Singer/songwriter Faith Evans Ruch and “the words my lips would never say”

Faith Evans Ruch isn’t just a prolific and all around cool songstress – she’s an avid record collector who could shut down any jukebox with the vinyl in her possession. Get to know Faith and the moments of her life she felt were most valuable to her songwriting!

faith

What kind of audience do you want to reach with a vinyl release?

Releasing this album on vinyl creates a great opportunity to reach an audience with a broad age range. Vinyl is classic, and it’s back on the rise with the increasing popularity of the “old school” feel that comes with it in recent years. A lot of older fans probably still have their old vinyl collection and a record player, and the younger generations are going out and buying one of their own and starting their own collections. I’m a big collector myself. It’s a novelty, so it spans across the generations in “coolness.”

What are the coolest records you own on vinyl?

Ahhhhh, that’s so hard! I can’t believe I have to try to answer this, haha! Let me look through my bins right quick and try to pick a few. Ok, so, I have A LOT of records, but I narrowed it down to a few that have special meaning to me. There’s this one that is Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt, and Emmylou Harris (three of my favorite country women) as a trio doing all these great old country songs together. Then there is this one I found in the folk section of a local record store by Melanie called “Gather Me” that was the first record I had ever bought that I played over and over and over again. There’s the song called “Steppin'” on it that got me through some rough patches with a boy. John Prine’s self titled album makes me cry every time. Then Janis Joplin’s “I Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues Again Mama” and Etta James’ “Tell Mama Volume 1” make me dance around my living room while trying to belt with that kind of soul around my living room. Yeah, those two definitely make me get down and bluesy…now, everyone knows I have danced with and sang all sultry to a broom alongside a record when no one was looking.

How would you suggest for young people to have the same experiences you did while discovering vinyl…on iTunes?

I love iTunes, I really do! It’s so convenient, and all the music you could ever want is immediately right at your fingertips. I use it all the time! There’s just something special about digging through all those bins of records and not knowing what kind of treasure or new favorite random record you’ll find, though. We have several really great local record stores here in Memphis, and one of the cool things about them too is that they carry a lot of local artist’s music too. My personal favorite is one Shangri La records in midtown (an old historic, artsy, district of Memphis that we locals love dearly). Sometimes, I go there just to browse and clear my head. I recommend that other young people search their area for record stores, exploring and finding one you love. All will have something the other doesn’t, but if you’re a music lover and get into the whole vinyl collecting addiction, you’ll find that one that is your go-to for all of your music and happiness needs.

You attract the most spectacular compliments possible, such as: “She sounds like Patsy Cline, if Patsy Cline got into the whiskey and was a little more straight-up with you than usual.” Did it take you a long tome to gain that storytelling confidence?

Haha, thank you, they are pretty great compliments–it’s still hard for me to believe they are talking about me!

Honestly, writing the stories (songs) was a lot easier than actually telling the story to an audience by playing it. I was really shy at first with new songs because I was afraid someone would know what it was about, or that I was making myself vulnerable by baring my heart to both friends and strangers. Playing a new song is like taking your clothes off in a room full of people, so it was definitely easier to play the songs that weren’t about my own pain, anger, sadness. I think the turning point when I quit being “afraid of the mic” was after I had been playing maybe around a year, and I was put in a position where I started playing a very personal song for the first time in public right as the person it was about walked in the bar. I could have fallen out of my seat, crawled under a table, and died of awkwardness, but I kept playing and nothing bad happened. People just had that look like they could relate, and I realized that there are only so many people who will ever truly know what a song means to the writer, but there are so many more people who just need to hear something they can relate to from a stranger and know that they aren’t alone and someone else has been there too. So since then, I just try to be confident and “own” my song, because if I’m not feelin’ it, no one else will.

You spent time writing in Montana. Do you think it is necessary for every great artist, whether it’s music, books or something else, to escape from major cities in order to create their trademark style?

I started writing poetry in middle school to express myself and explore my feelings. I continued to do that while I was going to school in Montana for the last year and a half of high school. I loved music and was obsessed with reading lyrics, but I didn’t play an instrument. When they started a songwriting class there, I signed up for the creative writing aspect. The teacher was this blues artist from Biloxi, Mississippi, and he would give us assignments and taught us about song structure.

As a result, the majority of my poetry started to read like song lyrics without music, which gave me a bit of a head start as a songwriter when I finally picked up a guitar and taught myself to play after nursing school. To address the question, I believe that trademark style is actually much more a product of upbringing and a fusion of the influential sounds from the place you call home and the music you heard in your home growing up. I don’t think that my music would be the same if I weren’t lucky enough to be from Memphis, Tennessee, where the lines become blurred between rock and roll, soul, the blues, and folk, and creates a sound I don’t think you can find anywhere else in the world.

However, the amount of writing that I did while in Montana shows me that sometimes you have to be removed from your comfort zone (perhaps outside the hustle and bustle of a large city) to tap into your creativity. Although I have never turned any of that old Montana days poetry into a song, it reinforces that your art is sometimes all you have for comfort at the end of the day, and it’s something that no one can take away from you. It’s a constant available source of therapy that lies within you, and when you’re alone in a new place and it’s all you have, there is certainly a potential to have a cathartic purging of new material from inside of you onto the paper.

What to you off your new record is evidence of your brush with Montana’s beautiful nothingness?

You know, I’ve never shared this with strangers before, not even some of my friends, but in order to answer this one I have to get pretty personal with y’all for a minute.

The time I spent in Montana marked probably the most emotionally trying and painful time in my life, and I was there across the country from any of my family and friends, and it was easy for someone who already felt so alone to feel lost in all that vast land and sky, despite how breathtakingly beautiful it was. I found comfort in lying on my back and staring up into that great “big sky,” as they call it there, and thinking that no matter how far away I was from the people I loved, we were still all under the same sky I was looking up into: that they were still with me even when they weren’t right beside me.

Later in life, that sentiment has carried over into the lyrics of “Home Is Where the Heart Is,” about a lost love whose presence and memory still lived on heavily even after moving away. The chorus, “If home is where the heart is, then I’m startin’ to see why the moves don’t make a difference, nor the miles ‘tween the cities-Oh, and even though it’s over, and I’ve tried to scrub it clean, I’ll never be set free-No, I carry you with me,” illustrates how no matter where he went or where I moved, I couldn’t shake him. It was painful, yet comforting. I’m sure there are a lot of people out there who can say, amen, to that.

If someone only had one song to hear from all your work, which one would you suggest and why?

You ask hard questions! I guess I would go with “Your Soul,” the final track on my debut album, “1835 Madison,” released last fall. It’s the first song that I ever wrote and very frankly discusses what made me pick up the guitar for the first time. Being self taught, I didn’t know what chords to put together, so I just started feeling it out and the result was a song that I believe is a strong representation of my “trademark style,” as you put it earlier. I mentioned above that writing music is therapeutic, and the lyrics, “I learned guitar so I could play the words my lips would never say,” explains that I needed to write that song because there was something hurting in me that I couldn’t express without that guitar in my hands. I’ve told people that while some of my songs may be fictitious or about someone I know, the majority of them are almost like a diary, and I think that fist song was the ice breaker to that sound. One of my favorite things anyone ever said about my music was that it was “visceral.” You feel the emotions in the breaks, time changes, chord progressions, and words. You get all of that in “Your Soul.”

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