|I met up with
Ruby on her birthday at the
Linton Music Festival.
You were born in Jamaica and at the age of 9 you moved
with your mother to the UK. What are your first musical
memories growing up in Montego Bay, Jamaica and then
My first musical experience was watching my dad dancing to
Ska and blue beat on the radio. He was having a great time
and he made me laugh.
Your grandfather was a Jamaican gospel singer; would you
say that you came from a musical family - is there a long
Ruby: I think my musical heritage is one part inherited and
the other a desire to show off and make people happy.
Did you always want to become a singer and how did you
get started in music?
Theatre was my first love but then within this creative
world music plays a very big part. So it was there that I
found my voice as they say!
What kind of material were you playing in the early days
and who were your heroes?
My musical diet was very eclectic: Reggae, Blues, Gospel,
R&B, Country; Bob Marley, Bob Dylan, Etta James, Van
Morrison, Aretha Franklin, Gladys Knight, Sam Cooke to name
but a few.
What first attracted you to blues and gospel music and
what do they respectively mean to you?
had a great friend who had the most amazing record
collection. So I heard some wonderful music back then. Hence
I feel in love with the Blues. Gospel I feel is something I
inherited from my Grandfather.
After settling in Birmingham, UK you’ve had many
successes in the theatre - West End musicals, Sheffield
Crucible and Bristol Old Vic productions amongst others. Tel
me about your theatre experience and is this something you
would like to continue to do in the future?
My theatre days were invaluable. You learn so much not only
about the Art itself but about Yourself! Discipline is
paramount in this game. Self-control and hard work. Right
now touring with my own band and Jools Holland Rhythm Blues
Orchestra is great. We can't have everything and theatre is
hard to fit in at this moment. But I hope should the right
thing present itself then maybe I'll be able to do theatre
in the not too distant future.
Your first EP release (‘The Ruby Turner EP with Jonathan
Butler’) got you noticed by the late blues legend Alexis
Korner, spawning a great friendship and a European tour with
Alexis, how did that come about and how was the experience
singing alongside the great man?
My first EP back in the early 80's was put out by my then
manager Gareth Owen. He wrote to Alexis who had a Sunday
evening radio show on BBC Radio 1. Alexis played that record
and then came to see me at a music venue in London. We
became great friends and I miss him even now. Such a
generous lovely talented man. He was loved by all. I made a
call to him before he died, and he was in great spirits and
still positive and full on encouragement which he was always
giving me. He said to me "Oh speaking to my favourite ladies
Tina just called and now you. " It was an honour to know him
and shared great musical times with him.
In the 80’s you then had a major break touring the States
with Culture Club, how did that come about? It must have
been quite an experience coping with a manic touring
Touring with Culture Club back in the 80's was incredible.
They were at the time Britain's biggest pop music export. I
was very fortunate to get that job and can only say George
and I got on very well. I was there to learn and it was an
invaluable lesson to handling life on the road dealing with
busy schedules and getting the job done to the best of your
ability. I still apply those lessons today.
Then your hit album ‘Motown Songbook’ recording alongside
original members of legendary The Four Tops, The Temptations
and Jimmy Ruffin; quite an unusual experience recording
‘covers’ of their songs!
The Motown Songbook album was at the time quite ground
breaking. It was I believe one of the first concept albums,
covering Motown tracks alongside the original artist. The
boss of the Jive record label Clive Calder was streets ahead
of the rest. It was his idea and one which I can say was a
master stroke. I'll always feel a sense of pride working and
being associated with some of the Motown greats.
More recently you’ve been on the big screen in ‘Love
Actually’ and on TV in ‘Holby City’ amongst
others; any more plans to see you on screen?
It's wonderful to have a CV that showcases my varied career.
Musical theatre, TV and my cameo in the film "Love
Actually". Unfortunately we can't have everything and be
everywhere. So for now I'll have to be content with rock and
roll! But you never know, if the right thing comes up, then
maybe I'll be back on the silver screen !
In 2005 you decided to set up your own record label ‘RTR’,
what inspired you to do this, because since then there have
been a series of cracking albums: ‘So Amazing’, ‘Live at
Ronnie Scott’s’ and the gospel album ‘I’m Travelling
Setting up my own label was a case of needs must. I needed
to record again and I was the only person that was going to
make it happen. So I worked hard and got on with pursuing my
purpose. I was encouraged by great friends one being Steve
Winwood who did the same. So I was in good company with
artists setting up their own record company. It's very
liberating and a great sense of achievement. More
importantly the albums I've recorded I'm very proud of
I believe it took 6 years to make ‘So Amazing’, a
very personal and powerful album for you?
Recording 'So Amazing' my first album on my own
record label was just that Amazing ! It proved that an
artist could take control of their own lives in this
business. It took a long time getting there but it was worth
it and the journey continues with the hope of recording many
What inspired you to record your magnificent gospel album
‘I’m Travelling On’ – quite an emotional journey for
you I would think? Are we likely to see more gospel albums?
Ruby: The Gospel album 'I'm Travelling On' was for
me an album of thanksgiving ! I'm grateful for the life and
career I've had. I'm grateful for the family and friends in
my life. And acknowledge the blessings in my life and work.
It was praise and thankfulness that compelled me to make
Who has influenced you the most in your music?
have been influenced by so many and so much. There is not
one thing I can attribute to my musical influence but
everything and every person who is and has been in my life.
Are there any particular songs that you sing that have
special meaning to you?
The songs I sing are choices that I feel I can communicate,
share. Telling the story, food for thought music. So I try
to select my music that resonates with others as well as
How did you first meet Jools Holland and team up with the
fabulous Rhythm & Blues Orchestra?
meet Jools Holland over 20 years ago guesting with his then
not so big band. Now it's the mighty Rhythm & Blues
Orchestra. I love my job and he's the best boss in this
Singing the National Anthem for The Queen at the opening
of the Millennium Dome must have been quite an honour and
That Millennium night was extraordinary, filled with nerves
and excitement. What an honour to sing for Her Majesty and
on the millennium night watched by billions. Well I'm
Looking back on your amazing career so far, what are your
I'm still having fun and hopefully still being creative. I'm
not one for always looking back because I have so much more
to do. So I'm still rolling. Then maybe I'll have time for
memories when I'm through !!
What does the future hold for you: tours / gigs / theatre
/ film / TV / a new album?
Ruby: The future, who knows. Not for us to worry about but
to embrace with vigour and wild abandon. So I'll just keep
working, see what comes along, and try really hard to be
positive and enjoy this life.
you so much Ruby and Happy Birthday !!
bless and thank you.