Ruby Rose Fox nearly saw the sun come up today.
All last night she was busy recording, the thrumming of her powerhouse voice vibrating well into the early hours.
Yet at ten o’clock on this overcast morning she breezes back into her studio with a sunny smile beneath her dramatic dark lashes, and looking like she had plenty of shuteye.
This bodes well for her upcoming tour, on which the persistent Boston-based songwriter and band leader will roll her tiny blue Toyota Yaris down the eastern seaboard to stops from Florida to Texas, then all the way back up to Michigan. All along she’ll be performing “pop for adults,” as she tags her style, from her latest album Domestic—as well as some of the new songs that have been keeping her up practicing until daybreak.
Fox kicks off her tour at Brighton Music Hall in Allston on Saturday, June 10. I caught up with her before the Boston show to talk about bricklaying, Bulgarian fashion, and the bravery of music. The usual things.
What are you most excited about for your upcoming tour?
The group we’re touring with. It’s a band called Halo Circus from [Los Angeles] and the lead singer Allison has a totally thick, textured, really powerful voice. I’ve never toured with anyone that I felt was incredibly compatible as a bill. I’m also excited about the challenge of, except for the Boston and New York shows, I’m doing it all alone … I just don’t know yet what I’m capable … I don’t know if I’m going to die on the road.
You say on your website where you explain the idea of the member subscription service, that asking for money for your music makes you uncomfortable. Why do you think that is? Would it be different if you were a bricklayer asking to be paid for creating a road?
That’s really hard to answer. I think that at this point … I can call myself an artist and that’s valid. I’ve been doing it so long, and I’ve been committed to it for so long, that it’s not like I just took it up yesterday and was like, “I think I want to do music, pay me for it.” I think it’s uncomfortable because it’s out of the context of traditional capitalistic exchange. You’re exchanging something much more ethereal. Back when there were CDs and tapes, it was a physical thing you were buying. And now that they’re not there, it’s much more intangible what you’re purchasing. What are you buying? Are you buying love? Are you buying friendship? Are you buying art? Where is the art? Where does it exist exactly? This is a rabbit hole I’m in …
So I just think there’s something about [music] that is essential to life, which makes it weird to ask for money. But I do think I bring value to the world, and I need to eat.
If you weren’t a musician what do you think you would be doing?
I used to think it would be nothing, until I saw Laura Poitras’ documentary-filmmaking work. She’s a crazy person who makes the most amazing documentaries. She just made a documentary about Julian Assange. She’s just incredible. So I think I would want to be a Vice news reporter or documentarian.
You have a lot of style. Did that grow from your music and musical persona or have you always been artistically fashionable?
I think that came from being in theater and just not taking my identity seriously. Just being like, it’s a form of play. I can change my hair, I can change my makeup, it’s not me. It’s just this bag I carry around. Theater and self esteem. I’ve become more comfortable with myself over the years, and I’ve just become more happy and expressive and I like to play.
What’s the craziest outfit you tried to pull off and it maybe just didn’t quite work?
I found this designer from Bulgaria on Etsy… She makes the most weird industrial, just bizarre clothes. I wore one to the Boston Music Awards, and it just did not work. I needed a team of people with tape to make it work… and I didn’t have a team. It was … um … sad and saggy.
Your grandmother, Ruby Fox—whose name you took to honor her—she was an actress in Brooklyn, right? Beyond her name, has she inspired your creative career in other ways?
I had no idea. The year I graduated [from college] was the year she died and that’s the year I found out she was artistic. She had been put in a mental institution in her early thirties. I had her letters, and they seemed crystal clear and coherent …
I felt like she had lived this non-life … My dad had never talked about her my whole life. And I was just going to go to this funeral, find out that she was an actress, and then never say her name again. So I kind of took the name to just deal with the whole conundrum of it for myself and it also inspired the song and music video “Rock Bottom.”
Given the recent tragedy in Manchester, what role do you think music and the people who make it play in times of tragedy? What would you say to people who might be afraid to go to concerts now?
If you put yourself in the position of being a musician, in the sense that you’re the voice of a group, the mouthpiece of a group, you have to act like a leader no matter what position you’re in.
I think in times where other people are scared … it’s always important to be brave, to not be taken over by fear. Because other people will be and they need someone to not be afraid for them. I mean isn’t that what music is? The good music? When you hear a lyric that really touches you or frees you or changes your life … when you hear that one thing that’s like, “Oh my god, I could never have said that for myself, but they said it for me.” It’s just someone being a little braver for you.
That idea of braveness … your albums are very personal things. Are you ever unsure that you want to put that out there to everyone in the world?
I think it’s weird. It’s super weird. What other person does that? I never thought about it until I had an internet war… that was the first time that anybody had ever used my art as a weapon against me. That was the first time that I realized that I really am putting myself out there.
A lot of artists are super perfectionists. Could you keep working on a song forever or do you get to a point where you’re like, “Okay that’s it, that’s how I wanted it to sound”?
I think I have a good balance. I’m not really a “I write a song every day” kind of person. To make something, for me—because I’m not a genius, I’m just a human—to make something of quality, it takes some time. I have to meditate on it and let it grow and let it develop in my mind. The perfectionist part of me wants it to really be the best it can be. But I also know how easy it is to screw art up if you overcook it. Overcook? Yeah, don’t overcook it.
Fans of Ruby’s music can visit rubyrosefox.com and pay between $5 and $20 a month for first access to new music (a new track and “shitty demo” every month), behind the scenes looks, and other perks including discounts to her upcoming shows on this tour.
RUBY ROSE FOX: TOUR KICK OFF WITH FLORIE NAMIR, GEORGE WOODS. SAT 6.10. BRIGHTON MUSIC HALL, ALLSTON. 7PM/$15. RUBYROSEFOX.COM