What’s new with the band? Please give us the recent history (since the last time we talked a few years ago until now).
What’s new with the band? Well, for starters, we are mostly Oregonians, Nick, Ryan & Jesse are now all residents of Portland, OR. I’m still holding on to our Washington roots, living in Battle Ground. We’ve gained some additions, Ryan, Nick and I have all gotten married in the last few years, and Ryan’s a dad. That’s new! He’s a good dad I might add. Some other new additions would by my Marshall JCM 800 combo amp, this old Army amp and Nick’s Danelectro guitar. Can’t forget those. We’re all working day jobs to pay our bills. Jesse is a painter (and awesome fine artist), Nick and Ryan do freelance design work, and I work at my dad’s auto repair shop.
We’re still the same guys we have always been, I’d say with more hopeful hearts than ever. The dream of putting out Payola has been a long time coming. Coming out of our Tooth & Nail experience, I think we were all trying to catch our breath and gain our bearings on what mattered most to all of us. There were so many loose ends in our lives that we all felt we need to slow down, and focus on trying to tie up. Also, I just think timing is everything and it wasn’t quite time to record Payola. Jesse and I spent many days out on the North Fork of the Lewis River with our fishing rods in the water, plunking for steelhead. We would start a fire, rain or shine, and sit there with our bait on the bottom and dream about how we could make Payola and when we could get back on the road. I think the fishing was just therapy for having our hands tied. Trying to pay bills, feed mouths and fund a record takes time, especially when you have a high standard of the quality of record you want to put out. It’s really a weird place to be, to have had a team of people (label, booking agent, management) who believe in you and value your art, and you all work as hard as you can, do everything you’re asked and then watch it kind of dissolve. But, I guess value is relative to who you are talking too. There are no hard feelings about how things went down, but we do have feelings – and it was hard at times to watch things slow down.
How did you hook up with MTV?
I spent some of the down time recording a solo record, Learn How to Love Someone, with Chris Keene, from the band Surrogate and released it in July 2010. Subsequently I was trying to settle a balance with our former booking agency, WME. There was some confusion (I kept getting notices saying I had a balance due, when I’d call to pay, they didn’t see a balance), and I ended up on the phone with a guy there who wanted to hear what the band was up too. I sent him the solo record and he loved it and passed it on to a friend. That friend helped me secure some TV placements, including several on MTV. When we finished up Payola I sent him the tracks, hoping we could get some more TV placements. Some people at MTV got their hands on it and the rest is history (hopefully still in the making).
What does the TV network plan to do to make a label thing work?
Well, the traditional label format relies heavily on the revenue of CD sales, and radio placement. With sales at an all time low and the radio industry changing with Pandora, Spotify and satellite, it’s tough. MTV instead will focus primarily on licensing the songs for TV and film use. Radio, sales and touring are still essentials, but the don’t factor into the equation in the same way as they would on a traditional label. MTV has partnered with an outside licensing company that shops songs to all the other major networks and film outlets.
Tell me about the new album.
Feel free to discuss how it was recorded, interesting stories that happened during the songwriting and/or recording process.
We finished Payola mix and all, in July of 2011, but it’s taken this long to have clear direction as to how it was going to be released. There are about 10 more tracks we wanted originally considered originally but due to funds we have yet to record them. We considered doing the whole Kickstarter thing but decided it wasn’t for us. We knew it would take a bit longer to make it on our own, but if it was meant to happen the doors would be opened for us, and they were.
This record has a lot more energy than any record we’ve made. I think it combines what people loved about Secondhand Dreaming, Anorak, and even a bit of the Covers Ep. There is a lot of early 60’s sounds and surf rock feel, mixed with solid pop rock. Being able to divide my writing into two pools, one being the Dustin Ruth solo stuff and the second being the rock stuff for Ruth, has really helped define what we do as a band. Also there was huge freedom recording this record on our own and having the knowledge from what we learned working with guys like Aaron Sprinkle, JR McNeely, and Chris Keene.
“You’ve Changed” was based off a running joke the guys in Emery pull. We ran into them at a BBQ while touring through Chico, CA. Chico is a bit of our home away from home, as it’s where our friends from Surrogate and Number One Gun live. Anyway, they’d ask you how you’re doing and usually the response was a generic “Doing good, same old.” and then they’d tell you that you’ve changed. “You’ve changed man. There’s something different about you, I liked the old you better.” Of course they’d let us get all defensive before they started cracking up and with their southern accents be like, “I’m just messin with ya man.” It just stuck and became a song. I don’t think they’ve heard it yet. Hopefully it won’t make them think we’ve changed.
