"I can cut a mean rug, I won't lie. Dancing helps me transcend certain limitations" Introducing Ruby Force
With her fantastic debut album out now, we chat to roots-ish rocker Ruby Force - actually the real life Erin McLaughlin - about the process of getting to that album, her self-made first ever video, and covering Blur.
Hey Erin, how the devil are you?
Struggling in the Southern California summer heat but in general, pretty busy and happy.
Can you introduce yourself to our readers?
Hello, my name is Erin McLaughlin and I play American rock type music as Ruby Force. I live in So Cal and I love coffee, books and dogs.
Your debut record is called Evolutionary War, boring question I know, but where’d the title come from?
From the extra long and arduous journey of living, writing, starting and finishing the thing and the many changes both I and it underwent along the way.
What was your process for writing and selecting songs for the record?
Well it’s my first full length and so I had a collection of songs that I’d been playing for a while that needed to be properly recorded. Additionally, since I’m always writing there were some that I finished during production that just needed to be on it. They all sort of fell in together as a unit.
How do you get on with the whole studio process?
I’m somewhat new to it. It still makes me shiver and shake (maybe due to the intense air conditioning and lack of natural lighting) nevertheless it is where I desire to be. It’s a special bonding experience with one’s art and the people who come to help actualize the dream with you.
You’ve an ‘Ode to Vic Chesnutt’ on the record, can you remember the first time you really heard of him?
After my little brother passed Vic passed, I guess it was about nine years ago. A dear friend of mine and fan of his shared with me 'Flirted With You All My Life'. I was heartbroken and Mr. Chesnutt’s music helped me dive into my despair to realize that I want to be here and I want to look for the joy in a sunrise and feel the pain of loss and lean on the love of my God and family. I wrote the ode as a response and a reminder to myself. A monument of sorts.
‘Dancing As I Go’ is one of my favourite tracks on the record, it’s got a real attitude. So my question, are you a dancer? And if so, what type?
I can cut a mean rug, I won't lie. Dancing helps me transcend certain limitations, you see. I feel very lucky to be able to wiggle my body to a beat, so I always try to no matter what it looks like to anyone else. Things can get pretty interpretive. It becomes a way of expressing a connection with music.
There are some classic themes, particularly on ‘Cowboy’, about love, guys, and assholes. How much of the record is autobiographical?
The record is a true story from start to finish. Every song is about a love I’ve lived in one way or another.
Speaking of ‘Cowboy’, I’ve read that the video was pretty much you and your friends. Was it hard work or tonnes of fun?
Both. We filmed a good portion of it at the legendary Pappy and Harriet’s bar in Pioneer Town out in Yucca Valley and the rest at a private ranch in Joshua Tree. The whole thing was made in a day on a shoestring budget, personal determination and by the generosity of my friends. It was the hardest working day of my life from sun up to sundown. I was directing and imagining as we went and working against the loss of natural light. It was so much fun though and everyone kept really great and open attitudes all day.
You’ve covered ‘Tender’, one of my favourite Blur tunes, how did you come across that?
I went through this period of time when I would tell people that I was tender, which is totally true. My friend Brandon who plays drums for Delta Spirit started calling me “Tender” as a nickname and then during the making of the record sent me that song. When Eli Thomson (producer of the record) and I discussed covering a song he was like, “Have you ever heard 'Tender' by Blur?” And that was all the affirmation I needed to want to do it.
So 2017 for you so far, tell us about it?
It’s been pretty cray thus far. I’ve moved three times, self-released a record (which sounds simple enough but I assure you, is not at all). Got featured in Rolling Stone. Still working to pay the bills. Still broke and ALWAYS busy. Still real. Still writing. Booking my first west coast tour. Still getting my heart broken now and then. Still dreaming.
What’s coming up for the rest of your 2017?
Tour, tour, tour! Writing, maybe some more recording and then wedding season! … Not for singing, for the fun, and the wine, dancing, catching bouquets, flirting with groomsmen etc.
Where’s the strangest place you’ve played live?
An abandoned truck stop strip club which may or may not have been legally reopened just before I played in it. The carpet (that’s right) was still stained with the sins of ghost’s pasts. The stage, in a dimly lit corner of the room was obstructed at its center with a dingy brass dancing pole. The bar served one kind of beer and then just pretty much whisky and tequila but most of it’s patrons were messed up on something else entirely. I felt lucky to get out of there alive. obviously now though, it makes for a good story.
You’re a woman in a predominantly male industry, has that had any impact on your career so far?
A tremendous and at turns, tragic impact.
I LOVE being a woman and there are lots and lots of ways that just being a female artist opens doors, literally like sometimes a guy will just open a door for me (which is sweet!). Sadly though, I’ve had to learn that not every open door is a safe or well lit way to go.
At the same, time I grew up with two brothers and so so many platonic male friends and I love the distinctions and dynamic between us. Ever since I was a kid I’ve played with boys. My first best friend was Anthony from across the street. And now I play music with boys. They challenge me, push me, and inspire me to work hard to achieve my goals.
Are there any instances when you’ve thought “A guy wouldn’t get treated like that!”?
Sure. But I think everyone feels like they’ve been treated unfairly because of their gender at some point. The worst is the abuse of power and maybe that has to do with gender in some instances but really it seems more about a person’s greed and inflated ego.
If you could only listen to one song this week, what would it be?
Oh probably 'Waiting on a Friend' by the Rolling Stones.
What’s the question we should have asked you today but haven’t?
Whether you can give me a great big bag of money.
Finally, how do you take your coffee? (Or alcohol?)
I like my coffee to taste like candy and I like my alcohol to be wine.
Thanks so much for your time Erin.
To find out more about Erin's alter-ego Ruby Force visit her website, follow her on Twitter, or check out Facebook. You can stream Ruby Force's album Evolutionary War from all good (and average) streaming services, including Tidal below.