At age 5 Ruth Theodore was told that she would never physically be able to play guitar and following a sledging accident, aged 9, that left her unable to speak, singing and playing the guitar were unexpected career choices. Yet by the age of 14 Ruth was earning money as a singer and guitarist, playing in music bars and venues almost every night of the week. Free from knowing the names of the strings, Ruth’s guitar playing and use of unconventional techniques and unique tuning structure has bewildered guitarists ever since. Composing and arranging all of her music by ear Ruth can be heard in recent recordings applying her own unique style to Piano.
Ruth started creating her own music as a teenager, teaching herself guitar and busking on Southampton High Street, when staying in the doorway of a branch of WHSmiths. It was a happy time for Ruth and here that she met her ‘muse’ who would walk past and listen to Ruth sing and who Ruth has written about ever since. Ruth also recalls being persuaded by the owner of a music shop to set up all the stringed instruments and showcase them in store for a whopping £2 an hour.
Moving to London in 2006 in search of music, Ruth slept (secretly) beneath a workbench in an artist’s workshop, which years later, she and a team of musicians transformed into a recording studio.
Following the recording and release of the first of her three self-produced records; Wormfood, through River Rat Records, Ruth moved on to a tiny narrow boat with no heating or electricity on the River Lea in East London. This has been her home for the last 10 years.
The river and the land on which she moors have been a great source of inspiration, and keen to continue creating on the water Ruth has single-handedly converted a larger boat into a studio space which has become the base for her band and other local musicians and is now home to one of the most unique and truly intimate house concert music events in London.
Her subsequent albums; White Holes Of Mole Hills (2010) and Dear Lamp Love Moth (2013), have received critical acclaim from the UK media, with reviews running in The Guardian & The Observer, whilst also achieving national radio play on BBC Radio3 and BBC 6 music, alongside rave reviews in music magazines Mojo, Q, fRoots and more.
When Ruth started the search for a producer to collaborate with on a fourth album she came to the attention of Todd Sickafoose who had recently produced Anais Mitchell’s widely acclaimed ‘Hadestown’. Not coincidentally Todd divides his time between production work and playing bass for American Folk legend Ani DiFranco for whom Ruth opened two solo London shows in 2012. The fruits of that collaboration, an album named “Cactacus”, is released on September 23rd in a collaboration between River Rat and Aveline Records.
The record at its core features Ruth’s distinguishable songwriting style and honest lyricism. Her voice, guitar and piano, cocooned in soulful male backing vocals contribute a deliberate sexual tension, most prevalent in the abstract and moody ‘The Carcass And The Pride’. Theodore’s string and vocal arrangements are deliberate and dramatic whilst Sickafoose softens her edges with depth and texture for listeners to reach out and touch. Songs such as ‘Everything is Temporary’ and ‘Loop Hole’ refer back to Ruth’s much loved patch of land in Hackney and ’Scavengers’ is a playful but fierce social comment on the rapid influx of privilege to the arts in East London. ‘You Can’t Help Who You Love’ tells the story of a battle with cancer from the perspective of the carer which was four years in the writing, where as Kissing in Traffic and Wishbone are just out and out love songs.