10 Questions: Ruthie Foster

Ruthie Foster and her band bring together a variety of musical elements to create a special mix of folk, blues and soul.

Earlier this week Ruthie was able to take our phone call from her hotel room in New York to answer some questions about her live show, song titles and what’s on her iPod.

Q: What can people who’ve never seen your show expect at Old Settler’s Music Festival?

A: It’s one of my favorite festivals. People can expect a little bit of blues, soul, gospel, reggae. We try to do it all and have a hallelujah time.

Q: How has your music and style evolved over the years you’ve been performing?

A: The style has always been gospel based even though I sing blues and soul and reggae, it’s always a gospel style but not necessarily in a religious way. But the style of gospel music is singing from who you are and from your soul out.

I think a lot of what I did, I’ve been all over the board musically from doing reggae and top 40 music in the Navy Band to folk here in the coffee shops in New York it’s evolved into my own special brand of all the music that I’ve experienced which would include gospel to the country blue. It’s fun and it keeps it really fun for all of us on the road. It’s what keeps us rolling.

Q: How do you decide what you’ll play each night?

A: That’s a joke with me and my band. I tend to make a set list but I rarely follow it. It’s more of a safety net for me than anything in case I have something really cool that I should be putting in the set. I really let the audience pick and I feel my way through.

Q: You’ve got some great people in your band, can you tell us a little about them?

A: I’m bringing just about everybody, they’re looking forward to being in the Austin area because they’re from all over the country. It’s always an exciting place for everybody.

Q: What was the first concert you attended?

A: I want to say, believe it or not it was Prince. I went to see Prince at Dallas Reunion in college. I grew up in a small town and we didn’t do this thing where we could afford going to concerts and in college I went to music school so I was busy with that. It was the 1999 tour. I didn’t really go out to concerts much, except for local stuff in Houston and Dallas. It was about going out and seeing friends.

Q: What’s the one thing you can’t live without on tour?

A: That’s changed over the years, but these days it’s my iPod. I’m always downloading music so I’ve got something I can relax to and something I can jam out to when I go hit the fitness club.

Q: What would come up if you hit “shuffle” on your iPod?
A: Let’s try that. Rachelle Ferrell, she’s a soul singer-songwriter. I’ve got lots of Billie Holiday, too.

Q: Are there any songs that you always try to get into a set but sometimes can’t make fit?

A: I do love the song “Traveling Shoes.” It started out as a three-and-a-half minute song but now it’s close to twelve because we jam out and have a good time. It really gives everybody in the band a chance to shine on a solo. It’s a public domain gospel song but it’s my arrangement. The title’s “Death Came A-Knockin'” on the CD…

I do that with my song, I pick a word or two out and call it that. A lot of songs are like that, (the title’s) a synthesis of what the title is and there’s a dark side and a light side. Those two titles say that about the song.

Q: What have you always wanted to learn how to do?

A: I just bought a trumpet, I rented a trumpet from Strait Music. It gives me something to do while I’m at home. I’ve always wanted to learn a brass instrument and it’s in my office now.

Ephraim Owens is a beautiful trumpet player, I love the way he plays and he has a really laid-back disposition. It’s a beautiful instrument when played well. And Carolyn, I love the way Carolyn Wonderland plays when she pulls out her trumpet it’s always a nice surprise.

Q: What’s next for you after the festival?

A: We’re going to finish out this year touring… Italy and Canada… then we’re going to start recording in the fall or winter and have something out by SXSW next year.

Ruthie will be playing Old Settler’s Music Festival Friday at 6:45 on the Hill Country Stage. Check out RuthieFoster.com for more info and tour dates.
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