With just a keyboard and a voice, Helsinki-born Ruut takes the stage at Cooldog.
As a seven-year-old in Helsinki, Ruut followed in her musical family’s footsteps and started tinkering with the piano. She started performing in church, but when she moved to the United States at 15 her interests drifted to more secular music, into Broadway, jazz, Carol King and Tori Amos. The pianist and songwriter is visiting Cooldog for her first show after having daughter Samantha, an experience she said has made her more creative than ever.
Q You’re from a musical family. What were your parents involved in?
A They actually met in the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki when my mom was the alto violin player in the orchestra and my dad was a cellist, and they were poking each other with their bows across the way. So they were studying music full time as they met. Growing up, they continued as they could, but neither one of them really completed their studies … with four little girls running around.
Q You started playing piano when you were 7. When did you start writing music?
A I wrote my first song when I was 8. We had a piano in the house and I just kind of fooled around on it, and I just kind of taught myself. So the first song came out when I was 8. I can’t say how good it was, but it had a verse and chorus, and a verse and a chorus and you could sing along to it.
Q When did you move to the United States?
A I moved here 15 years ago, so right in the middle of my life.
It was a huge culture shock, I had only lived in Europe until then. The first time I came here was when we moved here. Musically, it only opened the doors to me a little bit more. I used to sing in church quite regularly, every Sunday, and I just found myself really writing more in English, and I had a bigger audience, so it definitely was a huge growth time for me. But also it was a challenge because I was a musician in the church and there were limits as to what I could explore. The church I grew up in was strict, musically. So I did have to find my way outside the church.
Q Who were some of your earliest influences?
A Growing up, we listened to a lot of Christian music, then mostly Broadway musicals and a lot of jazz and classical. As far as songwriters I was really, really into Carol King, Joni Mitchell, and Simon and Garfunkel are some of my biggest influences. John Lennon, Elton John, these are some of my staples that I always go back to.
When I was 12 I heard Tori Amos’s “Under the Pink” and it just resonated with me so deeply, and that, I would say, was one of the biggest influences of my youth.
Q How would you describe your new album “The Steinway Sessions”?
A I was spending some time in California in 2008, and I went there in 2009 as well and I met up with this piano guy who fixes old Steinways, concert grands, and he let me practice on one of them. I was spending a lot of time playing on this great grand piano and I was inspired to write, and we had the idea of recording them and I called it “The Steinway Sessions.” We set up recording right in the room with the piano.
As far as the songs on the album, I would say it’s my most raw, it’s my most honest work. I just let go of all the concepts of what I wanted myself to be as an artist and let myself write these songs. I think what came out was very honest. I’m really proud of the fact that I just kind of let go, I really released my inhibitions in the process, and really it’s the person that I am on stage [that] came out in this recording. Like if you go to a live show and hear my music, that really translated. It’s not a traditional studio album.
As far as the piano, I have been spoiled now, so I would want to work with another really good piano for sure, my standards have gone higher.
Q What will we hear at the upcoming concert?
A This is going to be first post-baby gig, and I’m really excited about getting into gigging, and my hubby’s going to take Samantha for the evening so I’m just going to drive out there with my girlfriend and have a good time. So I think you’re going to see someone who’s just gone through this life changing experience.
For me, [it’s] a real release of emotion and I’m hoping to just connect with people. So just a really intimate and fun and relaxed type of thing. I’m not going to have a full band, it’s just going to be me.
Q How has having a baby changed your music?
A It changed my plans, but as far as inspiration to write and be a musician, I feel a new vigor and a new outlook, so I don’t know if it will change the subject matter. So far I’ve been writing pretty much the same, but it makes me even more honest and less [about] wasting time. Just kind of being in the present moment.
Email Sarika Jagtiani at firstname.lastname@example.org