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Early Blues Interview
Ruby Turner

Soul singer, songwriter and TV, radio, film and theatre actress

Ruby Turner © Copyright 2013 Alan White. All Rights Reserved.
Ruby Turner at The Linton Festival © Copyright 2013 Alan White. All Rights Reserved.


"Soul, Gospel, and R&B : Ruby Turner is truly the genuine article. Blessed with a voice that can breathe life and meaning into any song, whether it be a passionate ballad or a fast groove"
   - The Guardian


I met up with Ruby on her birthday at the Linton Music Festival.

Alan:  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 Birmingham, UK? 

Ruby:  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. 

Alan:  Your grandfather was a Jamaican gospel singer; would you say that you came from a musical family - is there a long musical heritage?

Ruby:  I think my musical heritage is one part inherited and the other a desire to show off and make people happy. 

Alan:  Did you always want to become a singer and how did you get started in music? 

Ruby:  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! 

© Copyright 2013 Alan White. All Rights Reserved.Alan:  What kind of material were you playing in the early days and who were your heroes? 

Ruby:  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. 

Alan:  What first attracted you to blues and gospel music and what do they respectively mean to you? 

Ruby:  I 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. 

Alan:  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? 

Ruby:  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. 

Alan:  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? 

Ruby:  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. 

Alan:  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 schedule? 

Ruby:  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. 

© Copyright 2013 Alan White. All Rights Reserved.Alan:  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! 

Ruby:  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. 

Alan:  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? 

Ruby:  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 ! 

Alan:  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 On’. 

Ruby:  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 making. 

Alan:  I believe it took 6 years to make ‘So Amazing’, a very personal and powerful album for you? 

Ruby:  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 more. 

Alan:  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 this album. 

Alan:  Who has influenced you the most in your music? 

Ruby:  I 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. 

Alan:  Are there any particular songs that you sing that have special meaning to you? 

Ruby:  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 myself. 

© Copyright 2013 Alan White. All Rights Reserved.Alan:  How did you first meet Jools Holland and team up with the fabulous Rhythm & Blues Orchestra? 

Ruby:  I 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 music industry. 

Alan:  Singing the National Anthem for The Queen at the opening of the Millennium Dome must have been quite an honour and experience? 

Ruby:  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 humbled. 

Alan:  Looking back on your amazing career so far, what are your fondest memories? 

Ruby:  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 !!  

Alan:  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.

Alan:  Thank you so much Ruby and Happy Birthday !!

Ruby:  God bless and thank you.



RTR Productions: RTR003

"Take one of the finest voices around and marry that to some great gospel blues songs, keep it pared back to the absolute minimum of instruments and production, and you end up with this wonderful CD. It really is about as close to perfect as you could ever want..."
- Graeme Scott


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