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"Female artists are up against a lot more than our male counterparts": RuthAnne on music's #MeToo moment

From songwriter to star-in-the-making.

THIS AIN’T RUTHANNE’S first rodeo.

Having written songs for some of the biggest artists in the world – Bebe Rexha, JoJo and Niall Horan to name a few – Dublin’s RuthAnne’s has slowly been carving out her own niche as a solo female artist.

“I was writing songs by myself in my room when I was seven,” she explains to DailyEdge.ie. “My dad gave me a microphone and a two track tape machine.”

I was my own singing teacher [...] I was always writing songs by myself and I would play them to my mum and dad.”

Rising up the ranks as a Billie Barry kid, RuthAnne taught herself how to play piano by listening to songs on the radio and playing them back.

“I started a girl band with my friends from Billie Barry because I wanted to hear the harmonies back to me,” she says. “We got studio time and recorded our little demos.”

An organic approach to music-making crops up time and again, as she explains how she used to make beats from a Spraoi CD she got in a box of cereal.

By the time her Leaving Cert came around, music was the end goal RuthAnne – at least, it was in her dad’s mind

“When I was 17, my dad sent one of the demos into the 2fm Jacob’s Song Contest and I won that as a songwriter and we performed it at Vicar Street. It was very exciting.”

While her fellow classmates waved goodbye to school, RuthAnne bid farewell to her home.

“From that, I met the lads from The Script and an old manager who used to manage them. They brought me to LA and started developing me as an artist, pretty much the day I finished my Leaving Cert.

“On the third day I was there, I co-wrote Too Little Too Late with Joshua Alexander and Billy Steinberg. Two years later that song came out and was an absolute hit all around the world.

My career took off from there.”

Source: GoddessJoJo's Music/YouTube

Can’t see the video? Click here.

Right on time

By then, RuthAnne was fielding publishing deals and travelling between LA London writing songs for artists.

“It was great for me to learn about the craft of writing and to get better,” she says.

However, there was always the question as to when she was going to step out on her own.

Throughout the years, everyone would be writing with me and they would say, ‘your voice is amazing you should be an artist,’ but it was really about timing.”
I was quite sheltered as a young girl, so when I went to LA and lived there for a bit, I went through a lot of different things and a lot of different fuck boys, as they’d say in Hollywood.”

As a result, writing came pretty easy to her as she sought life beyond the glittering lights of California.

“The album wrote itself by accident. I went back to London and Ireland for three weeks. I needed a break, and ended up writing most of the album. When I came back to LA and played it for my team, it was very clear to them that I’d found my perspective as a lyricist. 

I share a management team with John Legend. When I met them and played my stuff for them they were like ‘we know what to do’, you’re like a female John Legend.’ That’s where things really took off for me as an artist.”

From the heart

As mentioned, song-writing is a very organic RuthAnne takes a very organic approach to song-writing: take her most recent single, Love Again, for example. Love Again was born in the Notes app of her phone following a string of dates with someone not long out of a relationship.

“I wrote the idea down for this song after I had a few dates with someone who had just gone through a break up.

He said to me ‘I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to love again’ and I immediately wrote it down on my phone and underneath I wrote ‘I know that I can make you learn to love again’.”

Given that the majority of her back catalogue is written based off of her lived experience, you’d have to wonder whether she ever feels a need to censor herself; to hold back details of her most intimate encounters?

“People always ask my number one advice for writing songs and it’s living life,” she says. “Every great song I’ve written comes from a really true story that someone in the room has felt, that we’ve all felt.

I tend to write about moments in time. It’s always been therapeutic for me but my goal is to make it something that everyone around the world can connect with. 

“I was a lot shyer when I was younger so it was easier for me to have other artists sing my stories. As I got older and listening to records that I loved like ‘Jagged Little Pill’, there’s such truth behind the lyrics … It has to be that way.”

It’s an approach she’s adopted from listening to Irish artists like Frances and Mary Black and Christy Moore – herself and buddy Niall Horan previously dueted on a Christy cover during a writing session.

You have to be willing to tell your story. It can become something so much more meaningful for someone else.”

Clearly, she’s extremely proud of her Irish roots. And while you might struggle to put her in the same category as the aforementioned artists, the elements she draws inspiration from are evident.

“I released The Vow as my first single because I thought it was a good representation of Irish music with the Celtic harmonies,” she explains.

Source: RuthAnne/YouTube

Can’t see the video? Click here.

The Vow has become a popular choice for couples at wedding. What has she learned about love from writing about it so candidly, and vice versa?

“I almost have done things just to get the songs out of them, but I feel like a lot of creative people are like that,” she says. “You have to be a very emotive and empathetic person.

It’s helped me a lot even with songwriting for other people, y’know other artists who mightn’t have had an experience or have the perspective that I do on a situation.”

Her debut album is due for release later this year via independent label, The Other Songs. She’s reluctant to divulge too much about it, but call it a story of “a wee Irish lass who moved to LA and was surrounded by money and fame and parties and the situations I got myself into as a result, right up to coming back home and finding my roots”.

Singer-songwriter

RuthAnne is predominately known as a song-writer – most interviews and features on her centre around the JoJo connection or the fact that she wrote Niall Horan’s massive hit ‘Slow Hands’.

“It’s a blessing and a curse,” she says of the media coverage. “I understand that people want to have a grabbing headline. It gets frustrating if people haven’t even listened to my music.”

While intially she admits to feeling a pressure to live up to her past achievements for others, she concludes that she had to look again at her position as a new artist.

It’s almost as if you’re competing against the hits that you had for others but you’re not on the same playing field. I have to let go and manage my expectations. I’m not competing with the hits I’ve written. I’m a new artist starting out like everyone else.”

“I need them to think that they could sleep with me”

For International Women’s Day, RuthAnne collaborated with several other female artists on ‘Turn It Up’, put together by independent record label frtyfve. The record sought to celebrate and empower independent female artists as a huge gender divide continues to exist within the industry.

“It’s something they wanted to do to celebrate women and that was something that spoke to me straight away,” she says, explaining her decision to take part in the project.

“I chose Survivor by Destiny’s Child and I also threw in a bit of Gloria Gaynor I Will Survive.

I have experienced everything you could imagine – misogyny, inequality, sexism, #MeToo moments – in the music industry.”

“There’s a culture in the music industry,” she continues. “When I was 20 or 21, I was told by a manager of mine that I needed to be more sexual in meetings with A&R. I needed them to think that they could sleep with me. 

I needed to be more flirty and more sexual. It was said to me, ‘that writer is doing better than you because she’s making them think that they can sleep with her’. That’s not my vibe.
That is the type of pressure that girls are under in the industry. Female writers and artists are up against a lot more than our male counterparts.”

However, while she doesn’t think the music industry will have its ‘Weinstein moment’, she reckons a change is coming.

“Female artists are coming together and saying, “you know what? It’s bullshit that there’s only ever one woman in the room”. It’s very like bro-culture when it should be about making the best music.”

I’ve already had writers ask me ‘have I ever made you feel like that? I would hate to think I would have made you feel like that.’ People are starting to be a lot more respectful in sessions. We just need to keep it moving and make it about the art form. 

“Hopefully all these vile predators won’t have the power anymore. It’s really a power struggle, isn’t it? Certain things need to be overcome, but it’s coming,” she reckons.

RuthAnne’s new single ‘Love Again’ is out now. RuthAnne plays Whelans 27 April.

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