Answers by Ruby Watson
Remember the name Ruby Watson. Whether talking about the meaning of life, the nature of listening or dealing with relationships Ruby makes it all go down easy. The stressless experimentation with beautiful sounds and important concepts leaves you near the end of his fourteen song album The Space In-Between just becoming consdcious of how darn good it is. The album has that found gold feeling, even if your familiar with the Why? Records Footclan. This isn’t an album that stands above you and proclaims itself an awakening. The Space In-Between walks with you as you watch life unfold and amplifies your senses so you can really hear it.
Q-The Space In-Between feels like Jazz to me and I’ve been trying to figure out why. My hypothesis: the production really holds notes and lets them reverberate, live a life in your ear before the next one comes. What do you consider the sonic identity of the project? When you were starting it what did you want it to sound like and how did that change over the course of making it?
Sonically I’m not sure what I’d call it, and I don’t really care what anyone else calls it. I don’t enter into a project trying to make something specific but just dig up whatever I need to get out of me. But I do think this project shares some connections with jazz. Jazz means a lot to me, and I try and embody the soul of it in all the art I make. It’s all about exploration, killing inhibition, and just trying shit out. I play some instruments and have a loose grasp on music theory but most of what I do when it’s not purely sample based is just feeling things out.
When I first start any project of mine it begins with playing around with different sounds and textures, finding things I like and making simple loops or progressions; pretty much just fucking around. As time goes on, I’ll have a bunch of ideas ranging from a simple loop to a full song and from there it’s just about cohesion and which ones feel like they’re calling out to me the most. I definitely don’t come into a process wanting or willing it to sound any particular way, I think that can be really suffocating and will usually just lead you to make some boring shit. But the project changed a lot, originally I was mentally gearing myself towards making music for a different Why? project and ended up with 100+ beats that weren’t feeling right. Eventually as I let go of trying to make anything in particular I realized I was making this solo project and from there began to narrow in my focus.
Q-You really got into a zone on Listen! That whole first verse is touched “Light gives life but it blinds the greedy eyes.” It is so spiritual, political, romantic, and sad. What was the process of writing that? Did the beat pull that out of you or did you have that written?
I usually write to the beat. I wrote poetry before I ever started rapping but ever since I threw myself off the deep end of producing and composition, that’s ~usually~ where my creative process starts. For that song, I wrote the hook first, and really just wanted to play around with everything that it means to listen with intention – spiritually, within the self, within relationships and to the world around you – and I love thinking about the cats who sit in the front windows of townhomes, watching, listening to the world around them. I’m of the belief that the world is constantly speaking to us – and that everything you need to know will be made apparent to you if you listen, and that at the same time not everything needs to be known, nor can it be understood. Listening to yourself and the world around you with your whole heart, mind, and body, can foster a lot of growth.
Q-The city of Chicago is such an important character in the album. When you’re flirting your referencing it, when terror strikes you get frustrated with it. Was that a conscious motif or just the way you’re writing or production pointed? During the making of it was that something you thought about.
LMAO! damn that’s a new one. Nah, it wasn’t on purpose but it makes sense to me that it would happen that way. Time and place is huge you know? Chicago has been my home for around 6 years now, and the people and spirit of it has become my chosen family. To me, art that comes from a genuine place is always inherently influenced, whether its the main focus or a small detail, by the time and place a person is occupying in space. For me that’s Chicago.
Q-The last minute and 8 seconds of louie’s song is one of my favorite parts of music in 2021. The horns, stops and starts, the chopped not slopped sample. I want to slow dance to it someday. A true interlude like that is indefinably integral to the fabric of an album. When do you know an interlude needs to be on your album and how do you sequence it in so it makes sense?
I fucking love a good interlude. It’s like taking a smoke break during a party or a shitty day at work, you remove yourself from the chaos for a moment and seamlessly re enter changed in some way but without skipping a beat. For that song, I knew I wanted to make an interlude at that point in the project, and worked it around the cowboy bebop sample of the striped cat story. I watched that show all the way through for the first time right around when I first started working on the album, and it was a huge inspiration to me in a lot of ways – more in the way it just had me thinking about a lot about the human experience. Louie is my cat who died earlier in the pandemic, he was a big fat white cat, and he was genuinely the coolest man. The interlude, while serving as a homage to him, also fit in well around the bebop story because it’s about love and loss, some common themes I like to explore. Sequence wise, I made that track on the SP404, and wanted to try and smash multiple samples together in a way that was quick in transition and felt abrupt but still went down smooth, like shooting some whiskey. I like to think of sampling as having a lot in common with making collages.
Q-If you could do one thing for me. I would only ask for you to either do an album with Kara Jackson or produce one for them. I think Kara is super talented and painless works so well in the come down portion of The Space In-Between. Did you two send that back and forth or record together? When during the recording process did you make that record?
Kara is such an amazing, kind, and talented person. A literal folk genius. I feel very fortunate to have them on my record. Hopefully we’ll get around to working together more. For that record I sent them the beat before I’d written to it because I trust their creative vision and wanted to see what they would make of the beat because it’s obviously outside of the kind of music they make for their solo material. And after they did their part I wrote and arranged the rest around it, definitely one of my favorite tracks off the album. I think that was one of the last songs I made for the project, I originally wasn’t going to do any features but decided to reach out to Kara and Nnamdi near the end.