text by Yui Horiuchi / Ryoko Kuwahara
photo by Riku Ikeya

Interview with Ruby Francis “私たちは成長している旅の途中。自分の準備が整った頃にチャンスは必ず来るはず”

―― You seem to naturally incorporate different sound elements into your music. Do you have a way to maintain that solid balance, binding everything into one piece?

Ruby: In terms of musically or just generally in life?

―― We found out through your music but does it speak for your life as well?

Ruby: I don’t know. I guess there’s loads of different ways that I start writing my music. Sometimes it does come from when I’m feeling emotional, happy emotional, sad emotional. I’ve written songs like ‘paranoid’. that weren’t based on true stories, it was sort of inspired by a friend. I don’t know, it sort of just comes to me.

―― And you do it naturally!

Ruby: Yeah! Because my dad is a bass player and my mum had a big music vinyl collection so I was constantly listening to music when I was a child. Sometimes I’ll get an idea in my head and it’ll be the whole song, so I hear the drums, the bass line, the piano and the backing vocals and usually it (snaps finger). Sometimes it takes a bit longer, but usually it just comes. (laughs)

――Growing up, listening to music with that family background, does everything come naturally? Have you asked them questions like ‘what should I do with this part’ to your parents?

Ruby: Not really. My dad has been really supportive. So many people’s parents aren’t supportive and don’t think music is a proper job but he’s always been the biggest fan and he’s always rooting for me. Even when we hadn’t had much money, he’ll get money together to buy me my first piano and all the family chipped in, so it’s kind of been more like that. The tools I need and the knowledge (are from them) but what I actually create is up to me, I think.

―― We recognized that you have absolute pitch to hear sounds and pick out which note it is.

Ruby: I wouldn’t say that I have perfect pitch but I do like to test myself sometimes (laughs). I definitely play by ear. I can’t read music !

―― So maybe you don’t have to then? You know the sounds and you can make them again right?

Ruby: Yeah I guess so.

――You can copy it through your ears.

Ruby: Yeah. So if I’m learning a song, I’ll just listen to it and pick out the chords but if you put a sheet of music, I can’t…it doesn’t…. I don’t understand (laughs).

―― But through having such a good ear, are there any big problems you have been faced with from hearing everything too much ?

Ruby: I don’t know. Maybe if I’m going to be a session musician or if I have to learn songs really quickly? But even then I think I’m better doing that by ear. But no, in the kind of music that I make, you don’t really need to read music, because I use ‘logic’ — the programme that I use to make my music. So I just program it in and it makes sounds so I don’t need to read music or write music.

――What about in your daily life. Do you hear the trains or the airplanes flying around?

Ruby: Yeah I couldn’t sleep because of the trains next to me! (laughs) I definitely pick up on things and notice… I know it’s really nerdy to say this but sometimes i’ll just notice…. so for an example, when I flush my toilet at home, afterwards I hear the water trickling and sometimes it plays notes (makes dripping noises).I don’t know if that’s worth mentioning and it’s not even a Japanese electric one, it’s a normal toilet… it’s really weird (laughs).

――So if it’s raining outside you can make out what note it is and you can play it !

Ruby: Yeah I guess so. You know when you’re in a car and the indicators are going (makes ticking noises) and they are not in time, then it’s really annoying. It’s just a little personal thing I have.

―― That means you’re really talented because you were born that way !

Ruby: I don’t know if that’s any use. Maybe I should tell some car manufacturers to make it in time.

――Has your mum told you about that? Like you definitely have a good ear? Do you think they have already recognized it?

Ruby: I don’t know, but it’s more so my dad because he’s actually a musician and he has a big love in music and a big collection. My dad plays everything by ear. Maybe it’s a gene passed down and actually my great grandfather on my mums side was a pianist and he couldn’t read music. So yeah, I guess it is a gene.

――Oh that’s good to hear. And it seems like you have a good relationship with your dad because he plays the bass and you play piano. Do you ever make songs together?

Ruby: We really need to! We keep on saying ‘let’s do it’ but we never get around to it but we have done in the past. We haven’t made songs but we have had jamming sessions together , so while I play keys he plays bass. It’s definitely overdue, we need to meet up soon.

―― Did jamming happen naturally when you were a kid?

Ruby: Yeah, I think when I first started playing piano, we would jam together quite a lot and he did play in a few of my school plays. When I was in secondary school, thirteen /fourteen years old, he would sometimes come to my school and play in our school play whilst I performed my song and he’d accompany me with bass.)

―― But that shows that he’s really supportive and passionate. My dad has never been to my school! It’s always the mum doing meal preps so that’s super sweet.

Ruby:Yeah, he’s super supportive. I’m super lucky

―― We know you like combining different elements of music, but you really make it your own. Since you can be your own trackmaker, I think you really are a perfectionist that tries to perfect her work. Is there a way you can tell when the piece is finished? Do you have any signals?

Ruby: I don’t think I am a perfectionist. I’m not one of those people who will be very precious about it and keep going back. As long as it feels good, in that moment when it’s like ‘ok, right ‘(clips fingers). I’ll stop and let it be what it’s meant to be.

