Some have already spent years in the shadows, waiting for the right moment - others have barely left their bedroom studios. Some aim for headlining festival stages, others aim for nothing in particular – but all of them have developed a sound with the potential to turn a lot of heads. With this feature we shine a light on some of the most interesting emerging new talents our tiny country has to offer.
For most of us, the 20-year-old Ruby Grace will be a name you haven’t heard from - yet. As the Hasselt-native is finishing her final year in college, she dropped a much anticipated first single (Lipgloss) that was essentially avant-garde pop music, yet rough around the edges. The carefully coordinated aesthetic of the sound and music video got a fair bunch of new fans hooked. And for those fans there’s some good news: a full debut EP is hitting the digital shelves very soon. Many things remain somewhat mysterious about her, but one thing is clear: this woman has a distinct vision. In what may be the first interview she ever did, Miss Grace explained to us who she is, what she wants and what we can expect from her in the future.
You previously toured around with your band as a cover group. Is this where you got the taste for more? Or did you know you wanted to go solo for a long time already?
"It’s something I wanted from the very beginning, but I needed to get some on-stage experience alongside other people first. It began with over 2 years of street performances in Hasselt, just me and a friend who played the guitar. After spending some time performing like that, other booking enquiries started pouring in slowly. We mostly performed Amy Winehouse or Black Eyed Peas covers, and although I really enjoyed doing these, I knew I was set on bringing my own thing sooner than later. Being part of a band is great fun, but I was steadily forming my own vision, which strayed away in another direction."
And then you met Pieter-Jan from Hook Studio, who now produces the music for you. What made you guys hit it off?
"I met him when we did a show in the small town he had just moved to – we were the opening act for Belle Perez. He had read about us in the local newspaper and wanted to see what we could bring. After the show he asked if I was interested in testing out a few tracks with him. At first, I was really sceptical, but I gave it a shot. It turned out we were both tuned in on the same frequency and he really believed in my potential. I didn’t want to make just ‘soul music’, because that’s what I had been doing mostly up until that point. I wanted to incorporate different influences, something a tad more extraordinary: combining a soul voice with electro-pop. Pieter-Jan nailed it every time, he always knows exactly what kind of instrumentals I want. We’re a great team!"
Tell us a little bit about the process of making the upcoming EP. How long did it take you to find what you were looking for?
"All in all, we worked on the EP for over a year – with studio sessions every week. In my opinion that’s a little long because the songs themselves didn’t take that long. We just spend too much time finishing up the final touches. But I’m here to learn and now I know we’ll have to manage to be more efficient!"
"I actually wrote ‘Lipgloss’ on the train"
How do you usually make a new song? What comes first: the instrumental or the lyrics?
"Usually I have some ideas written down in the notes of my mobile phone – I actually wrote ‘Lipgloss’ on the train – and then I ask Pieter-Jan to send me a couple of his productions. Afterwards we spend weekends in the studio. After a back-and-forth feedback loop, a result we both like will always stick out."
Do you usually get inspired for lyrics by the music? Or do you have a subject in mind first for which you want to find the right track?
"I do have my mind set on a certain theme before I start writing. To me, the theme of a track in general is more important than the actual lyrics, which don’t need to be deep to be good. A theme allows you to use metaphors, analogies and pseudonyms as opposed to more hands-on lyrics which can be too taken a bit too seriously. So, yes, the stuff I write could sometimes be perceived as a little simple, but they always have a substantiated meaning to me."
Visual art direction clearly is an important part of your plan too, right?
"Artists that embrace a clear visual identity just have a bigger impact - it complements the music. The end result just looks a lot better that way. By developing this part of my act myself, people will know what to expect when come to see my show. Music videos are obviously very important here. Artists that have this in mind always leave a great impression on me."
"Kali Uchis or Charli XCX for example. Both have an incredibly loyal fanbase because of their strong artistic identities. It’s more about just the music with them: their lyrics, their videos, their productions, their artwork: everything fits together so well."
Is the music video of ‘Lipgloss’ a sneak peek of what we can expect from you in the future?
"Yes, it is. Bente Pompen, the art director, only just graduated (I think this even was her very first job), but she did an amazing job. I already had a certain idea, but the whole concept of depicting this ‘Garden of Eden’ setting came from her. That said, I need to give a shout out to Karla Q Leon, who absolutely nailed the make-up. It was just a lot of fun to see all these young and motivated people working together on the same vision."
This video was your first real move in the music industry. How did people react?
"I have to admit; it feels a little weird when people you don’t know share your video all over the place! But in a good way, of course. A lot of people around me knew I was making music, but they were surprised nonetheless when they saw this clip. I think because of the fact most people weren’t expecting this change of style, compared to what I was doing before. Maybe also because I was busy with my cover band, people didn’t expect me to be working on something other than that behind the scenes. I loved the surprise effect it had!"
What kind of artistic career do you hope to accomplish one day?
"In 10 years, I want to be able to show that I stayed true to my vision. Being able to play big shows and radio stations without making compromises really is the ultimate goal for me. I want this to be my career."