Another Chico connection, I was on my way to work, listening to Surrogate’s first record and the track “Death Penalty” came on, and I got the idea for the second verse of “Life is Just a Dream” to cameo Chris’s story of what he “saw when he spent some time on the sun” about what the future holds.
Who produced the album? If someone else, how did that relationship start, etc?
Six of the tracks were produced by the band and co-produced/engineered by Patrick Tetreaul. I’ve known Pat for about 9 years. He was in a band in the 90’s called “5 O-Clock People”.
“Summer Fire” was recorded with former label mate Jessy Ribordy of Falling Up. We knew Jessy would be an excellent fit to produce and record that song and he did an amazing job.
All that was left was the mix. I had been referred to Mike Watts, at VuDu Studios out in New York. We “met” via email and phone and I showed him the rough cuts of the Payola. He was amazing to work with.
What are some of the stories you’re telling on this album? Which ones are the most compelling to you? Why?
I already covered some of the background on “You’ve Changed” and “Life is Just a Dream” so I’ll cover some others. “Want to be Alone” is one of my favorites. It highlights three key times in my life, when I’ve felt alone. Some of those times I truly was alone and others I was surrounded by people. I think more than saying I want to be alone, I was just feeling like I wanted to go back in time to those places. It really makes you think about who else feels alone around you and wonder why.
“Darling Why” is a song inspired by I guess people around me. There are so many couples that get married and it’s really rocky or doesn’t last and everyone scratches their heads wondering what went wrong. This song really is about the fact that “the grass is greener on the other side” but it really isn’t, it just sometimes seems that way. I was standing in the shop that I work at and there were 3 grown men (all of whom I respect) all who’ve been divorced kind of joking about how they’d all been through it and how much they lost and toward the end of the conversation they are were kind of staring at their feet and there was this awkward silence and one piped up and said, “and it always over something stupid, like who didn’t clean the coffee pot” and they all laughed and shook their heads and walked away.
Then there’s “Summer Fire.” Undoubtedly the deepest content of the batch. It’s basically about a summer where I felt closest to God. I was so close to God for a moment I forgot who I was. I know I ate food and drank water and somehow got work done, but I don’t even remember doing any of that for about 2 weeks. I think we all have those moments that we just hang on to, they can be fleeting.
What are your thoughts on poverty?
Well I’m part of mainstream society so I don’t really see poverty first hand much. I only say that so anyone reading this can hopefully forgive my ignorance on poverty because I certainly don’t mean any harm by giving my opinion.
I think true poverty is hard to look at, it’s overwhelming, it’s sobering, and it’s convicting.
How has your outlook on art changed over the years?
I think now more than ever I understand that art is a part of what makes me, me. I can’t not pursue my art. It’s something I’m in love with and passionate about. That being said, no true artist does their art simply for the money. I’ve never been the guy that wanted to be a big star and have everything I want. Thank God, because I’d be very disappointed if that were the case. I work a full time job at a small auto repair shop that I swore as a kid I’d never work at, just so can do my art. I worked here several years before signing my first record deal and now I’m back here and it’s as though nothings changed. Yet, I continue to be blessed to write songs and I find ways to record them. It’s humbling, and I’m grateful.
Anything you want to say about this photo (the publicity one Amy sent)
This photo just makes me laugh. Every time I look at it I wonder when the stray dog or scraggly cat is going to walk in front of us. I call it the stray dog picture.
Any comments on the album cover? (I love it)
The album cover, as well as the rest of the artwork (for physical copies) was designed by our drummer, Ryan Peterson (RWP Design). It has the coloring that all of us pictured this album feeling like. It’s almost a surfy, seafoamish, sunny feel.
Plans for spring, summer and rest of 2012?
Well I just finished recording a second solo project, and have a third one I’ve been working on as well. I hope to get both of those out this year. As for the band, we would love it if Payola opens a door for more Ruth music. We have a more songs we love and plan on recording them in the next year or so. We honestly just love making records together, are are grateful to still be doing it. I’m sure we’ll do some touring on Payola but probably will stick close to the west coast. That all hinges on what doors open and what kind of demand there is for us to be out there. Keep your eyes out for shows in WA, OR & CA. Best way to stay in the loop is to come “Like” us on www.Facebook.com/RuthTheBandFB.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Thanks so to HM for giving us the opportunity to answer these questions.
Thanks to all the people we’ve met along the way who have enjoyed our music. We thank you kindly and we hope Payola treats you well.
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