Interview by Ceri Wheeldon
I felt extremely privileged to have the opportunity to interview R&B legend Ruby Turner MBE. What energy!!
Ruby has released 20 solo albums during her career and has worked with some of the biggest names in music including Mick Jagger and Bryan Ferry and Jools Holland Her latest project is writing and performing the theme song for a new film called The Host. This is what Ruby had to say when I caught up with her during Lockdown.
You’ve had a fabulous career. How did you get started?
I have been so fortunate and had an amazing time for more than thirty years with my music, the theatre, acting. I always found joy in singing and sang in the BBC Arena back in 1977. A friend found some old footage recently and sent it to me. I looked like a child- my voice was so pure, but it reaffirmed who I am. I had no plan , no pre-conceived ideas. I just had the best time mixing with wonderful people and singing. Opportunities found me. I had a regular Nine to Five job in customer services for 9 years. When I was invited on tour with Culture Club my boss kept me on the payroll in case things didn’t work out. It was a small company and they were incredibly supportive.
It wasn’t until 1984 that I had my big break in terms of a record deal. I got an album out – I did 4 in total, and had a number one R&B hit in the States.
I always stayed as ‘me’. Never became part of group have always been Ruby Turner.
Being part of history
You have sung at events which have been moments in UK history
I have – the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and also at the Millennium Stadium where I sang the new version of the National Anthem. I had the Welsh Choir behind me and the Queen, Prime Minister and my Mum in front of me! A proud moment
Have things slowed down for you as you’ve got older?
Not at all. Up until Lockdown I was busier than ever. I was touring Europe and had a cruise event planned. I have always kept working . My diary was so full I could barely look at it.
Has your flexibility been a key to your career longevity?
I was given advice early on to have different irons in the fire. I’ve had my music, theatre work, voiceovers, animation. I had to be competent in all of them. When opportunities presented themselves I took advantage of them. If little was happening I have never been one to sit at home and moan and whine, waiting for things to happen. You have to make things happen.
Your latest film , The Host
You are featured in a film just being released called The Host. What is your role in that?
I had a part in the film and I also wrote the theme track. When I arrived on set , due to running out of time my part had changed – and they decided they wanted me to sing the theme track that day instead. The problem was that it wasn’t written. I had a co-writer that I had sent my ideas to but nothing had happened. I had to take myself to a hotel, with my laptop and write the song. I had read the script , and had a melody in my head and so wrote the lyrics. Chasing Love was the result. I was filmed singing it in a nightclub scene that day, and recorded the song in the studio the next day. The clothes they had for filming didn’t fit – but I had a dress I had bought in the sale in Monsoon with me – so I wore that for the scene. There was pressure and it was all bizarre but I did it and showed myself what I could do. I had to deliver. It shows what you can do when you put your mind to it!
How much of a factor did your experience play in this situation. Is it something you could have coped with earlier in your career?
Absolutely. I couldn’t have done this when I was younger. I had been on a film set before (Love Actually) . I knew what I had to deliver and play my part on the day. Experience counts for a lot.
Do you think you will ever retire?
No!! Although with Lockdown it has enforced a taste of retirement! In fact I hadn’t realised how exhausted I was until I stopped. I’ve been enjoying my garden, watching things grow, listening to the birds. Although for five weeks every waking moment was focussed on my brother who lives in New York and contracted Covid 19. It was touch and go, and of course I couldn’t go there. There was a lot of pressure – a very different sort of pressure to the pressure of work. I had to relay on calling people – I have two family members who are frontline workers that could explain things to me. He has turned the corner – although lost two and a half stone in weight. He has been given a second chance – I’m just coming back to normality.
But no, I won’t retire but don’t know when I’ll work again – theatres and music venues will be the last to go back. We will have to be patient and wait until its safe to go into enclosed spaces again.
I am writing poetry and music and coming up with ideas for films!
How would you sum up this time of your life?
I think at the moment with the pandemic and with Black Lives Matter we are creating our own history. I have to think about what is my contribution at this moment in time. What sort of music should we play. I am digging deep physically, mentally and spiritually.
We have to think about how we react to those around us. Stay close to friends and family. This a period of self realisation. I wrote a song a while ago called A Better Way, which is on my latest album, Love Was Here. I think it sums up where we are today. We need to make the best of ourselves as we make history. We can all be champions for Positive Change.
Ruby can currently be seen (and heard) in The Host.