by Silke Hartung

NewTracks New Artist: Ruby Coley

by Silke Hartung

NewTracks New Artist: Ruby Coley

Te Whanganui-a-Tara-based for university studies, singer-songwriter Ruby Coley is finally dipping her toes into releasing her own music with debut single Devil On My Shoulder. NZ On Air Music featured the newcomer on their NewTracks compilation this February.

What is your name, where are you from and what instruments do you play?

Ruby Coley. I grew up in Auckland but have lived in Wellington for the last couple years for uni. I have played piano from a young age and then the more I played, singing just gradually became intertwined with it.

Was any high school or other music training especially important to you?

I didn’t actually do too much music at school. I had to do music study for the first couple years where I played the alto saxophone and did a couple years of school choir. I mostly found my love for music outside of school. I had an amazing piano teacher Jude Renner (she’s a legend in Grey Lynn!) from primary school age, she also held songwriting camps with her students and an annual gig where we all performed – the first taste of playing and singing in front of a crowd. In my late teens I started seeing a music and vocal coach at Establish Music Frances Dickinson was a great help in better understanding technique both in singing and songwriting.

Any other projects that we might we know you from?

Probably not! This is my debut release, I am a newbie.

What’s the background story of how this project came to be? 

I had done some songwriting with a couple different people. My vocal coach introduced me to the amazing Josh Naley (Wells) and we made a demo track which was super fun. We then applied for the NZ On Air NewMusic Development grant together and we were successful which was awesome. Josh brought in heaps of cool collaborators and got to make some music.

For this song, Devil On My Shoulder, Josh brought in Harry Charles to co-write, and he also did an amazing job producing it. I had been listening to lots of Holly Humberstone, specifically her song Scarlett, and I wanted a song that would have that edgy poppy feel. Harry and Josh built such an awesome feel. That’s kind of how it came to be. We then were lucky to have Devil mixed in the UK by Lee Smith who had mixed a bunch of Holly Humberstone’s tracks which is so cool, and then he recommended John Greenham in LA to do the mastering.
So very lucky to have all of this incredible talent working on my music so early on!

How has your writing evolved from your beginnings in songwriting?

I mean, it definitely is still developing and evolving. I have been writing songs since I was little, but I properly started to write when I was about 15, and I initially thought I was the bees knees and was trying to write about stuff that I had never actually felt or experienced and just wanted to make the coolest songs. But looking back on it, it’s funny because I just was forcing it too much, and as soon as I kind of just let go of the pressure, that’s when the fun happened. I then started to get opportunities and just mainly starting to learn from other people, and am still learning heaps. Right now, I feel definitely a bit more confident in what I am saying in my lyrics.

What made you decide to stick with your given name as your artist name?

I tried to think of different cool artist names, but every time I would send it to my friends, they were like what? Why? That’s not you! So I thought maybe I should just go for my actual name. Ruby Coley.

Aside from this release, what’s been the big highlight to date?

I think just getting the opportunity to make the music and learn from different people! Getting in the studio with such incredibly talented musicians has been such a vibe. I am in that fun space where I am just super excited to make more and for what’s to come!

What makes Devil On My Shoulder stand out for you as a single?

I remember feeling really excited about it in the session and having that feeling where I was like, ‘Ok this is real fun!’ Pretty much ever since that it stood out to me. It has momentum, which I love. I just am really proud of it, and so happy with how it’s come out.

What is the story behind Devil on My Shoulder?

Devil On My Shoulder is about the idea of holding yourself back, having that little voice in your head that tells you you’re gonna mess up or let someone down. It’s that fear of fully letting yourself go to someone, and then about finding that confidence to tell someone how you really feel.

What’s your favourite moment of the song?

I honestly love the spoken ‘tell me how it is’ part where it leads into the chorus, it has some sense of attitude. It was a super fun day writing with Josh and Harry. I remember taking quite a bit of time attempting a number of takes of that more spoken line. I was really trying to hype up the sassiness for it, but I am not so much of a sassy person so I really tried to channel some attitude which was fun!

What would you like listeners to take away from this song?

I would like people to take away the idea of trying to not be so in your head, and stop listening to the nasty voices in your head full of self-doubt, and allowing yourself to say what you want to actually say.

How do you generally work out what song would make a good single?

I mean since it’s my first one, I didn’t really know which was the best move and I would play them to my friends and they would give me their opinions. However, this song just stuck out to me. I just had a good feeling that it was a fun one to start out with, and to introduce myself as an artist.

Are there any other musical endeavours you’re working on that we should keep an eye out for?

I have some more music coming out soon which is very exciting, I am releasing an EP soon that I made with Josh Naley.

Can you please name three other local tunes that would fit well on a playlist alongside your song. 

  • Foley: Killing Me Babe
  • Robinson: Medicine
  • Navvy: Till You’re Ready 

Have any previous NZOA applications not gained funding or been included on NewTracks? 

I’ve been very lucky so far. Josh worked on the NewMusic Development grant and all the follow-up with NZ on Air was super positive. Also, very lucky to have been selected for NewTracks on this debut single which has been a great start to get to radio. The application process was very clear – I feel like the key is to be as prepared as you can across all the areas before release. Having advice and experience of Josh who has done it before has been a great help.

Are there any musical blogs, Youtube channels or podcasts you’re super into?

I’m probably quite late to this but my cousin told me recently about this epic podcast called Dissect. Each episode breaks down different songs of big records, and analyses the choices made and the lyrics its brilliant! The episodes that he recommended to me that got me hooked was the full breakdown of Frank Ocean Blonde.

Also, my besties have a podcast that I absolutely love, shoutout to the For Real The Podcast. They delve into all sorts of topics of just everyday life, friendship, uni and more!

Who did you make the video with?

The Devil On My Shoulder music video was shot in Twizel, Mackenzie country in the South Island. It was an amazing 48 hours in the most incredible location. So lucky to have had the video directed by one of NZ’s leading film makers, Toa Fraser, and amazing imagery shot by Andrew Stroud.