Growing up, fake friends and DIY guitars: the whirlwind year of Ruby Fields

If you haven’t heard of Ruby Fields then you must’ve been living in a cave for the last 12 months. After years of slogging away in pubs and clubs, Ruby burst onto the national scene practically overnight when she uploaded her debut single I Want to triple j Unearthed.

Since then she’s done nationwide tours, featured twice in triple j’s Hottest 200, and last month she released her debut EP Your Dad’s Opinion For Dinner. In the midst of a national tour in support of the record, we sat down with Ruby at Young Henry’s over a couple couplas to talk everything from Cronulla to fake friends to building her own guitars.

Ruby Fields
All photos: Dani Hansen

Growing up, fake friends and DIY guitars: we sit down with Ruby Fields over a coupla frosties to chat about the insane year she’s had and what lies ahead.

HAPPY: Hey Ruby, congrats on getting the EP out! How are fans responding to the new songs since you released them?

RUBY: It’s so weird because, to me, I wrote those songs when I was so young that I’m so used to them and bored of them, whereas other people are just hearing it for the first time, and they seem to really like it. I was really nervous when Ritalin came out on the radio that it was gonna get a really bad rap, but everyone seemed to like it and after that, playing at the shows was sick knowing that people now know my lyrics and they were screaming them and I was like “finally people can know more songs than ‘P Plates’ and ‘I Want’”, so it was great.

HAPPY: Why did you think Ritalin wouldn’t do well?

RUBY: All of them, the whole EP, I was like, “Shit, I don’t know if this is gonna work”. Because it was when I was so young when I wrote them and we are living in an age of music that has to be so clever and ahead of everyone else, so I was just like “maybe it’s not enough”. But maybe it will just be simple enough that people will like it.

HAPPY: You said you’re sick of the songs, does playing them to a new crowd every show make that easier?

RUBY: Yeah, it makes it way more fun because it’s something I’m very comfortable playing and it’s to people that enjoy it, so it’s good. It all balances out in the end.

HAPPY: A lot of your songs are very Cronulla-based…

RUBY: Kinda, yeah. It’s very honest and it’s very situational. I like making my lyrics quite complex in their details. People write very great music but the lyrics are just very like relatable in general for people, but I try to put a very personal flair to them and add places I’ve grown up in and what I used to do growing up all that kind of stuff. I wanted to make it really Shire-based and all about the community I was in when I was a grommet.

HAPPY: If your songs are so personal to you, what do you think makes them so relatable to others?

RUBY: I think no matter where you grow up, you have the same things. We all go through puberty, we all hate ourselves at some point, and then we all… I don’t know, have our first root and we all have our first beer and I wanted to recreate those feelings in the songs because those are exciting times, and maybe there were shit times, but I always wanted to make it still seem personal. It’s a bit of a diary entry for me but it’s also something that people can laugh at and go “Oh yeah I went through that, and this person’s making it sound funny”.

Ruby Fields

HAPPY: If you’re writing songs about a really personal time in your life, how negotiate the emotions you were feeling at the time?

RUBY: Sometimes a song will pop into my head and I’ll be in a real shit mood and it’ll be a happy mood or I’ll be happy and write a really depressing song. An example: I was really stoked and about to go onstage with my old band when I was maybe 17 and I sat offstage and me and my mum were actually in a really good place.

I sat down and wrote Redneck Lullaby all about how I felt terrible for disappointing her for a few years. And I was stoked that I wrote it and mum loved it straight away, it was her favourite song ever, and I was in a really good headspace when I wrote that but it seems like the most depressing song I’ve ever written.

HAPPY: You do talk about your parents a lot in your lyrics – how do they feel about what you’ve been doing?

RUBY: You know, I’ve always had the deepest respect for my parents because they respect what I want to do. But they were obviously trying to push me to make sure I had a safe career, like they want me to do music more than anything and they are my number one supporters above everyone else, but I think they were sat there going “shit, our daughter’s chosen one of the hardest career paths there is, and if we fully support that and don’t at least try to encourage her to do something else at the same time then we’re not really good parents.” So they just wanted me to study hard and work really hard for music, so they’re stoked that I’m doing it and they’re still on my arse about making sure I play well.

My mum messages me before every show and is like “You’re not too pissed, are you?”, like “No mum, it’s gonna be a good one I promise”. So they’re really invested in this which is awesome. But there was a while there where I was a terrible daughter that just wanted to, I don’t know, rebel against everything – but I guess we all go through that.

HAPPY: Your songs seem to have a bit of cynicism towards young people – like the bit in Libby’s Pink Car where you rip on people’s Instagram bio’s. Do you feel different from the typical teenager?

