This week Tom Phillips had the pleasure of being able to speak to Jamaican singer & songwriter Ruby Turner, an artist who has had success on both sides of the Atlantic (with a number 1 in the U.S.) and who has also worked with many in the industry including Boy George and Mick Jagger. Her latest album, All That I Am, came out this September.
You’re performing with Jools Holland and his Rhythm & Blues Orchestra at the Barbican in York this Friday. Are you excited for that? And have you visited York before?
“I think I’m the luckiest person alive because I’m back on the road, I’m doing the thing I love, I’m doing the thing that’s my life, it’s what pays my bills, it’s what brings joy to me and to others. We visit York every year. The Barbican is a fantastic venue and York is such an amazing city, I absolutely love it, I mean touring is one thing, doing shows are great, but I’m so thrilled and privileged when I travel to certain parts of the country that you don’t get to see and it’s just wonderful. I remember the first time in York was round about Christmas time many many years ago, I was completely blown away by the wonderful city. The little cobbled streets and shops, it’s just gorgeous. I’m looking forward to the gig and having a little wander around the city.”
How is it working with Jools Holland and his Orchestra?
“The best. And I’m not just saying that. But, sometimes, you know, certain people don’t marry well and they’re alright for a time but you know it ain’t gonna work and you move on. I can honestly say, touch wood, I’m not gonna have to do all of that because I’ve been his (Jools’) friend and musical companion on the road for many years and it’s just to me a blessing. We share great music, we have a great respect for each other and then the encouragement and support I get from him, you just can’t buy that. Because in this industry, it’s every man for himself, it’s who’s got the number 1, who’s got the best venue, who’s got the best friends, who’s hanging with who, lalalalala. It’s incredibly shallow, incredibly meaningless and I can say quite categorically, it’s fierce.”
“And the people you come across, they all smile, but it don’t mean nothing, it’s all about yourself, that’s just the nature of the biz. So when you find a musician who you have a good working relationship with, which I have with Jools and the Orchestra, I cherish such a thing. I have to celebrate such a thing. There’s very few people who will give me the time of the day from the past now. You don’t actually make friends in this industry, you make acquaintances and associates. Sometimes you might find a genuine person but don’t hold your breath.”
What is your fondest musical memory?
“Well, there have been a few. I’ve had the most amazing experiences throughout my musical career. The most recent I guess was the Jubilee. It was such an honour when I was stood on that stage, outside Buckingham Palace. There were a sea of people, out celebrating something wonderful and to be there, sharing that moment with the nation, was incredible. You get a chance, you just do it. I try to live a life that acknowledges grace because not everybody experiences some of the things that I have done.”
How do you feel that the music industry has changed since you began writing and recording?
“Well it’s changed, it was changing when I was doing it and I’m sure when I was doing it, the people before me were saying the same. Sometimes it just goes inside-out without people realising. Nothing really is that brand new, everything has been borrowed. There are a lot of sound-a-likes going on. Back in my day, you knew it was Rita, you knew it was a Whitney, now ‘who is that’?! It does my head in, everyone’s lost their originality, I want that back. People are pondering to what’s commercially successful or the sound of now – now what? I’m in love with Ed Sheeran. He is an individual who is an individual.”
You’ve worked with lots of musicians during your career, who was the most interesting to work with?
“They’re all interesting, in their own way. Boy George was an interesting character. he was creative, he had vision, he was inspiring, he was master of his own destiny. In the eighties I was working with artists like Bryan Ferry, masters of their craft. I’ve just worked with so many people and they all had something to offer.”
” I’m the luckiest person alive because I’m back on the road, I’m doing the thing I love, I’m doing the thing that’s my life”
What are your plans for the future, after your tour next year?
“I don’t make plans, I just get on with it really. I haven’t got anything die hard, must get to, lalala. What’s the point of putting pressure on yourself, that’s asking for a nervous breakdown, I don’t want that. I want to stay connected to family and friends and have a beautiful existence. I’m gonna play badminton later, I like that, gotta keep fit, I might write some more lyrics or a piece of poetry, watch some rubbish TV, read a bit of the Sunday whatever. When you’re building stuff you need to run around but right now the album’s come through and I’ve worked hard this year. A TV programme have offered me a year’s work but I can’t do it.”
Lastly, what would your one piece of advice be for an upcoming singer… Is there a “magic formula” for success?
“Haha that’s laughable, a magic formula, I tell you what if I had it I wouldn’t be giving it away (laughs). There ain’t no magic formula. There’s none, other than yourself. You must start going out there and putting yourself out there, you got to be prepared. Be prepared to work hard, because with hard work you will see some results. Perseverance, tenacity and do your utmost best and ultimately you will get results and if you don’t, learn from whatever you’ve got and keep going.”