Described by Rolling Stone as “pure magic to watch and hear,” Texas singer/songwriter and three-time Grammy Nominee, Ruthie Foster has been singing solo since she was 14 years old. She’s shared the stage along the way with the Allman Brothers Band, Susan Tedeschi, Blind Boys of Alabama, Warren Hayes and Eric Bibb.
She has ten albums to her credit, including the recently released Joy Comes Back, which is both a joyous celebration of life and reflection on the wider world.
RF: Yes I am! It was a challenging and rewarding personal journey recording it so I’m extremely pleased to hear that folks are really enjoying it as much as I do.
DATC: Tell us what you wanted to achieve with this album and a bit about how it came about.
RF: The CD actually took about two and a half years to do. I took my time obviously finding songs that expressed what I wanted to say; from letting go of a relationship to exploring what love means to me, redemption and forgiveness. It’s really about my life experience during that period of time.
DATC: Joy Comes Back, the title track, sounds celebratory and…joyful! And it’s got a wonderful gospel feel and sentiment. Can you say something about the song and also about the continued gospel influence to your music?
RF: Joy Comes Back is very much about celebrating. I wasn’t quite there yet but really needed this song. What is says is simple and to the point, set Joy as your intention and know that it’s on the way! As for my gospel influence, I grew up with inspiring singers in my extended family who sang gospel all over Texas and my mother was a beautiful singer too. So I suppose that anything that comes out of my mouth is going to sound close to gospel music at this point in my life!
DATC: There are some nice bluesy songs on the album – the kind of down-home version of Richland Woman Blues with Warren Hood is very cool – you’re clearly very much at home in the blues. But other songs are more soulful, or have a gospel feel – how would you define your music? Do you have a niche, or even want a niche?
RF: There are many shades to the blues for me. I consider some tunes a lot lighter in spirit and delivery than others, such as Mississippi John Hurt’s style. His piedmont style of guitar playing is just fun to play. I do enjoy the deeper, soulful version of the blues as well. It gives me a chance to open up vocally in a totally different way! But my overall niche is more about capturing the spirit from my point of view in a song. I just call it spirit music!
RF: Yes, I agree that the song has much to say about where we are today. But the essence of why I wanted to record it is about the chorus, “when I do good, I feel good. When I do bad, I feel bad.” It’s a simple statement and it’s the truth about how I try to live and go about making my own decisions.
DATC: Black Sabbath’s War Pigs is a bit of a surprise! It’s a powerful antiwar song from 1970. How relevant do you think it is today, and why did you decide to include it?
RF: I did put a lot of work into the arrangement of this one as a special surprise! Being a vocalist myself, I’ve always appreciated awesome (and charismatic!) lead singers of rock bands. The War Pigs vocal opening has always sounded like a blues line to me and I love playing slide on the resonator so I thought I’d try it. The message is very relevant and needs to brought up.
RF: I think we as musical artists do have a unique and important platform that can lift a cause to another level, whatever that may be; if we genuinely care about it. It’s not my place to say that it’s our duty to do so, but I will say in my own experience that singing and performing for a cause that’s important to me has been the most rewarding work I’ve ever done.
DATC: Ruthie Foster, Thank you very much!