RUBY: You know what’s funny? I feel like we all can’t progress without insulting each other at some point, so I guess it’s hard because I get lost in my own irony sometimes. But I do like taking the piss out of myself included and everyone else.

I surf, and I’m not great at it but I wish I could, which is why I rip on the chicks who can surf in my song. Because they’re doing heaps well. And those chicks that have those Instagram bios and those dudes that have those kind of captions and whatever, they still seem to be enjoying themselves, so it’s basically a laugh on the fact that I’m sitting there writing this song but they’re actually probably having more fun than I am. So, in the end, I think it’s a bit of self-hatred coming out, but I think it’s really important to support other young people, I just… when I wrote those songs I think I was in one of those times when I was sixteen.

HAPPY: You have a big DIY vibe about you, so what’s your recording process like? Do you work with a producer or do you do it all solo?

RUBY: All the songs and everything was already written and ready to go and I knew I wanted that to be my EP, so I worked on it with a producer to add in the drums and bass parts that I’d already written. Did that, and Chris Collins my producer put it together in such a cool way that I knew it was exactly what I wanted, so we recorded it and it felt like years of progress but it’s good. It’s finally out.

HAPPY: How long was that process, start to finish?

RUBY: I wrote those songs when I was sixteen and I’d been playing them in bars and pubs to zero people for years, and then finally I worked hard enough to get the manager I wanted and I’ve known him for ages, and I just started playing better festivals… As soon as that worked out and we released I Want – because I wrote I Want after all the other songs – we just popped the EP out. It started working on itself, so maybe it took nearly four years.

HAPPY: In an interview with triple j last year you talked about building your own guitars and equipment. Why is that important to you?

RUBY: I like building things heaps. I like doing things with my hands for want of a better explanation. I loved Lego when I was a kid and building things, I was always fascinated with puzzles, instructions, putting things together. And logic, I’m like my dad in that way that I like things to be precise and perfect and I like mathematics and physics and everything that goes into building something complicated.

So when I started getting into music I thought “How can I combine all this?” and I thought it would be pretty cool if I could build instruments and fix things as well, I like to have a bit of know-how. Fixing amps and pedals became a pretty big fascination for me.

I started building stuff with my mate’s dad, Freddy. It sucks because the busier we’ve got the less I’ve been able to spend time with him and I’m trying to coordinate a few jobs and music and moving – I’ve been moved out of home for like a year now –  and it seems like there’s a lot going on – just trying to be an adult. I haven’t been able to hang out with him for a while, but we’ve just discussed a huge plan to build a new guitar and do a few other fix-ups and stuff, so hopefully that’ll happen soon. A few cases of beer, a surf in the morning, and build something.

HAPPY: You talked about how you’ve always wanted to build a guitar from scratch – have you done that yet?

RUBY: Not from absolute scratch – absolute scratch meaning literally get a block of wood. So that’s what we’re gonna do in the next few weeks, which will be sick. I can’t wait to debut that guitar.

HAPPY: You do a lot of art and sculpture as well, right?

RUBY: Yeah, like I said, I love doing stuff with my hands. When I was little the first thing I really did was draw and… it’s hard to explain. Draw, paint, sculpt, clay, I love it. So hopefully I’ll be able to do an art show pretty soon, I’ve got a few works in mind so it would be great to get that organised.

HAPPY: Do art and music go hand in hand for you?

RUBY: Yeah, I’m very much about being able to do things by yourself – I’m all about doing my own tour posters and being able to do my own merch and stuff, which is what I’ve done because I like it being… I wasn’t very good at group projects at school, I liked doing everything myself.

Ruby Fields

HAPPY: It’s been just over a year since you released I Want and exploded on triple j. Looking back now, do you think you were ready for that level of attention overnight?

RUBY: I like to think I went about it the right way and I’ve done the right thing since then.

HAPPY: How did you go about it?

RUBY: Not being a dickhead, I think? I don’t know, you just can’t let shit get to your head because as soon as you lose grip on that, you’ve fucked it, you’ve ruined it. I knew that there was a big responsibility on my shoulders for a lot of people involved like my manager, my producer, my bandmates, my parents, I just knew I couldn’t stuff it up. I had to go the right way about it, I had to keep clean and I had to keep straight. Not act like an idiot, play good shows, and be polite to people because I don’t think there is ever an excuse to meet someone else doing music or at a show and not be polite. So I think it’s politeness, efficiency, and professionalism. But also having a sense of humour and trying to have a good time.

RUBY: Did you feel that attention when it started?