――You really notice the moment.

Ruby: Yeah, I guess so. It just feels right. I will sometimes say “oh that drum or that snare or high hack doesn’t sound right” and go in and make adjustments but sometimes I’m just like “look whatever is meant to be is what’s meant to be” and even now, there are songs that are out that I don’t necessarily like the mix of… But it’s just part of the world you know. It’s out there now and listened to so it is what it is. I don’t like to be too particular about it.

――If you feel like it’s not right, do you fix it until the end and perfect it ?

Ruby: Yeah. See I’ll do the best that I can. Sometimes if I’m not feeling it there and then, I might leave it and come back after because I’ve made and idea before and thought “oh this is rubbish” and a week later I’ll listen to it again and be like “oh this is really good!” .Come back with a new perspective on it, you know?

――You kind of, just feel it.

Ruby: Yeah, usually that’s just it. But It’s good to tidy it up and make it listenable because it’s not just for me, it’s for everyone to listen to. As long as I’m translating my message to the world then yeah I think, I’ve done my job.

―― You’ve been collaborating with other djs and pianists for your songs. What do you like about collaborating with them. Do you like jamming or like exchanging information with them or more so physically, just like “let’s make music together?”

Ruby: It’s super random and there’s not really a technique to it. Sometimes I’ll go to a show or a gig and watch musicians play and after the show I’ll ask for their instagram/ social media. And sometimes, people will message me on Instagram asking to collaborate. Do you know Blue Lab Beats? I don’t know if you know them but I’ve done a lot of songs with them. Originally, NKOK from Blue Lab Beats messaged me on SoundCloud asking to work with me, which I of course accepted, and we just ended up meeting up and we’ve made loads of songs since. But now I feel like there’s only a small amount of people that I trust with my sound. Although I’m quite open so I like to keep fresh ideas and breaking the boundaries. It’s important for me to get out of my own head to help make fresh ideas.

―― You started Instagram recently haven’t you?

Ruby: I think I’ve had it for about a year or two now.

――Do you think its expanding your window?

Ruby: Definitely.

―― How do you feel about using it ? You definitely need it right?

Ruby: Yeah, I think it’s an incredible tool for anyone creative and not just musicians.

―― Have you started seeing others through instagram?

Ruby: When you follow people and you can see other musicians, it’s just so easy to comment and talk to each other on it. If you like someone you can be like “hey do you want to meet up? When are you free?” And yeah, it’s almost like tinder but for musicians (laughs) .I think Instagram is really useful. I get a lot of work and opportunities through Instagram like writing sessions and clothing brand collaborations.

――Well, since you know those things exist in the world, do you feel like you want to apply them through instagram ?

Ruby: Yeah, I don’t see why not. I think instagram is your profile and shows a bit of your personality. It’s an easy way” to get a snippet into someones character, interests and buisness/ profession right at your finger tips which makes networking so much quicker. I mean there is always a bad side and there’s negative effects of social media but….

―― Like you just said, not to be negative about it and be more open minded.

Ruby: Yeah, exactly. It’s been quite big in the news about the damaging effects of social media use and it creates loads of anxiety.I’ve definitely had a bit of that. When you look at other people doing well and you think “oh, they’re younger than me and they’re doing this and touring and I’m not there yet. I’m still working a part time job!” You feel bad but I’ve grown out of that now. You can’t compare yourself because they’re on a journey, I’m on a journey. My time will come when it’s ready.

―― Do you follow any fashion icons ?

Ruby: Umm…. there’s a few blogger kind of people but not really. I generally don’t follow big fashion, brands on instagram. I try not to get too sucked in to my phone screen. There’s so much crap going on in the world so i don’t like to pollute my mind with false ideology and pictures of people’s “perfect” lives and bodies etc. That’s kind of where my head is at.

―― When the London economy is bad, do the musicians bring those topics into their music and shed light to what they believe in or no? Or does the music scene slow down in a way?

Ruby: I see what you mean. I guess so. At the end of the day, whatever feels good will always feel good, whether the economy is good or bad. But I think in terms of musicians making money, it’s always a struggle for independent artists and even when the economy is good because it’s not really seen as a proper job in the eyes of big corporations They’ll say “we’ll get to your last.”(laughs)

―― Even people who have a proper job cannot make proper music so …(laughs)

Ruby: Yeah, exactly (laughs)

―― What exactly are you looking forward to ?

Ruby: I am going to LA in September for a couple of weeks to work with some people. A lot of my music is inspired by and comes from LA so it’ll be great to just be in that culture and vibe.

ーーOne last question about your music. Do you like to produce music not for yourself but for other people?

Ruby: Yeah! I’ve done it for other people. It’s still quite new for me to do that because production used to be quite personal, just me being in my room and by myself. But then other people started to hear it and said “I want to get your beats as well” and that opened my mind a bit more. I also did a few remixes for people, just getting the acapella and then creating the song around it. That was really good. There is this amazing singer you should check out called Laura Roy. She is from Nova Scotia in Canada but she moved to London and we’ve worked together a lot and I’ve produced a few things for her. Nothing is released but yes, I did produce that for her.

