Ruth is a Pacific Northwest band headed by chief songwriter Dustin Ruth. They’ve toured with the likes of Relient K, Switchfoot and Emery. Ruth has built a solid base of rabid fans and undeniable songs. Soundtrack sat with the band recently for this very informative interview.
ST: Where are you from and how has that influenced your music?
Ruth: I was born in California but grew up in Washington state in a small town called Brush Prairie about 20 mins from Portland OR. So I guess I got a bit of a countryside upbringing, but still had the city of Portland to go to shows and check out bands and artists. There were lots of bands when I was in high school learning to play and write that were making names for themselves around Portland. Everclear, Dandy Warhols, Elliott Smith, later on it was the Shins, and nowadays the Decemberists. Seattle is only 150 miles from my home as well so when tours would skip Portland a lot of times we’d catch them in Seattle. I’d say the Northwest produces a lot of my favorite music genres. There’s a lot of heart behind the songwriting from here. In other words most of the bands from Seattle or Portland that made big names for themselves did it on passionate writing. Less about gimmicks. I’d say that idea of believing what you’re singing was influential.
ST: What did MTV mean to you growing up? What does it mean to you now?
Ruth: MTV meant TRL growing up. That and the Real World. It was a peephole into life after high school. I would watch shows like TRL and dream about what was possibly in store for me and my music when I got out of high school. I was never the “Indie Cred” dreamer. I wanted to write music that I thought everyone including the jocks and cheerleaders might like.
ST: Who are some of your biggest musical influences and why?
Ruth: Like most people, the band and I go through phases on what we listen to. We all used to be real big on Third Eye Blind, early Everclear, Nirvana, Foo Fighters back in the 90’s. While on the road we listen to a lot of Radiohead, The Shins, your standards like Johnny Cash, Neil Young, Tom Petty and The Beatles, but I think the band that takes the trophy for most time in our van’s cd player while on the road would be Weezer. The Weezer record we spent the most time listening to hands down would be Maladroit. We love the guitar tones on Maladroit. That record inspired myself and the Nick (the lead guitar player) to really think about what pedals and amps and guitars that we were using to record. The funny thing is most of that record was recorded on a Gibson Explorer with mini hum buckers and most of our stuff was being recorded on a Gibson Firebird with mini hum buckers. I think naturally we were drawn to those tones. I don’t know of any other record with guitars that sound as good as that Weezer record.
ST: If you could work with one artist dead or alive, who would it be?
Ruth: I think I would work with Ethan Johns (the producer). As far as I know he’s still very much alive. I first heard of him in about 2002/2003 when Ryan Adams first solo record came out “Heartbreaker”. The production on that record was amazing. I love how it’s mixed as well. Very up front vocals. After that I bought several records just because he produced them, a Kings of Leon record and a Leona Naess record. I think Ryan Adams and Ethan Johns probably had a bit more chemistry than what I’ve heard on other records he’s done. That being said, it’d be a tight race between him and Sir Paul McCartney.
ST: If your music was a food, what would it be and why?
Ruth: I think if Ruth’s music was a food it’d have to be a McDonalds happy meal. All American, universally enjoyable, and there’s always a quirky bit to it, like the toy you get.
ST: Real World or Jersey Shore?
Ruth: Old school Real World. Like 90’s Real World.
ST: If you could be known for only one of your songs, which would you choose and why?
Ruth: If I had to choose one “Ruth” song that has been recorded for people to know it’d probably be “Want to be Alone” off Payola. Any band person that you ask that question is most likely going to give you a song off their most current release because you’re always most excited about what’s new. However, there are some songs I’ve written for the next Ruth release that myself and the band are really excited about. So I’m sure that answer will change.
++ Interview by Jaron Lum