Today our Spotlight – Mike Ruby. This Toronto native has been building his musical pedigree for some time now. Starting off with Jazz and moving into the Pop world, he has put out some touching and meaningful songs. We got to sit down and chat with Mike about his music and the new release of his EP “You Wrote These Songs”. Check out what Mike had to say below.
You were first inspired to get into music by watching your brother. What was it about him that made you decide that this was the path you wanted to pursue?
It was the sense of community surrounding him. I saw him having fun with the other musicians on stage through the music, and wanted to feel that sense of community too.
What was it like leaving Toronto to study in New York at the Manhattan School of Music?
Amazing. Wouldn’t trade it in for anything. The competitive and creative spirit in that city is unparalleled.
You also began your music career in jazz, even listing Charlie Parker as an influence. That is certainly a unique musical inspiration and background. What drew you to the genre as opposed to everything else your peers were listening to?
To be honest, I was listening to singer/songwriters like John Mayer too, but once I found jazz there was something about the rhythmic pocket of the music I was enamoured with. I was first introduced to Cannonball Adderley and Joe Zawinul by my late father, and then moved onto the more complicated stuff, “bebop” as it was coined, from the Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie school of jazz musicians.
Your song “Is Anyone There” is critical of the social media landscape, that has become so ubiquitous in our lives? How has your opinion changed, or not, and what drew you to that breaking point?
I think now even more than ever with Covid-19 this song speaks volumes. We are constantly on our phones, computers, or TV screens. It’s like there’s no escape sometimes. We’re also constantly in touch with hundreds of people via the screen, but it just doesn’t feel like it without real eye contact. I’d say my opinion has changed in that I do feel people care overall, but I still agree with the message of the song. Sometimes it can feel like nobody is there. If you ask me the same question after Covid-19 I’ll probably have a more optimistic answer!
What made you decide to pivot into the pop scene as opposed to the jazz scene?
I started playing with a synth pop band called St. Lucia in New York, and opening and co-headlining with pop artists like Charli XCX, Ellie Goulding and FUN. I fell in love with the music. The audience was crazy every night having the time of their lives, and I realized I wanted to create an experience like that for people.
It is incredibly difficult to find your old tracks with Peter Cardinali. Your track ‘Fathers Song’ which was a raw and deeply personal track about losing your father after a long bout with cancer. Is there ever going to be a point where you remaster those tracks from 2008?
Thank you for bringing this up! I love Peter, he’s the CEO of Alma Records, the label I released a jazz album with way back in the day that was distributed through Universal Music. I’m glad you found that song and old CD I put out as a teen. As you said, I lost my father in high school, and it was a very meaningful song to me. On my upcoming EP being released June 26th 2020, I’ve done something similar and dedicated a song to him. It’s called “Not Your Fault.” For those who know me, they’ll know exactly what this song is about. For those who don’t, I think it will be a cathartic song that they can put to their own past experiences with any lost loved ones, or relationships that went astray.
I took the music down because I can’t even tell you how many people were confusing the “jazz” Mike Ruby with the “pop” Mike Ruby. People were getting redirected to the wrong websites, not knowing what genre I fell under, and I even had fans ask me if I knew there was another “Mike Ruby” out there who played Jazz. I answered, “Yes, I know him pretty well.” True story.
You shared the stage with Ellie Goulding a few years ago opening for her, was that the largest crowd you have played for? What was it like to perform for a crowd like that?
It was definitely one of the greatest experiences I’ve had, but it wasn’t the largest crowd I’ve played for. The largest crowd was at Lollapalooza Music Festival in Chicago playing with St. Lucia. That was unreal. It was a massive sea of people, colors, and just thousands of little heads haha. I’d love to play a festival of that size under my own name one day.
You recently did a livestream on May 23rd for the HOMEBODY Music Festival. Was it weird to be performing for no one at home, but knowing that you were reaching so many people?
It’s becoming less and less weird now. I think with Instagram and TikTok we’re all used to doing things for “no one” but with people watching after the fact.
You are an avid hiker, and have hiked all over Banff. What are some of your other favorite paths either here in Canada, or in the USA?
I wouldn’t say I’m an avid hiker haha but I do enjoy hiking a lot. It’s one of those things that I like to do if I’m on tour and around the mountains or nature, or sometimes when I’m on vacation. Making the “Burn Again” music video was like a big 4-day hike actually. We covered Sequoia State Park, Death Valley, Ladder Canyon and Joshua Tree, and it was unreal.
The song “Story Never Ends” is a beautiful story. People coming into your life through random happenstance, as a travelling musician. That must be such a melancholic feeling to have people come and go. How do you handle those feelings of joy and loss?
I love how music can mean different things to different people! For me, this song is actually a love song, about how a friendship turns into something more serious, something you can’t live without. Your take on it also makes perfect sense, and that is 100% something I’ve had to deal with for my whole life. It’s definitely hard having to let go of so many people because of the distance, but I’m thankful for every connection made. Luckily, we’ve got face time to counterbalance that out a little bit, even though we’re all busy these days.
You recently just dropped your new single “Unapologetic” which is a precursor to your upcoming EP, what can we expect from this new release?
“Unapologetic” is a feel-good song, and “You Wrote These Songs” is a feel-good EP! Most of the songs are sing-alongs, with one ballad thrown in the mix.
Do you have a process when it comes to creating music and also developing this EP?
When it comes to creating music, other than making sure I write as often as possible, no. I intentionally make sure not to have a “process” because that can eliminate the creativity in the early stages. Sometimes I write starting from a lyric, concept, a guitar hook, piano riff, a drum beat, it varies every time. My process for the EP was to write hundreds of songs and pick the ones that were screaming my name … IE. the songs that were undeniably me.
What is the story you are trying to tell with “You Wrote These Songs”?
It’s a journey about moving forward. It starts with two songs about an ex, “Close” and “Burn Again,” then transitions to “Don’t Want You Back (wtf)” which is about realizing that ex didn’t deserve you. “Unapologetic” is about meeting someone new who you wouldn’t have expected to fall for, then “Not Your Fault” is about getting over something in your past that has been holding you back. Finally, “Story Never Ends” is about actually being able to move onwards with your life, meet someone new, and maybe, make it last.
What would you like to say to fans reading this article – old or possibly new?
Thank you for being supportive since day one, or since more recently if you’re a new fan. I appreciate every single time you’ve come to a show, followed an account of mine or played one of my songs on your phone. If I wasn’t for you guys I wouldn’t be here, so you’re as much a part of this project as anyone. I’ve got lots of new music, videos, and tours coming up, so stay tuned @mikerubymusic
That puts an end to the Spotlight – Mike Ruby. We are great full to Mike for taking the time to chat with us and share his thoughts.
Make sure to check out the new EP “You Wrote These Songs” out now!
Keep up with everything Mike Ruby on his website.
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