Photos by Claudia Smith
Being a prepubescent kid doesn’t provide a huge amount of life experience for songwriting material, so Ruby Fields says that her younger self liked to “hypothesise” instead.
“I wrote a song on a ukulele when I was 12-years-old about having a night out on the town and having money in my wallet—two things of which I’d never experienced,” she laughs. Several years on, Ruby was playing at pubs during the week, hating high school and watching a lot of anime. She decided to pen angst-ridden indie rock belter “I Want”, and share it online. The response was instantaneous and, in a short 24 hours, Australia was acquainted with a young musician named Ruby Fields. That a 19-year-old could weave so much raw energy and brutal honesty through any song, let alone her debut single, signalled to many that Ruby was one to keep an eye on. “It’s a pretty cool song to release first off because I’m going to look back on it in 20 years and be like, ‘Oh right, I used to be heaps emo about everything,’” says Ruby.
Sitting in a local gallery space in Ruby’s hometown of Cronulla, south of Sydney, it’s clear why her music is only one part of why she’s formed an extremely strong fan base in an extremely short period of time. She’s instantly likeable, intelligent and speaks with the same openness about her failed flings as she does of her fondness for Shia LaBeouf and Lego.
It’s a similar kind of honesty you’ll find in her lyrics; coming-of-age truths that capture both her dry sense of humour (“Cause you know that I’m just a bird with picky taste, who has taken a liking to your face”) and the insecurities that comes with being on the verge of adulthood (“I wanna be someone who doesn’t smoke for a false sense of validation”).
But Ruby’s well aware that she can only write about being pissed off at her parents and driving around on a restricted license for so long, for the simple fact that she’s not going to be a teenager forever. “I want my music to be this transitional thing where you can physically hear the changes of how I’ve grown up over time,” she says, adding that her current EP, Your Dad’s Opinion For Dinner, hopefully achieves that. “I’ve written songs about moving out of home, driving to central Australia by myself, things I want to be doing, things I’m not doing…talking about how difficult it can be, being the youngest person I know that does anything in this industry,” Ruby explains.
Aside from her most recent release, Ruby’s spent the last few years involved in another project, this time under the watchful eye of her mate’s dad, retired quantum engineer Freddy. He’s pretty picky when it comes to the students he lets into his guitar workshop—in fact, Ruby’s his only one. “His sons don’t want to do it, so I’m like the only person he can pass the legacy onto,” Ruby says. “He’s never wanted to teach anyone else before me.”
For the past six years, Ruby’s been learning the craft of repairing and building guitars and pedals from her mentor with the aim to one day make her own instrument from scratch. Nothing flash, she says, just “simple and honest with the best sound possible”. If you want to see Ruby get really animated, ask her how to properly restring a guitar; when prompted for a few trade secrets, she demonstrates in the air for a couple of minutes, imparting knowledge she’s been taught that no-one else knows, “not even my guitar-wizz mates.”
With the countless books of notes she’s amassed from years in the workshop, Ruby’s putting together an encyclopaedia of all the tricks and tips of the art. It’ll take ages, she admits, but it’ll come in handy for her desire to be on the road one day with some of her favourite bands, looking after their guitars and sorting out any “corpo kinks”.
She laughs when I ask her to tell me about her own guitar and tells me that while it’s really impressive to look at, some people like to point out that she keeps it on the same setting the whole time she plays. “I’m like, ‘Yeah arsehole, I fucken know that. I’m not good enough to play it, I’m just excited that I got to help prepare it.’”
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