Meet Ruby Sue, the third of our Unsigned 2023 singer-songwriters. They share their musical journey so far, including how they’ve decided not to look back at anger and just roll with it after a piano incident at a festival.
The 22-year-old from Norwich is currently studying a Music Performance BA at Nottingham Trent University, but their course is based at Access Creative College Norwich, where they did a Level 3 Music Performance course.
Ruby Sue also volunteers with local music therapy charity Musical Keys, which they have been doing for a year-and-a-half. They help with four sessions each week and aspire to work as a Music Therapist in addition to performing and recording their music. Ruby Sue picks up the story.
I was brought up in a world filled with music. My parents were in a band and my first memories are of listening to songs by artists such as Sheryl Crow and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, both of which still inspire me.
I’ve been writing and performing from a young age but have been professionally writing and performing since 2018. Writing comes quite naturally to me. I use it to channel how I feel, as a coping mechanism, I guess.
My inspirations vary depending on my mood and what I’m enjoying at the time. My current favourites are The Cranberries, Kodaline and P!NK.
Growing up in a musical family, I was often taken to gigs and to see my dad play. I loved the feeling of being in the crowd and absorbing the atmosphere and music and just wanted to provide that feeling for other people.
When I’m performing, I feel so content. There’s a definite adrenaline rush, but it’s a comforting feeling and I just feel like I’m in my happy place, my home away from home.
One of the first times I performed was when I was about eight and I sung Abba’s Thank You For The Music at a pub for my dad’s birthday.
I remember being so excited to sing what was my favourite song at the time, and I was buzzing afterwards. More recently though, I recall the first time I played a festival in May 2019. I was quite nervous in the week leading up to it but ended up having a great time.
Oh boy… I played a set at a local festival in 2019. It was a beautiful day, and the crowd was singing along to my cover of Don’t Look Back In Anger by Oasis. Suddenly, my keyboard stand began to slowly slide. I had to hunch down with the keyboard as it gave out and it eventually collapsed as I reached the end of the song.
I had to laugh because it was pretty funny, but my heart was racing in the moment.
I mainly gig in Norwich and used to be a regular at The Brickmakers and Gringos. But I’ve played across the UK; the most recent being Nottingham where I will be moving in September.
The biggest crowd I have played so far was 150 people in Derbyshire at Rock ‘N’ Bike Fest 2019. One of my favourite gigs was in 2022, when I supported Pet Needs in Reading. It was a super intimate gig, and everyone had such a great time.
You may have also seen me play Latitude Festival’s Inbetweeners Stage in 2020 when it was hosted online.
My friends and family really are the best support network I could ask for. My mom is my chauffeur and the very best roadie. Along with the rest of my family, who have supported me and my music unconditionally.
My dad is responsible for my music tech addiction and has always been supportive, especially when it comes to providing me with guitars. The most recent addition to my support network is my stepdad, who is brilliant and is even featured on one of my records.
My nana is my absolute biggest fan and is admirably patient with me when I play her songs that I’m working on. She is always honest with me, which I really value. I’m also lucky to have incredible friends that never fail to show up to my gigs and learn the words to my songs.
I currently have two singles out, both which were released on all streaming platforms (Spotify, YouTube, Deezer etc) in 2020. I learnt a lot from the experience, especially with the first, Prove You Wrong.
Although it’s special because it was my first release, there are parts of the arrangement that I would change if I could go back. I didn’t have the confidence or skills to efficiently communicate with the production team. I have since developed these skills and I’m definitely not afraid to speak up now.
I found out about Unsigned on Facebook in 2021, just after the applications had closed. I decided I would apply for the next round in 2022, which I did.
I also know a few people who had done the programme previously and really enjoyed it, such as Amelia from Amelia and The Lovefools. After talking to her about her success with the course, I was even more inspired to do it myself.
I would say that my biggest strength is confidence with performing (anti stage-fright, almost?). I don’t really feel anxious nerves before going on stage, which is quite comforting. I just get excited.
I’m also pretty good at continuing to play if I mess up and I’m able to carry it off by making it part of the song. My biggest weakness at the moment is struggling to find my artist persona and image. I think it comes naturally as a pressure of social media. I’m definitely finding my way though.
Another struggle at the moment is songwriting. I seem to be having trouble with finishing songs, which I think is due to the pressures from studying for my degree. I’m confident that I will overcome this too.
My main focus with the Unsigned tutors is to devise a release plan for my EP, which I’m working on currently and it’s going well. The combined experience and expertise of Millie Manders and Emma O’Reilly has been really helpful so far.
We are also working on my stage presence and keeping focus while performing, which is something I have struggled with for a while.
After Unsigned, I plan to move to Nottingham for the third year of my degree, while gigging more and collaborating with others. I would love to play my songs with a band behind me at some point, but I do enjoy being a solo artist most of the time.
After Nottingham, I plan to move somewhere else in the UK to do a Masters in Music Therapy.
The Unsigned project is funded by Youth Music and the Norfolk Music Hub. We launched it to give up-and-coming young band or solo artists aged 16-25 the chance to take their music, performance and professional skills to the next level with the help of experienced professionals.
It includes public performance opportunities, one-to-one rehearsal sessions, individual / band feedback, the opportunity to record demos, marketing and promotion sessions and more.
The programme is free but spaces are limited. To be considered for selection, please send links to your music, any performance footage, a bit about yourself and why you’d like to take part to firstname.lastname@example.org
Our friendly front of house team are happy to answer any questions. Give them a call on 01603 283382 or email email@example.com.
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