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RUTHANNE: The Irish Singer-Songwriter Talks Going Out on Her Own, Women in Music, and her Brand New EP.

RuthAnne is behind some of pop's biggest hits. But now she's ready to go it on her own.

POSTEDBYCIARàN HOWLEY

RuthAnne Cunningham has been working in the music industry for a long time. For anyone looking to crack the songwriting biz, take it from her that it takes time, dedication and perseverance.

The thirty-five year old songwriter, born and raised in Ireland but now based in London, has written for the best of the best, including Britney Spears (‘Work Bitch’), Niall Horan (‘Slow Hands’) and the smash-hit ‘Too Little Too Late’ by Jordan when she was just 17 years old. 

In 2019, she became a Grammy nominee for her writing skills on the John Legend-helmed track ‘No Place Like a Home’ and doesn’t plan on stopping there. 

RuthAnne was gracious enough to sit down with us at Fizzy Mag and tell us all about the ups and downs of the industry, her experiences as a songwriter and continuing her solo career with her new EP ‘The Way I Love You.’ 

Welcome RuthAnne! You’ve just released your new EP, ‘The Way I Love You.’ Was it exciting to put out new music? 

It’s always so exciting releasing new music and I’m so proud of this EP and I’m so happy it’s now out in the world!! And the EP is really a follow on from where my first album finished and the songs mean a lot to me.

The title track has a very empowering message about self-worth and getting out of bad situations. How important is that to you as an artist? 

Yeah, I definitely feel when I was in my 20s in L.A and I was navigating and learning the music industry for the first time, I was very vulnerable and put in a lot of toxic work situations. As a woman, it was difficult to be heard. There was misogyny, the ‘boys club’, everything. It’s the same with relationships - when you’re younger you accept more. When you grow up you realize, hang on I’m not going to accept that behavior.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve gotten more stronger in who I am as a woman, what I’ll accept in all my relationships. Particularly, keeping my mental health good, we can get drained by certain situations. So I wrote this song to basically be an anthem for walking away from anything that doesn’t serve you. It can sound like a love song but it applies to anything, when you finally get the strength to walk away from. Even though change is always scary, the message of the song is 'you’ll walk away and you’ll be ok'. The best thing I ever did was walk away from those situations. 

How are you feeling now that we’re emerging from lockdown? Did Covid-19 impact you a lot? 

I had been doing a lot of shows before Covid hit and I loved being on stage. It's such a huge part of being an artist and connecting with audiences and entertaining people is so important to me so I've really missed it. The stage for me is home, it’s where I’m most comfortable so I’m so glad that shows and tours are finally coming back. I’m also excited to go and see gigs and seeing my favorite artists perform live. 

How did you find yourself in the songwriting business?

After I finished my exams, I went straight to L.A. I was seventeen, I think. So the day after my Leaving Cert I was on a plane to Los Angeles. My mum told me “you can’t go until you have your Leaving Cert," she wanted me to have my education. I went literally the day after, there was an Irish manager who brought me over. He had an office out there and an apartment, so I stayed with his family. My parents were happy it was safe, so the day after my exams I flew out. 

That’s crazy. Such a big decision too, was it daunting or did you feel ready? 

I think when you’re younger you have less fears. You’re untainted, undamaged and nothing’s really affected you. I was quite sheltered, we didn’t travel much because we didn’t have a lot of money. I’d never been to America so I was just really excited. I had a feeling it was where I needed to be, but then of course there was a huge culture shock. Especially Hollywood, it’s just completely different from Ireland. But I got used to it over the years. 

So from Dublin to Los Angeles and now onto London.  Does Ireland still have a place in your heart? 

Ireland is always my home and where my heart is. I think that for me there just weren’t enough opportunities there in music, for women especially. I wanted to be around the best mentors, songwriters, musicians and producers and there was just such a huge pool of talent in L.A and London. But Ireland is always home to my heart, but I live in London now which is like a second home. 

 

And you’ve definitely achieved that, you’ve worked with a lot of names. Martin Garrix, Niall Horan and you wrote for the Britney song. Have you any favorite experiences, or people you’d love to collaborate with again? 

