With the breakout success of her debut single “Lost Boy,” Ruth B. emerged as an immediately captivating artist who drifts between moody realism and a dreamworld of her own making. An occasional poet who created her own storybooks as a child, the Canadian-Ethiopian singer/songwriter/pianist infuses all her songs with a raw emotional honesty, even as she lets her imagination wander into fantastically charmed terrain. On her sophomore album Moments In Between, Ruth pushes that dynamic to a new level of boldness and sophistication, embracing her most beautifully strange impulses while delivering her most impactful work to date.
Executive-produced by Patrick Wimberly (Solange, Blood Orange, Ellie Goulding), Moments In Between arrives as the follow-up to Ruth’s gold-certified debut album Safe Haven (a critically acclaimed release featuring “Lost Boy,” a Peter Pan-inspired piano ballad that went viral in 2015). In a departure from the minimalist alt-pop of its predecessor, the album unfolds in a more elaborate and kaleidoscopic sound, yet never overshadows the understated power of Ruth’s vocal presence. A shining example of Moments In Between’s singular aesthetic, “Situation” channels her inner turmoil in hazy harmonies, shapeshifting textures, and a softly spellbinding vocal performance.
“‘Situation’ is maybe my favorite song I’ve ever written—it sounds so much like me, and where I am now versus a few years ago,” says Ruth, who recorded the track with producer Ido Zmishlany (Demi Lovato, Shawn Mendes). “When we were working on it, Ido started playing those chords and we both started singing ‘What’s the situation?’, and pretty soon I had a whole song about the confusion I was feeling as far as what I’m doing with my life, and who I should spend my time with.”
Also made with producers like Justin Raisen (Angel Olsen, Santigold) and Doug Schadt (Maggie Rogers, Ashe), Moments In Between never fails to let listeners in on the luminous world inside Ruth’s mind. With its woozy beats and heavenly melodies, “Holiday” documents the dizzy head rush of a new romance, hitting a perfect balance of heavy-hearted reflection and pure euphoria (“I’m so used to being let down/When they left me, it stung like lemons/But babe, you sparkle like a sweet champagne”). One of the album’s more guitar-driven tracks, the gorgeously untethered “Sweet Chamomile” speaks to the urgency of finding a refuge away from the chaos of modern life. And on “Favourite” (produced by D’Mile, a five-time Grammy Award-winner known for his work with Khalid and Ty Dolla $ign), Ruth slips into a folky reverie as she spins a tender portrait of the one she adores (“He writes poetry, but no one knows/I think I love him ’cause no one knows”). “D’Mile started playing these chords that reminded me of ‘Blackbird’ by the Beatles, which is my favorite song ever,” Ruth recalls. “And even though I love the Beatles, it’s not something I ever would’ve dared to try to write. But then once he came up with those chords I started singing the lines ‘I’m your favourite girl,’ and the whole story just sort of fell into place.”
A piano player since the age of eight, Ruth first explored her creative side as a little kid. “I’d make these books full of stories I’d written, then staple them together and give them to my mom,” she says. As the daughter of immigrants from Ethiopia, she grew up on music from her parents’ native country and later discovered the artists who would become formative influences on her songwriting, such as Stevie Wonder and Lauryn Hill. “I’ve always been fascinated by good storytellers, and the fact that you can have characters and plot and conflict within a song,” she notes. After singing her entire life, Ruth began writing songs in her late teens and soon came up with “Lost Boy,” a track she initially posted on Vine. “I was watching the show Once Upon a Time and got on the app and started singing about Peter Pan, and it went viral overnight,” she says. “When I went to finish it I wanted to write about something bigger than fairy tales and pixie dust, so I tapped into a moment in my life where I felt really lonely. It turned into a song about wanting a friend, and once I put it out I started getting all these comments from people telling me that it helped them get through a time when they felt lonely too. I’d always known I’d wanted to make music, but that was the first time I realized my songs could have a real impact.”
By the end of 2015, Ruth had released her gold-certified debut EP The Intro, which led to such triumphs as winning Breakthrough Artist of the Year at the 2017 Juno Awards. Made with producers like Joel Little (Lorde, Taylor Swift) and Mike Elizondo (Fiona Apple, Regina Spektor), Safe Haven arrived in 2017 and earned her three Juno nominations, including Album of the Year and Artist of the Year. As she worked on her second full-length, Ruth ended up creating a standalone song called “If I Have a Son,” a profoundly somber piece written in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder. “That song was like a journal entry, where I just sat down and put my heart into this message to my future kid,” she says. “I mostly wrote it as a kind of therapy for myself, but when I played it for my close friends and family they all encouraged me to put it out.” Co-produced by Ruth and featuring the Harlem Gospel Travelers, the result is a powerful convergence of hope and quiet anguish (“Your skin, it glitters like gold/There’s love inside of your soul/But no matter what you say, no matter what you do/This world will never be as friendly to you”).
In reflecting on the making of Moments In Between, Ruth points to a number of unexpected breakthroughs, including the deeply candid outpouring of “Princess Peach” (a song threaded with plainspoken revelations like “I’m scared of asking for help/Even when I’m stuck at zero”). “When I listen to that song, it sounds like the start of a new chapter, where I’m sharing things about myself that I never thought I’d openly admit,” says Ruth. “It was scary to get that vulnerable, but afterward I felt a real sense of empowerment and motivation to just get out there and enjoy life. For me writing songs has always been therapeutic like that, and I hope that hearing my songs helps other people in the same way. Whether they’re feeling lonely or heartbroken or happy, I want them to know that someone else understands what they’re going through.”
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