Ruth B. Isn’t in a Rush

The Alberta songstress chats with Complex about the inspiration and anxieties behind her highly-anticipated sophomore album, Moments In Between.

Ruth B

Image via Gabriel Ln

Ruth B

On Moments In Between, Ruth B. memorializes the minutiae that was lost in the pandemic. The past 15 months have brought a lot of milestones to a screeching halt: wedding plans were axed (sad!), proms went virtual (lame!), and funerals had single-digit guest lists (dark!). But while the masses mourned the pandemic’s most blatant losses, others also longed for the smaller, more subtle instances that can’t be replicated from home. 

For the singer-songwriter, this revelation came when the lockdown abruptly pulled her from studio sessions in New York City back to her childhood bedroom in Alberta. Though she missed the life that she was building and the community that she had been connecting with, her fondest memories were in the buildup to big moments. On the album’s titular track, she sings about longing for “the quiet before the storm/The deep breath before you jump.” 

These lyrics can also be applied to Ruth’s hiatus between her first and second albums. Moments In Between comes four years after her debut, Safe Haven, and six years since her single “Lost Boy” went viral on Vine. Instead of immediately catapulting into her sophomore project, she pressed pause and decided to enjoy her success on her own terms. Although artists like Rihanna and Beyoncé’s at-will timelines are loosening the grip of the breakneck traditional album cycle, four years can still feel like an eternity. But at 25, Ruth B.’s break was for the better. 

“Having had a song that connected so intensely with people is amazing, but it leaves this lasting pressure of whether or not I’ll ever do it again.”

On “Lost Boy,” which now has over 150 million YouTube views, her adolescence was almost palpable. After taking the time to ease into adulthood, Moments In Between sounds more mature. Her vocals are more neatly polished, her songwriting is more revelatory, and she’s settled into her sound, often anchored by soulful vocals, her signature storytelling, and acoustic instrumentals concocted with the album’s executive producer Patrick Wimberly.

The project plays like a dialogue she’s sharing with her listeners, explaining what we missed while she was away, from falling in and out of love to finding her footing in a new city. Picking up where her soft-spoken debut left off, on Moments In Between Ruth B. makes up for lost time and doesn’t miss a beat.

Weeks before dropping the album, Ruth B. caught up with Complex to share how her first album had a “pressure cooker vibe,” why she took her time to release a follow-up, and how the pandemic simultaneously interrupted and informed her process.

It’s interesting that the album is called Moments In Between because your fans have been curious about what you’ve been up to between the release of your first project and this album. How did you protect your peace when the pressure to release a follow-up was mounting?
When I was making my first album, that was a really stressful time. There was a lot of pressure because it was following the success of “Lost Boy.” Once I put my first album out, I made a mental note that for my second project: I needed to go and live life. That way, the music would come naturally instead of trying to force anything or write something that wasn’t authentic. 

There’s always pressure when you’re putting together an album but for this one, my main goal was to create memories and build relationships that would give me material for a real, authentic album. It wasn’t anything like the first one, which had that pressure cooker vibe. I got to make it on my own terms and enjoy it.

What did unplugging from that pressure cooker look like for you? What have you been up to?
I wanted to travel with my friends and see the world without any touring obligations. It was therapeutic for me. I came home and I’d just invite friends to Europe and South Korea when they were off from school. Then I ended up moving to New York and that was an amazing experience because I was more in the music scene than I was in Alberta. I got to create a normal life around music. I’d go to the studio every day and work with people that I really liked. Producers became more like friends to me. It never felt like I was ever going to work, it felt like I was going to do the thing that I loved. That kept me feeling so zen.

You gave a voice to a lot of subtle moments that we were deprived of in the past year. Things that we miss now but didn’t really acknowledge before. Have you developed a new appreciation for moments like that?
Definitely. The last song I wrote for the album was “Moments In Between” and that turned out to be the title for the album because that’s the main thing I learned this year. It’s the little things that end up meaning the most. They make life so beautiful and colourful. This year that became so much more evident to me. 

Ruth. B

What’s a moment you miss the most from life before lockdown and how did you memorialize that on the album?
There’s a line on “Moments In Between” where I sing, “The ballgowns and the parties are great but I just miss us getting ready in my room.” Whenever my girls and I go out, we drink a bottle of wine and do our makeup together in someone’s bedroom while listening to loud music. I miss going out, but I miss that ‘before’ part more. You’d think that the big moment is the party, but the really special part is the thing that you glaze over. 

How did the pandemic make the creation of this album different from your debut?
The first six songs were written in New York and L.A. but when COVID hit, I came back home to Alberta to wait out the pandemic. It was nice, but I still had an album to finish. It was hard to stomach at first, but it was a blessing because it brought me back to my roots, where I was writing at my keyboard in my bedroom. It ended up making the album so much better. At first I didn’t think that the songs would make sense together because they were from such different times. But that’s what life is like. One moment you’re traveling and doing amazing things and the next you’re cooped up and quarantining at home. It made for a more honest album.

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Was it challenging knowing when the album was complete?
Yes and no. When I write that last song, I always know. When I wrote “Moments In Between,” I knew it was a wrap. My problem is going back and trying to fix the songs after they’re done, like “this melody could be better” or “this lyric should be different.”

Which song received the most tweaks?
“Die Fast.” When I started writing it three years ago, it was a really slow, heart-wrenching song. There was nothing light or happy about it. Once I played it for Patrick, he suggested that we make it funkier and add a beat. I was initially opposed to it, but I love it now. I’m really into the juxtaposition of sad lyrics and happy music.

What have been your biggest anxieties about bringing this album to fruition?
I’m always thinking about whether people will connect to the songs. Having had a song that connected so intensely with people is amazing, but it leaves this lasting pressure of whether or not I’ll ever do it again. When I was 21, that anxiety consumed me but with the amount of time I’ve taken for this project and the amount of writing I’ve done, I realized that all you can do is write from your heart. 

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