Ruth Moody brings her solo debut, The Garden, home to Winnipeg
Is there anything Ruth Moody can’t do?
Not only is she a gifted, heartfelt songwriter and a deft multi-instrumentalist (she plays guitar, banjo, piano, accordion and ukulele), the 34-year-old has also wowed many a crowd with her ethereal pipes as a founding member of Winnipeg’s renowned roots trio The Wailin’ Jennys.
Now Moody is stepping into the spotlight with her solo debut, The Garden — an intimate, affecting collection of Americana-flavoured songs that serves as a gorgeous showcase for her strong, seductive soprano. (Moody also had a little help from some friends, including guitar aces Luke Doucet and Kevin Breit, Crooked Still, Oh Susanna and, of course, her Jennys.)
Uptown called up Moody in advance of her hometown CD release show at the West End, which will feature guest appearances by Royal Canoe’s Matt Peters (who co-wrote a song on the record), JP Hoe and Moody’s equally talented siblings, violist/fiddler Richard Moody (The Bills), Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra violinist Rachel Moody and cellist Jane Moody.
Uptown: How has the solo tour been going so far? I know it’s a new experience for you.
Ruth Moody: It’s been going well! The reception’s been great. It’s been an amazing experience for me. Obviously, it’s so different from playing with the Jennys. I have an amazing band — I have my Man-boys with me so I’m not going it alone (the Man-boys are her brother Richard, Justin Haynes and Joe Phillips). I still get to experience collaboration onstage, but it’s very different taking the reins and making all the decisions. There are parts I love, and then there are other parts that are challenging. I miss my Jennys, for sure.
It’s been a great challenge for me. I’ve always been scared of doing this on my own and I’ve been avoiding it in a way.
What made you decide to finally take that step?
There were several factors. The Jennys went on a hiatus, so we were all kind of free to do whatever we wanted. I wanted to do a solo album for a long time and it felt like the right time to do it. I wanted to approach music from a different angle — which I think also allows you to return to your main project refreshed. I’m still a very proud and happy Jenny, but I wanted to try it on my own. I feel really lucky because I’ve been able to do both.
I know when the Jennys went on hiatus, it was partly because Nicky (Mehta) was having her twin boys (Beck and Finn, who were born in July 2009) and partly because you guys just needed a break. And then you went ahead and started another music project!
(laughs) It’s been a lot of work. In a way it was restorative because it was exciting, but now I’m starting to feel like I didn’t take a break.
Tell me about writing The Garden. Is your songwriting process much different than it is with the Jennys?
It’s not that different; I don’t go in with different intentions. I try to be open to whatever comes. Sometimes they’re Jennys songs and sometimes they’re solo songs. I had a bunch of songs ready to record for this record that were solo songs or Jennys songs, but then I got excited about recording. At the beginning of the hiatus, my brother went to India so I rented his house and really focused on playing and writing. I ended up writing half the record. I didn’t say, “I’m going to write a solo album.” It just happened.
Are you happy with the end result?
I’m so happy with it — I feel really proud of the songs. I think it reflects a phase in my life in a way, even though I didn’t set out to make it that way. When I listen to it, I don’t cringe or anything.
For me, it’s a really evocative record. It takes me to a very specific time and place.
That’s really great to hear. I think some of the songs are about that. With or Without You is about connecting to a place of stillness. We all get so carried away with busy-ness and stress and all this external noise. When people tell me this album takes them somewhere, I feel really happy. – JEN ZORATTI