Since her debut album 1835 Madison was released in 2013, Faith Evans Ruch has been one of the most distinct voices in the Memphis music scene, teaming up with big-name players like Rick Steff, Roy Berry, and Luther Dickinson to create her soulful brand of folk rock. I sat down with Ruch to find out more about the two singles she's releasing on Tuesday, February 23rd, at Lafayette's Music Room, how recording at Royal Studios influenced her as a songwriter, and how getting your heart broken might be a blessing in disguise.
- Chris Shaw
Memphis Flyer: Your new song "Sugar" is a lot more soulful than some of your earlier work. Was that an intentional transition?
Faith Evans Ruch: Yes, it was. My first couple of albums were very much on the folk side of Americana music, and I really wanted to venture out and explore some other areas. I started focusing more on soul music and Memphis music. I set out to write a song that wasn't "folk-y," and I sat down and wrote the chorus first. I was listening to a lot of Nina Simone and Etta James, and I think I captured that pretty well. I was trying to channel Memphis.
This was the first time you've worked at Royal Studios. What was that experience like?
It was awesome. I'm kind of a creature of habit, and I did my first two albums at Music+Arts over on Nelson and Barksdale. When I played the stuff for producer Kevin Houston, he said the songs were really soulful and suggested that we go to Royal. You can really feel the soulful spirit in that room, and I think these are some of the best vocal performances I've ever recorded.
Lyrically, "Sugar" is a pretty classic love song. Can you explain the inspiration behind it?
When I started writing the hook, I was honestly just thinking about how all my other love songs are really sad, and I just wanted to make something more positive. I came up with the chorus, and then I got stuck because I didn't have a lot of positive experience from my personal life. Once I got into the relationship I'm in now, things changed, and I found inspiration for the song.
Both of the singles that you'll be releasing on Tuesday were recorded in one day. Was it intimidating to try and have them completed in one recording session?
I'm a nurse, so I'm used to working strict, regimented days. We did "Sugar" and "Thank You" in about 10 to 12 hours, but I wasn't worried about the time. I've never had any issues with getting things done in the studio. The creative process can take longer sometimes, though. At times the songs just flow, but other times there are cases of serious writer's block. These two singles got written at different times. I had "Thank You" done for over a year, but "Sugar" had most of the parts written in one day.
I really liked the horns throughout "Thank You." It definitely has a soul vibe to it, but there are also some elements of classic country. Is that how you'd describe it?
I'm from the South, and I grew up listening to soul music, but, as I said earlier, I'm also very inspired by folk music. There are times when I have to tell myself, "OK, we are not writing a folk song today!" But I think you're right, there are elements of soul, but it also has some classic country going on, which is why I think it sounds so unique.
There's a line in "Thank You" that says "Thank you for breaking my heart." That's kind of an interesting line in the sense that most people wouldn't be thankful for something like that.
I wrote that song after the last Folk Alliance, and it was a very personal experience. I started to play the first song I ever wrote at the Alliance, and started explaining that I had my heart broken and I loved music and it just wasn't enough to listen to it anymore. For a while, I was so heartbroken, it was all could I write about. I had to meet someone and have my heart broken to experience all the cool things I've done with my music, and I started to think I ought to say thank you to the person that broke my heart, because what I've been able to do with my music is way cooler than that relationship could have ever been.