Ooh, it’s hard to pick a favorite experience. Every song I’ve made with an artist has its own story or journey, so it’s hard to pick. I really loved working with Niall for his first two albums, I’ve always loved writing with him and he’s from Ireland as well so that always felt quite comfortable. Obviously having Britney release one of my songs and perform it at the Vegas shows was just unreal. They’ve all been amazing experiences, it’s like picking a favorite child. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by RuthAnne (@thisisruthanne)

 

How do you find the songwriting process? 

I’ve never really struggled with writer’s block. Being creative in a creative job means that some days the flow will just be there, and other days it might be more of a struggle. I think the main thing I’ve learned is when to step away. It shouldn’t be a struggle, it should be something that comes from inspiration, not desperation. I always write down things people say in my everyday life, from ordinary conversations, and any concepts or melodies I find interesting. It’s all about trusting the process and whenever I thought I was going to burn out, I just go live, be in nature and see the world. To be a great artist, you have to experience things to write about. 

During the 2020 lockdown, you were instrumental in putting together the collective Irish Women in Harmony to raise funds in aid of domestic violence. Was that an important moment for you in your career? 

I think so, especially as I had the idea during the first lockdown, and a lot of people have asked me where the idea came from and how I got all these women together. If I hadn’t gotten the chance to slow down and have time, we never would’ve done it. Everyone’s schedules really aligned because we were all going through the same thing and we wanted to help an Irish charity and domestic abuse victims. Getting to sing with all these amazing Irish female artists like Imelda May and Lisa Hannigan, who I’m very influenced by, highlighting upcoming talent and to have produced this mammoth project - I didn’t sleep for about a week - was a moment I’m incredibly proud of. It’s important for all Irish female artists to know you can work with women, you can lift each other up, it’s not you versus me. 

How did the project come about? Is there any significance behind the song ‘Dreams’ by the Cranberries. 

It came about during lockdown, but also because I started seeing there wasn’t a lot of Irish female representation in the media, in the press and on the radio. That was something that became very obvious during lockdown, there aren’t enough female artists getting the platform they deserve. It was a twofold idea; if I get all these great artists together, we should use our voice for a good cause. We should cover a song that pays homage to a female artist and writer. So I immediately started to call all these artists, “I don’t know if you know who I am but I’d like to do a cover…” and eventually the message started spreading. One of the artists, Erika Cody, said “what about ‘Dreams’”.

I listened back to it to see how I’d produce it and I got goosebumps - I immediately knew what it was going to sound like. It was the one. I loved the lyrics, it made a lot of sense for what we were trying to do and then we just got to work! Producing it, I wanted it to sound smooth and radio-friendly but not a karaoke version. When I sent it back, all the girls were really happy with it and we got the blessing of the Cranberries. Then when it went viral and we got the public’s reaction, I was just very blown away. We raised a quarter of a million for Safe Ireland and raised the platforms of some incredible artists. 

In light of MeToo, TimesUp and even FreeBritney, do you think there’s been a turning point for women working in the industry, or is there still a long way to go? 

I think that change is already happening. With change, there’s always a period where it feels slower but I think awareness is the number one thing. In the last few years, I’ve definitely felt people become more aware, even men that I’ve worked with. “Oh, have you ever felt like that, did I make you feel like that?” Even male songwriters and producers being a lot more aware there has been abuse of power. I think artists like Billie Eilish coming out with ‘Your Power’ and the FreeBritney Movement, it’s amazing to see people speak up and speak out. I already can see changes happening, obviously there’s a lot more to be done, but it’s good to see the movement is embraced. 

What's next for RuthAnne. Can you tease us about any upcoming projects or collabs in the making?

I have a song I wrote for Diana Ross coming out on Oct 5th called ‘I Still Believe’ I’m really excited about that because she’s such an icon! So to be a part of her new album is a dream come true, and I have some collaborations coming up which will all be revealed soon. And I’m hoping to get back to doing live shows in 2022. 

Check out RuthAnne's smashing new EP here. 

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