Those who have followed Ruthie Foster’s eclectic musical history know that she can burn down any stage with her combustible blend of soul, blues, rock, folk and gospel.
Ruthie’s astonishing voice has taken her on an amazing ride, from humble church-choir beginnings in rural Texas, followed by a tour of duty with the US Navy Band, to today with her third Grammy nomination under her belt for Promise of a Brand New Day, tipped to be a hot favourite.
Being nominated for a Grammy is something pretty wonderful.
‘Even though it’s happened twice before,’ said Ruthie, ‘it came as quite a surprise – it really is. These guys get so many entries and more and more every year, and to get recognised is a miracle. It really truly is an honour to get picked… and they have a pretty good party!
’Its just incredible to be at the awards ceremony live – you feel like you are at the world’s greatest concert of all times – it’s really cool to watch and it’s a spectacle and it’s awesome. I haven’t worked in TV myself so I geek out on the cameras moving around and the sets and how fast they change the sets… and by the way, there’s the Beyonce!’
Perhaps Beyonce is thinking: isn’t that Ruthie Foster? For Ruthie, every day in the music industry is living the dream.
‘Deep down I always did see myself in music and standing out in some way but what way in particular I had no idea. I knew it was something I really enjoyed and I loved playing piano and guitar. And it wasn’t just songs; I was a poetry writer and I wrote short stories and songs.’
Ruthie believes that her training has taught her important stagecraft that she still uses to this day.
‘There is a certain aspect that stays the same in every performance and that is knowing how to be present. I have learnt that over the years.
‘I did voice training in music school here in Texas for about three years with a woman who is the vocal chair at the Toronto university and she was right on me as a vocalist. I have a training when it comes to presence and learning how to be in your body because that’s a huge deal.
‘I do take that with me, but a lot of it right now when I am onstage is about getting out of the way. I go on stage and I check out and I let god and the universe and the room do the rest. We show up with a band, we have an outline of what we are going to do, although I constantly change my set list.
‘The band never know what I am going to do especially in Australia! There is something about the energy there at Bluesfest – I never know what is going to happen!’
It was the power of the audience connection at Byron’s Bluesfest that moved her to tears.
‘I cried onstage when I was there – it was so much, so much joy and connection and feeling like I am in the right place and doing what I am supposed to do, and the synchronicity that happens when you realise this is incredible.
‘You know I take off my shoes as well because it’s very grounding to feel the stage under your feet.
‘There are moments when I am onstage when I didn’t know what happened, when I have walked off feeling so good it’s like having a good meal! It doesn’t happen all the time but when it does its amazing!
‘I have a great tour manager who leads me where I need to go. I will say yes to anything. I am dangerous when I have had that much joy. It sounds weird and it sounds out there, doesn’t happen all the time; sometimes you just show up and it changes, but lately I am really connected to Ring of Fire – the rendition that we do – and a lot of the songs from the new CD.
I am always most connected to what I have just done, and that is what I am closest to. I go into the studio and record songs. I spend a lot of time learning how to play songs live before going out to tour, so we have come back.’
Ruthie is pulling back on the touring for 2015 – while she’s got some impressive international festivals to appear at she believes it’s time to cut back on her ‘local shows’.
‘I have a family and this Grammy nomination comes at a cost to them.
‘I was reading a bedtime story to my three-year-old and she looked at me and said, ‘Ya Ya, you are my heart’. When a three-year-old tells you that you know you are in the right place. It brings you back to reality. I can do wonderful things and have accolades but I come home and I am wiping bottoms or have spittle on the back. It’s real!’
Ruthie Foster is one of the amazing international acts headlining at Bluesfest this year.
For ticket and program information go to www.bluesfest.com.au.