In between Wailin’ Jennys duties, Ruth Moody found time to write and record her first solo album.
She may have only spent the first six months of her life here, but we’re going to claim Ruth Moody as ‘the Australian Wailin’ Jenny’. Though Moody did return to her birth-place for a year when she was nineteen, she was raised in a family of classical musicians, Moody became intrigued by Celtic music and spent five years out front of Celtic/folk outfit Scruj MacDuhk after which she formed the female vocal trio The Wailin’ Jennys.
Though The Jennys have just completed recording a new record, it is her first solo album, The Garden, that Moody has phoned to discuss. It’s no great departure from the tones and genres mined by The Jennys (that outfit’s Nicky Mehta and Heather Masse both make cameos on the album), but is an exquisite showcase of Moody’s gentle voice and maturing song-craft. Besides singing lead vocals, Moody contributes acoustic guitar, banjo, piano, ukulele and accordion alongside a list of contributors as long as your arm.
“Yeah The Jennys are still in full swing so I’m doing both, which makes for kind of a crazy schedule,” Moody laughs. “But it’s great. It’s actually great to be doing both because I love working with The Jennys and I feel so lucky to be a part of that collaboration. And I’ve been very committed to it for eight years of my life now, almost nine years, so it’s a huge part of me. But at the same time it’s really a great thing to be able to do something different and take the reigns for a change. It felt like it was a really important thing for me to do as an artist and as a writer. So, yeah, I’m excited.”
Though the album’s production credits list a variety of recording locations and assistants, Moody reveals that the whole thing was completed in just a few months in Toronto.
“But yeah we did some overdubs in Winnipeg,” she adds. “I wanted to be able to invite a bunch of different guests, past collaborators and friends and just people whose musicianship I really respect. So I ended up getting Crooked Still recorded their part in Vermont, and my brother Richard was in India at the time so he recorded his part in India. It’s amazing what you can do these days with the internet and technology. So we took advantage of that. But at the same time most of the record was done in a very organic way – musicians in a room playing music. So yeah it was the best of both worlds I think.”
You can read about Crooked Still and their amazing new this issue, and Moody confirms that Aoife O’Donovan in particular is an inspiration in terms of her singing style and her unique interpretation of traditional music.
“Yeah it has,” Moody confirms that making a solo record has been significant in the evolution of discovering her own voice. “It’s been a really important step. I was brought up in a musical family and so I suppose, well first of all we were exposed to a lot of classical music and um we were trained classically. But I never really had a classical, or I never had an operatic voice, ﾭtext. And my siblings were all great string players so I felt a little bit like the odd one out and I felt like I needed to find my niche. But I don’t have a rock and roll voice either, ﾭing journey for me really finding my voice. And I think I’ve done that. I mean I continue to explore different sides of my voice but I think I have sort of managed to find my voice through my singing and my writing I guess. And that’s been really rewarding for me personally because I think I struggled for a long time to find my place in music and especially with my family all being such great musicians.”
Moody confirms that being a part of The Jennys has forced her to experiment with sounds and style she wouldn’t have tried on her own and that, with newest member Heather Masse learning to play bass and Nicky Mehta learning to play drums, there’s been some new instrumental territory explored as well. Moody almost breaks into country rock territory on The Garden ﾭtend’ (featuring some nice guitar from Kathleen Edwards’ partner Colin Cripps).
“I guess ‘Travellin’ Shoes’ is a bit of… well I don’t know if it’s a rocker,” Moody laughs. “It’s a groover, it’s as close as I get to rockin’ out. One of these days I’m going to make a rock album and just freak everyone out!”
The Garden is available through Shock.
www.rhythms.com.au AUGUST 2010 Rhythms
– profile by Martin Jones