――So you keep on giving whatever you can produce.

Ruby: Yeah, that is another thing that I am doing. I am currently writing an album! Probably should have said that! (laughs) I have an album out here in Japan but it is exclusive to Japan so this one will be my first album in the UK. It will be a mixture of songs that I’ve produced with featured artists and some will be me singing to other producers beats as well as my own.

――So you are doing stuff with your own music. Getting elements from here and there and making into one piece of art. You must be pretty good at it.The last two question have to do with being a female. You sing be yourself and having the ability to make music is kind of a part of your art isn’t it ? Do you have anything that you do to take care of your body whether it’s a mental way or physical way?

Ruby: From a spiritual perspective, I feel like at this age, I am delving into my spirituality quite a lot and not even in a religious way, just in terms of feeling grounded. I have the tendency to overthink a lot and get anxiety or feel down sometimes so I try and take the time out of my day to focus on my breathing and sort of feel at peace to make sure that everything is where it is meant to be and not get too ahead of myself. So it is important to take moments out in the day if that is what you meant in your question.

――Yes, you meditate to focus on what to do right?

Ruby: And it is always interconnected, so it relates heavily to music. Before I go on stage tonight I’ll probably take a few deep breaths.

――That could help you take some time off and focus on breathing and healing yourself right?

Ruby: Yeah exactly. Just being in touch with yourself. Because I think that there is not much point in living if you are disconnected so you have to be in the present moment. In terms of physically, I probably should exercise a little bit more….

―― I don’t know about that!

Ruby: I try to just eat well (laughs).I love pasta. I am part Italian so just pretty much all types of pasta. I love making pasta sauces and my grandfather is Italian so maybe it is a gene that has been passed down because I just love it and I can’t get enough of it.

――Do you think that making pasta helps you meditate ?

Ruby: It is very therapeutic! You are right! Put some music on and maybe have a glass of wine (laughs).

―― The sound of the air popping out of the sauce !

Ruby: I could sample it and put that in a song, who knows! But they say that cooking is like production because you have different elements that come together.

――If you add too much salt or pepper, it ruins the meal.

Ruby: Exactly.

――You have to know exactly what to put in it. So now, we are going talk a little bit about the female body. In Alabama, they decided to ban abortion. Do you think that this is bad? How do you feel about ti?

Ruby: I definitely call myself a feminist and I think it’s disgusting to be honest. It’s 2019 and they are living like we did hundreds of years ago. I can understand that abortion is not a form of contraception. It’s something that should be taken seriously and if you are sexually active, both the man and woman should take equal and full responsibility for their actions l whilst still enjoying themselves. However, it does exist and you have the choice as it is your body as a woman and you should be supported by the other people around you, whatever your decision ends up being. I do feel very strongly about it. Pretty much all of the people that voted for the ban were old white men who should not have the right in deciding what any woman or women of colour should do with their bodies.

――I asked the same question to other people and they say the same thing.

Ruby: And it is like “where are the women in this, why do the men have a say in what we do with our bodies?”

ーーDo you want to give some advice to the young japanese girls who might read this? We are very late when it comes to sex education in Japan. You are already educated but the young girls might not have access to the right kind of information. How they have to use condoms and where to buy them for example. Do you have anything you want to tell them, about taking care of themselves?

Ruby: I think, always be yourself and listen to what your body and your mind truly wants to do. You should not be ashamed to be a sexual being. It is good to know the dangers and to be educated on what could go wrong but we should be able to celebrate it and as long as you are safe and you are doing it with a person you feel comfortable with, and within the age of the law then yeah, there is no problem. But education is key. It’s important to be able to say “no”, and to identify when there might be potential danger, and generally to know your legal and moral rights as a young woman. But I’d say just be yourself and be honest and don’t feel ashamed because there are so many boys that are like… there is a word called “frigid”.

―― Frigid? What is that?

Ruby: Frigid is negative term for someone that does not want to engage in sexual activity. For example “oh you’re frigid.” I don’t know why it is called that or if it is a slang word but it is used in an offensive way to mean that you don’t want to (have sex) so that makes you less of a woman.The boys will say “I’ll go for someone who wants to do it.” So yeah, don’t be afraid and don’t let someone call you frigid. If you don’t want to do it then you don’t have to do it. There are no rules and it is also such a normal thing. Everyone around the world has sex at one point, it’s okay to wait, it is also okay to explore when you are ready!

――It’s why we are here right!

Ruby: Yeah exactly. So it is good to educate yourself but at the end of the day it is not a big deal. You can make it a big deal and that is fine but at the end of the day it is just sex (laughs).

――And when they give birth, that should be celebrated too!

Ruby: Yeah definitely ! When I say it is not a big deal I don’t mean like “calm down” . I mean for some young girls who are like “oh my god” it’s fine it’s nothing to be scared of.

photography Riku Ikeya
interview Yui Horiuchi
text&edit Ryoko Kuwahara

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