Welcome to Camp! Meet Your Counselor Ruby-Sage: Anti-Standard #27

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Originally from Chicago, Boston-based singer, and songwriter Ruby-Sage dropped her first single “Mad @ You” only a month ago. I sat down with Ruby-Sage and we talked about turning heartbreak into art, being a Jewish woman in the music industry, and where you can watch Ruby-Sage perform LIVE!

Take a moment to read this interview and check out Ruby-Sage’s music. You won’t be disappointed, and this is only the beginning!!

U: I want to talk about your sound and genre of music, how would you describe what you make?

R-S: I call myself kind of like a folk-rock camp counselor.

U: That’s great hahaha. And with “Mad @ You”, where do you feel the camp counselor vibe comes in?

R-S: The acoustic guitar is the classic song arch, I guess. Feels very campfire-y to me. [It] feels very relatable, and homey to me, like how being outside feels.

U: You released “Mad @ You” on May 21, and it already has 1137 views (now over 3,000!). How do you feel about that?

R-S: I definitely didn’t expect anyone to listen to it. I just kind of put it out and was like, all right, I hope it goes well. I am very happy. I’m overwhelmed with the response that it’s gotten, and when I announced it, it was like a hit amongst my friends and community, and I definitely felt the love since I put it out.

U: Is this the first song you put out on streaming platform?

R-S: It is!

U: That’s so exciting. What was that process like putting it out? Were you nervous?

R-S: I was definitely nervous. I feel like in hindsight, I probably would have liked to promote it a little more on social media and just in my life, but I really wanted to get something out. It was my first song. I had been playing shows and stuff, so I had really wanted to just put something out. The process is pretty easy. I was actually in Hawaii when I uploaded it. I got the master back and we were on a little family trip and I was like, “Oh, shoot, I got to do this right now.” So I got everything ready and I was just like, “Okay, here I go.” It was a pretty easy process and I landed back in Chicago after I announced it. I was just overwhelmed with the response. Yeah, it was really great!

U: So you mentioned you played this at shows before you release it. How many times did you play, and what was the response like when you were live?

R-S: I’ve played probably a little less than ten times in the past year. I kind of started-my first show was in December, I was trying to play quite a bit the past semester. And, yeah, I played it at every show, and the response has always been really great. It’s definitely one of the songs that I had been asked to put out before I had in my set list, there are, like, three songs that people seem to love, and that was one of them. I played it at every show, and one friend specifically, every single time I played would [say], “can you just put it out already? Put it out.” I usually play around, like, bars and house shows in Boston, so it’s a different crowd each time, but the response has always been great. There was one girl that I used to know, my sophomore year of high school, and when I announced it, she reached out to me and she’s like, “I’ve been listening to the song on your Instagram for the past three years. I’m so glad you’re putting it out.” I have a video from when I was a senior in high school, it’s a video of me in the dark playing this song, and some people and family members had reached out to me and been like, “I’ve been listening to this since the demo on Instagram, thank you for putting it out.”

U: That’s [cool] to hear that you wrote this three years ago. What was the process like, what were you thinking about when you wrote this? What was it like to release it three years later?

R-S: So I had written it about a breakup, my first real breakup. The guy was super respectful when he broke up with me, so I had no reason to be upset with him. It was so difficult because I was like, “you’re so nice, and now my feelings are hurt…what am I supposed to do with all that?! Because I didn’t want to be mad at him, I didn’t know how else to deal with those feelings or validate myself, so I wrote the song, and I felt like it was just one of the best songs I had written. I was like, this is so meaningful to me, and I feel like people can relate to it, and I think it would be a good song to put out first. When I had got to Berklee and I started working with a band and kind of forming my sound a little more, I found that I don’t necessarily write as much like that now in my current brain, but it was just so meaningful that I wanted to put it out first, and I felt like it was relatable. So, coming home for the summer is definitely kind of funny because my friends are like, “this is about that guy.” It’s been a few years and I’m in a new relationship and he’s in a new relationship, and it’s like, totally doesn’t affect either of us at all anymore.
Sometimes I wonder if he knows it’s about him or what.
It’s kind of funny to have released it now so many years later and have it be so pivotal for my career; when really I don’t feel that way at all anymore!

U: Did you listen back to the song and ever have doubts about putting it out because it’s not like how you feel anymore? Or was it just you felt like you were speaking to your younger self by releasing this?

R-S: I think I knew a lot of people who had gone through kind of shitty relationships around the time that I was putting it out, so I thought this feels applicable. But I think one thing about it that I really love is the vocal runs, the vocal lines, and I felt like it could really show off what I did. And I thought that not only was the song meaningful to me, but it was special in showing that I had something to offer to the industry. So I felt like I wanted to put it out first because I thought that and I do think that it just kind of sets me apart in a way. That song helped me find my sound now, so I want to pay homage to it in a way. When I wrote it, I was like, this is it. This is going to be the first song I put out.

U: That’s so nice to hear. What is your writing process like? Or it might have changed from when you wrote this to now, but how would you describe it then and now?

R-S: Yeah, it’s been pretty much the same through the years. What I’ll do is I will usually put my guitar in a crazy tuning, which I did for this song, and just kind of play around. I’ll turn on my voice memos and I’ll just record everything, so I’ll play a line and then I’ll sing a line, and I usually do it all at the same time. Then I go back to the recording and I listen to it and I type out all the lyrics that I sang and I try to kind of form it to make more sense and what I think would sound better and like, the guitar lines and vocal lines. It’s really kind of a workshop work in progress to just kind of do it all, get all the thoughts out of my brain before I lose them, and then come back to it and work with it and see just what I think I can change and what I think would make it more…me.

