So much has happened so quickly for 20 year old Canadian singer /songwriter Ruth B. You might think her beautifully rendered viral hit “Lost Boy” has transferred its notions of ‘arrival’ to her own personal story, but it’s the song that takes flight under Ruth’s stunning vocal command. Blessed with keen songwriting instincts and intimate phrasing, there’s a touching heartache to the artist’s delivery that brings authenticity to every whispery verse.
Note the organic way she went about posting the first staggered snippets of “Lost Boy” on the short-form video sharing service Vine – looping snatches of the song in haunting, six second reveals. Such patient handling reflected the quiet confidence in her own muse – a crucial indicator as to how a complete unknown could go on to garner nearly two and a half million followers on YouTube, blaze a self-propelled sales-trail on iTunes, and ink a major label record contract all in a six month window.
Despite her strength for piano-tinged ballads, Ruth’s music is never subdued. She elicits an enlivened narrative on “Lost Boy” that glides over her striking piano accompaniment and the trill of her mesmerizing vocals. Ruth also recorded a host of other songs she wrote in a burst of creativity after “Lost Boy” caught the attention of viral music fans. Lyrics tumble out with amazing profundity on the radiant gem “Golden,” a grateful confessional that captures her hypnotic delivery and sparingly delivered arrangement, as does the sultry tremble of “Dandelions” – also tenderly crafted; And then there’s the uplifting cascade of “Young,” a gentle, tumbling anthem of hope that is sure to inspire the Vine generation that embraced her; All effortless story-songs that place her in the company of a prescient lineage of evocative female singer/songwriters such as Janis Ian, Norah Jones, and Sarah Bareilles; Artists who grasped early on in their careers how the power of understatement can translate into sublime emotional richness for the listener.
Ruth recognized the power of storytelling at a young age, always reading and writing stories growing up. “It’s funny but I always remember thinking, even when I was a little kid, that music was what I was called to do,” she says. The immediacy and connectivity of social media’s role in her incredible rise, notwithstanding – you get the feeling there’s an old soul lurking deep inside the Edmonton native. She is quick to cite her Ethiopian heritage, another patch in the quilt of bold threads infusing her songs with that magical blend of innocence and gravitas; All the more remarkable when you realize she only took up songwriting less than a year ago. “I took piano lessons for five years starting when I was 8 years old, so I always used music as my solace whenever I was feeling lost or inspired or bubbling over and needed to express myself. But as far as sitting down and completing whole songs, I only began to seriously write this past January.”
Ruth’s tightly knit family life and solid middle class upbringing grounded her. Being able to attend a new public school for her senior year of high school also galvanized her creatively. “The new school was a lot more diverse,” she says, which led to a wide range of musical influences, “from Lauryn Hill to the Beatles.”
“After starting to use Vine right out of high school, little by little, people started to follow me. People gravitated more towards my six second originals versus the covers”. The idea for “Lost Boy” evolved after a friend suggested she watch the TV drama Once Upon A Time. “I don’t know why she suggested that show,” marvels Ruth, “but it had been on for a couple years so I binge-watching on Netflix to catch up. One of the seasons had a Peter Pan storyline, and the next thing I knew I was down at my keyboard making up the first couple lines to what would become ‘Lost Boy.’ It just seemed to come out of nowhere.”
Ruth was sufficiently inspired to post a snippet of her singing the first part of the song on Vine. Positive comments followed immediately, with fans urging her to finish the song. She had surpassed 80,000 likes by the end of the week, and continued to add to the newly-crafted “Lost Boy.” Ruth completed the track and posted it on YouTube, waking up the next morning to more than 100,000 views. That was in January of 2015. “Lost Boy” would make the kind of viral impact that changed Ruth’s entire life virtually overnight.