view because you just have a lot more information around you. You’ve just got more people, so these conversations become more frequent and often. Also, you’re in the hub of somewhere where you can make a change on a big scale rather than just on a small island. Although on a small island you can make small changes and clean up beaches and reduce your energy consumption by maybe switching to renewable energy or solar panels, in London you’re able to join something like Extinction Rebellion.”

For Ruby, there is a responsibility on the part of musicians to spread awareness of climate change, but also to decide what responsibility it is an artist may wish to represent. Ruby is a firm believer in the use of the platform created by being a musician to political or social ends. “I think as musicians we have a responsibility. It’s up to you as a musician and as an artist to [decide] what that responsibility is. There’s a lot of controversies that come with being an artist because you have to believe what you’re saying but also you have to live by it. I think as a musician you get to write whatever lyrics you want to write, you get to provoke whatever emotions you want to provoke. So, I think it’s important to be true to yourself, but hold that responsibility when you feel something and if you have something to say, instead of just saying it at the dinner table with your friends and talking about it with friends and family, why not put it into song and try and reach a wider audience.

Ruby is set to release her latest track ‘I Don’t Feel Like Me’ on Friday 5 July. Contrasting the social and political implications of her debut track, ‘I Don’t Feel Like Me’ turns more introspective and personal. Ruby describes writing the forthcoming single.

“It came about because at the time I hadn’t released anything yet, but I felt quite a lot of pressure just from myself and just from living in London, you know? The contrast from living and working in London to growing up on a small island, where everything is quite communal […] and you feel inspired to keep going. In London, I live in a flat on my own and a lot of the time I’m quite isolated. Because of the feelings around [isolation], I almost started to isolate myself because I felt just slightly overwhelmed by everything.

“So, ‘I Don’t Feel Like Me’ was quite an organic song, because Julian who I write with was in the room and could tell something was up and just said, ‘I’m used to you writing about these huge things and big topics, but how about you use the session as a bit of a therapy session and just tell me what you’re really thinking.’ I was a lot more vulnerable in ‘I Don’t Feel Like Me’ than I was in ‘Hot Water’. I think ‘Hot Water’ holds a lot more responsibility and ‘I Don’t Feel Like Me’ is just a lot more personal. It’s kind of written more for me than anyone else, if that makes sense?”

In the meantime, you can view the Harry Lindley directed music video to ‘Hot Water’ down below.

‘I Don’t Feel Like Me’ Is out on Friday 5th July and tickets to Talulah’s headline show at the Waiting Room are available here.

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