U: That’s really interesting. I think of sculpting when you say that, like, kind of like starting somewhere really basic and then coming back to it and just building up.
Do you think going to music school changed your perception of how you tackle music?

R-S: Yes, I think going to music school has changed my perception of myself also. It’s a competitive place to be. It can be really difficult, and while it can be hard to find that sense of self and that sense of like, well, who do I want to be in the industry? How do I want people to see me? How do I want my music to be perceived? You’re also working with some of the most talented people you could be surrounded by. So it’s definitely that give and take of, well, I’ve kind of lost myself in a way, but I’m also finding myself through collaboration with other people. I’ve also found that I’m trying to write music that’s more appealing in a live music setting. So some of the music I write, I’m like: I don’t think people in a basement show are going to want to hear this. I definitely try to write in a way that’s still me but geared towards a full band and playing to people, which is something I hadn’t really thought of before I started school.

U: Absolutely. It’s so interesting how you said you were refinding yourself at school too, because it’s like, we build up these little worlds where we’re from, and then we go to the bigger world and there’s so much happening, there are so many different personalities you meet, and there is that competitive nature to all art aspects. But if I must say, I think you’re doing a great job at being yourself. I’ve only just met you, but the song feels very authentic to me. And like I said, every Berklee musician I’ve interviewed is very different. Like, everyone is unique and producing their own sound right now, which I think is awesome because we need more music in the world. As someone who doesn’t make music that loves music. I’m like, there are not enough songs to listen to sometimes.

U: Can you talk about your journey of becoming a musician? Did you always know you wanted to go into this industry?

R-S: So I always say, right out the womb I just kind of knew. When I was really little, my sister must have been 13, so I must have been four. At the time, my sister got a karaoke machine for her Bat Mitzvah and that changed my life. I was singing in it all the time. Every day when she would get home from school, I’d go into her room and sing these show tunes with her, and I just always loved it. I would put on these shows in my living room I would stand up in the kitchen or at the dining room table, and I would just sing and put on these shows for my family. When I turned 14, I started doing open mics at cafes in the area, and I was like, oh, this is kind of what it is. So I always knew that I wanted to do it, but I didn’t know how I would.
I had performed some at Berklee and they had asked me to do some open mics, and it just totally changed my perception of how I wanted to go about the career that I always wanted. So it was cool to kind of think about it in all these ways and watch it form differently throughout my life and then end up at Berklee and be able to just be myself and create the career I wanted while still being me and not, like, pushing myself so hard to something that wasn’t authentic.

U: How do you feel living in Illinois versus Boston – what do you feel are the differences and do you feel like locations where you live have inspired your music?

R-S: I think in Evanston there are more trees. I do love nature here. It’s not much, but it’s definitely more than Boston. I think being home inspires my more introverted writing, so the more quiet and this is singer-songwriter and this is so “no one’s ever going to hear this.” It’s secretive, it’s mine. No one will ever know. When I’m in Boston, I definitely write more geared to what I think people want to hear sound-wise, while still kind of writing the lyrics that are true to me. When I’m in Boston, I definitely try to be more extroverted with the way I go about my music and writing things that, like I said, would be enjoyable at different venues and to play with a live band. But I’m starting to do that here [in Illinios] now. It’s interesting to kind of cross those different worlds of mine; to have this career that I’ve created in Boston, I’m starting to bring back home, which is really cool. And the one thing that’s so different is I have a car in Illinois and you can’t have a car in Boston.

U: Who has inspired you as a musician in terms of songs you write and in terms of people that you just really admire as musicians and their musicianship?

R-S: I love the band Peach Pit. I think they’re amazing. I’m obsessed with them. I’ve been a long-term One Direction Harry Styles stan since I was a kid – wholeheartedly adore. But somebody who stands out to me so much somewhat in her songwriting, but more so in just who she is, is Regina Spektor. She’s an openly Jewish songwriter who I love. And being an openly Jewish woman who’s also a songwriter, it’s so special to watch somebody in the industry get so much love and affection for what they have created while still being themselves. So I love Jewish women in the industry. I will say it till I’m blue in the face, I love Jewish women in the industry. Regina Spektor writes such interesting music that I can’t – I would never say that I write like her because she is so unique and special in her own way – but she makes me want to be unique and special in my own way and still be me. I think she’s amazing.

U: She is amazing. So how would you feel being a Jewish woman inspires your musicianship?

R-S: I think it’s just another reason that makes me want to be myself. I think that being Jewish is something that creates a lot of adversity sometimes. And it can be very scary to be a Jewish woman who’s very clearly Jewish and a woman, but I think that it helps my creation. It just makes me feel safe in knowing that I’m still me and that no one can take my Judaism away from me. I think that that shows in my music because my music is a lot based around mental health and a lot of the things that I write are just brain vomit just going all the time. “this is how I feel” “this is what’s going on”, and I hope it’s relatable. Being Jewish is just as valuable to me as all the other stuff.

U: Thank you for sharing that. We have a few more minutes, so can you talk about any upcoming shows you have or any plans for the summer to release more music when if you plan to release more music.

R-S: Yes! I have a song called My Favorite Soup Store. It’s coming out sometime in late July, I hope. And I have merchandise on my website. It’s ruby-sage.com. On my Instagram I’ll be posting about my Chicago shows this summer. So if anybody’s in Chicago 👀




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