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article imageRuby Friedman ventures into new territory with her first LP Special

By Adrian Peel     May 3, 2016 in Music
Having released a number of singles and EPs over the last seven years, the nomadic singer and bandleader (of the genre-hopping Ruby Friedman Orchestra) discusses her long-awaited debut album, 'GEM.'
Completed over a two-year period, GEM is essentially the story of three different locations: New York City, Los Angeles and New Orleans - three metropolises that mean a great deal to the experienced singer/songwriter/composer. Studios in California (Culver City and North Hollywood), Calgary and Brooklyn hosted the recording sessions.
"GEM was not the original title," reveals Ruby, a fan of various types of music. "Fugue in L.A. Minor was the original title, but the fact that people were unfamiliar with the word and mispronounced 'Fugue' started to wear on me around the time I saw the Ed Freeman photo of the Gem Theatre.
"It just looked like every piece of my music came from that place - and the gorgeous decay of the Gem Theatre seemed to reinforce some of my own philosophy of art and beauty versus the politics of art and beauty.
"The title is a confluence of imagery, recollections and metaphors from the obvious meaning of the literal word to a more nuanced, historical and personal reference, i.e. the Gem Saloon in Deadwood, North Dakota to the Little Gem Saloon in present day New Orleans - to the multilayered self-proclaiming of one's own work.
"Personally I believe the album is a gem, though, because of how long it took and how hard it was to create. There are many songs that didn't make it. Not because they weren't good, but because of this vision I was going for. Multi-faceted and never repeating non-identifiable memory or disconnected nostalgia."
"Yes, that's correct," confirms the talented multi-instrumentalist, whose songs have been featured in numerous TV series, after I brought up the fact that she had a hand in writing nine of the album's 10 tracks (the sole cover is "You'll Never Leave Harlan Alive"). "I wrote all the lyrics and music to 'I'm Not Your Friend' and all the lyrics to the nine originals. I co-wrote most of the music to those nine as well...
"I've done a lot of covers. Most of the time because someone asked if I had it, or could do it because they wanted it. Graham Yost, creator of Justified and Greg Sill, the show's music supervisor, asked for 'You'll Never Leave Harlan Alive.' I'd love to record a version of 'That Lucky Old Sun' sometime soon..."
Ms. Friedman, who cites New Orleans as her favourite place in the world, put out her first single, "Shooting Stars," in 2009. Why has it taken so long to release an album?
"It has taken a long time because of perfectionism, creative differences with producers, integrity and/or the cost of the vision, and the need to have the best players in order to reach something close," comes the reply. "Funding is difficult if you're going to do it yourself so no one gets in your way and molests the vision.
"There's creating, then there's releasing. Creating is easy - it happens in my head. Getting to the release stage takes time if you are a perfectionist. I spoke to Van Dyke Parks late last year about this and he told me he could have done many things differently and they would still have been correct, so that actually released the pressure. If he could let go of perfectionism and see music so inductively, then so could I."
How many different genres would the artist say she explores on the new record? Which of the songs particularly stand out for her? "Well there's a little of everything, from old country and old blues to old gospel and old jazz," she observes. "I feel each song stands on its own, though, in terms of modernity.
"I am proud of all the songs. I am probably especially fond of 'Fugue in L.A. Minor' because there's a lot of Jerry Lee Lewis in there, and also I remember writing that at McCarren Park in Brooklyn when Lou Reed had just died... 'Lonely Road Symphony Rag' is very sweet to me too. They are all special to me for different reasons."
GEM is set for release on Friday, June 24.
For more information on the Ruby Friedman Orchestra, visit their official website or Facebook page.
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