HAPPY: Yeah, oath dude! I had thousands of followers when I woke up and I was like “What?!” I remember calling my mum and just going “It worked, I can’t believe it!” She came home straight away, popped a bottle of champagne. Just constant messages, some from people who obviously didn’t give a shit about me in high school and now all of a sudden are like “Wow, that’s incredible!”, and I remember this one girl being like “Must catch up!”, and I was like… “No.. must not”. It was crazy. It was crazy, but it was awesome.

It did get a little bit tiresome when people – well intentioned – would be like “Oh, you’re getting a bit too famous for us now, aren’t you?”, and I’m like “No, I’m not and I’ve never acted like I am.” That’s the one thing that pisses me off probably, when people say something like that and I’m like “dude, I still work at our local pub, and I still do everything I did two years ago, I still hang out with the same people I did two years ago, so I’m not acting in any way different.”

HAPPY: Do you think people expected you to act differently?

RUBY: I think everyone expects anyone who gets a little taste of something to change. It’s that classic stereotypical expectation that someone’s gonna think they’re the shit because they did something. The way I look at it, I still am jealous of my friends that are at uni.

One of my mates is studying to become a primary school teacher and a doctor and I’m like “Fuck that’s so cool!” They actually have their shit together and they study and they time manage. Yes, they’re probably dying of panic attacks all the time but I think that’s so cool and I’m like “Wow, I wish I was at uni and I could have uni friends and do fun things to feel like I deserved them and worked hard to deserve them”, so I don’t think I’ve ever put myself above anyone else in that way. Far out, they’re doing better than me in a lot of ways.

HAPPY: Going back to the EP, which songs are the most personal to you?

RUBY: Definitely Redneck Lullaby, I think that one is a real personal one. And you know what? I reckon that probably is the most relatable one for people because it’s talking about how you’ve been a pretty shoddy excuse for a kid to your parents and you just want to apologise and also let them know… Sorry I’ve got a sneeze coming on… You want to apologise and let them know… It’s gone away… that you understand where they’re coming from but they also need to understand where you’re coming from. I think the best thing was they’re just big kids who had little kids. My sister was twenty when she had her daughter and I’m twenty and I’m like “Fuck!” I can’t survive in this [points to own body], how is something else supposed to?

My mum was twenty when she had my sister and my body clock mustn’t be working because I look at babies and I’m like “Yucckkk, not a chance”. I love sleep and I’m not letting go of that. Fairly Lame Fairly Tame was the first song I wrote in this grunge style so that one has a special little place in my heart.

P Plates has a bit of a special place I guess, because it’s about dating when you’re younger and you figure out what you want and then maybe you meet someone and it is so momentary that you’re like “Was that actually a person I really want to go out with?”, because before everything was situational – it was someone that I met at high school or someone I met from work. But sometimes you actually meet someone at a random location and think maybe that’s that person. That one was a really good one for me because I was really happy with how I wrote it not making it sound like too much of a love song. It was casual but also hinted at emotion which every teenager tries to hide, but we’re all obviously very emo.

Ruby Fields

HAPPY: Have you got many songs that are yet to be recorded?

RUBY: I’ve written over a hundred in my lifetime.

HAPPY: So how did you pick those six for the EP?

RUBY: They were the core ones, they all had similar themes and everything, so I just fit them all together. I kind of wanted it all to tell a story. You can tell from listening to that EP that it’s about a young girl growing up, hating life, the jobs she’s had, the nightclubs she went to, the people she encountered, her relationship with her parents. It tells a story and that why I want it to be like I’m growing up. I want to experiment with different themes through each EP or album, it needs to be progressional and go somewhere.

HAPPY: What do you reckon the next progression will be?

RUBY: Because all of that was teen angst and growing up and parents, I guess the next thing will be about the travelling I’ve been doing and being in the music industry, living out of home, having multiple jobs and the stress of finances and bills and everything like that. Still have that diary entry feel to it, I just want it to be honest. Maybe explore a bit more musicality, I think that would be interesting. The EP is very block-chord straight-up-the-guts kind of chord shit. I’d like to experiment and mess around a bit.

HAPPY: So when the tour’s done, are you jumping straight into recording?

RUBY: Oh yeah, I’m kind of already even thinking about it. I’ve put a fair few songs aside at the moment that I’m a hundred percent happy with, so I think I’m just going to work through it and see how it goes.

Your Dad’s Opinion For Dinner is out now. Check it out on Spotify. And catch her on tour if you can!

Your Dad’s Opinion For Dinner is out now. Check it out on Spotify. And catch her on tourhttps://www.facebook.com/rubyfieldsmusic/app/123966167614127/ if you can!