By Sheena Barnett/NEMS Daily Journal
Rather than fantasize about proms and dream dates, 16-year-old Ruby Jane thinks about fiddles and microphones and writing music that takes over the world.
Every day, her dreams are coming more of a reality. The Columbus native moved from her hometown to music mecca Austin, Texas, three years ago with her mom, and the opportunities for her have increased tenfold.
“We just kinda fell in love with Austin,” she said in a phone interview. “We parked here in the RV, and we didn’t leave, and it’s been an amazing three years.”
Fiddle was Ruby Jane’s first instrument and love, and there in Texas, she found kindred spirits.
Not long after arriving in Austin, Ruby Jane met Ray Benson, bandleader for Grammy-winning Texas swing band Asleep at the Wheel.
“I started playing with them, and then he introduced me to Willie Nelson, and then I started doing tours with Willie, and Lyle Lovett, and Bob Schneider, and I just started playing with a whole bunch of different people.”
All of these folks have influenced Ruby Jane’s music and her career.
“There’s a whole slew of amazing musicians here in Austin, so I just kinda started doing my own shows, and finding musicians to play with. Over the last couple of years I’ve been focusing on my music,” she said.
Ruby Jane’s sound – captured on her first EP, out now, and a live record – is her focus right now.
“I listen to and am influenced by a whole variety of musicians and artists, not just country,” she said. “The music I write and the music I perform is a big melting pot. It’s a big combination of all these different genres.”
Ruby Jane’s music is indeed a melting pot, leaning towards country but with strong influences of folk, jazz, blues, swing and rock.
In her voice and in her fiddling, she sounds mature and sure of herself. Never in her songs does she sound like she’s trying to be a grown-up. Even on the prison ballad “Pitter Patter,” she doesn’t sound like a hardened criminal, but the granddaughter of the Folsom prisoner who once shot a man just to watch him die. And that’s how it should be.
“I want my music to appeal to rock fans, to pop fans, to country fans, to blues fans,” she said.
Ruby Jane is taking her live show on the road, stopping in Oxford for a night.
“I’m a high-energy person to begin with. When it’s a place for me where I can be myself and express myself, I jump around and get excited. My shows are always very high energy, and very different,” she said.
She said she has fun changing up her songs from night to night. The Oxford show will require a bit of a change, anyway, because it’s just Ruby Jane and her guitarist.
“It’s not gonna be mellow singer-songwriter stuff,” she said. “It’s gonna be a cool and unique Ruby Jane show that I haven’t done before.”
Touring is the focus of 2011. Ruby Jane has a roster of tour dates to meet, as well as a stint at Lollapalooza.
She also hopes to record a full-length album.
Beyond this year, Ruby Jane hopes her music can be heard outside her home state of Mississippi and her adopted state, Texas.
“I really have always had the dream of really influencing the world with my music,” she said, “and really, whatever God brings in my path along the way to reaching that goal, I’ll just kinda go with.”
Hear her live show
– Who: Ruby Jane
– When: 9 p.m. Tuesday
– Where: Proud Larry’s, Oxford
– Cost: $8
– Info: proudlarrys.com
– Extra: Ruby Jane will also
perform at the Folk Alliance in
Memphis, Feb. 17-19. Visit folkalliance.
org for info.