INTERVIEW: Ruth Lyon | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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There is something about Ruth Lyon that instantly makes you feel at home. For our interview she pops up on my screen radiating creativity, surrounded by colourful throws and tiled baroque art. The PRS Women Make Music awardee is here to talk about her debut EP Nothing’s Perfect, a dynamic collection of catchy pop tunes written by a truly masterful musician.

Co-produced with Rhiannon Mair (Laura Marling, LUNA) and Cameron Craig (Amy Winehouse, Katie Melua) Nothing’s Perfect is ironically an impeccable mix of bittersweet self-reflection, expertly demonstrated on the piano-led fragility of Paper Aeroplane, alongside rhythm and blues-inspired driving tracks such as the funky Fast Food and the experimental stomp of Motormouth.

Classically trained, Ruth’s musical background has stood her in good stead, previous material (released under the name Ruth Patterson) saw her receive support from BBC 6Music and earned her a coveted position as Sage Gateshead artist in residence in 2020; having since changed her name to her mother’s maiden name, Lyon, her debut EP is a masterclass in catchy pop choruses and wry storytelling.

I am genuinely surprised when Ruth tells me she’s not sure the EP is very cohesive. “I didn’t really have a really clear theme,” she says, going on to explain that it was born out of wanting to experiment and have fun. Despite her protestations, the individual tracks compliment each other to result in a beautifully balanced and distinctly memorable collection.

Lemon Tree is my personal favourite; deeply rich, with a brilliant hook, combining rhythm, soul and pop with Ruth’s velvet voice to create a scintillating earworm. Ruth proudly explains that her own lemon tree has produced three large lemons, but this quirky love song has a double meaning. “It’s a little poppy bop, but it’s about the end of the world!” She says, laughing.

I always aim to be powerful and strong in my work. I want to be able to sing about whatever I want

As jaded a title as Nothing’s Perfect may seem, for Ruth it means quite the opposite. As a young disabled person with chronic illness, she is a pioneer for inclusivity for disability in the arts. “It’s kind of what propels me to keep doing what I’m doing and try to change things,” she says. “Nobody is perfect, nothing is perfect and that’s OK.”

I’m curious how this driven mentality might clash against an industry so charged by image and by achieving an unattainable perfection. “It does worry me about young disabled people growing up; that they’re taught that they are ‘wrong’. Because we can’t hide the fact that we’re different. For me it’s really, really important to shine a light on that.”

Ruth performed earlier this year on the BBC Introducing stage at Latitude Festival, which was a special experience for her. “It felt quite surreal, because it was my first solo show. It was totally overwhelming,” she remembers. “I got asked to do it two weeks beforehand, I had to get a whole band together and we’d never played together before.” Ruth’s stagecraft has been expertly honed thanks to her work fronting the perennially touring folk ‘n’ rollers Holy Moly & The Crackers, but when she’s performing her own material her stage presence is a thing of mesmeric beauty. “Everything felt quite fresh and exciting. I was just like a kid, I was like ‘this is the best day ever!’ The crowd were really amazing. No one knew who I was, but everybody just got up and got really into it – there was just this really great spirit about it.”

As well as her other commitments, Ruth is also an artist ambassador for Attitude Is Everything, a charity aiming to create more accessibility for deaf and disabled people in music. “One of the reasons I was really proud to be at Latitude was because they had to build a ramp especially for me to get onto the stage, and that felt so great because they were like We’ve never done this before’. It was really cool they’d done that and made all the arrangements. Disabled artists do exist. It can easily be made adaptable.”

To mirror her positive personality, Ruth’s unique brand of baroque pop balances a realistic approach to everyday life with sensitivity and depth. “I first heard that term used with Fiona Apple,” Ruth says of the genre. “I love her world and her contemporaries like Regina Spektor and Alanis Morrissette, these kind of really powerful but quite interesting voices and these women that have a lot to say.” For Ruth the genre is more about what it stands for than what it describes. “It often uses strings, there’s a lot of layers, a lot of emotion,” she tells me. Ruth sees her musical style as a statement of intent, giving her the freedom to write regardless of gender expectations. “I always aim to be powerful and strong in my work. I want to be able to sing about whatever I want,” she says, passionately. Whether that’s what Ruth calls a “silly” track like Fast Food or something darker like Little Blue, a song inspired by her relationship with one of the medications she takes, a little blue pill.

So, what’s next for this trailblazer? Ruth will be setting off on her own headline tour in Spring 2022, the details of which she promises are to be released soon. In the meantime, she’ll be performing at Alphabetti Theatre’s Women Are Mint festival on Wednesday 3rd November, with a full band performance coming later in the month at Brave Exhibitions festival at The Cluny.

Ruth Lyons EP Nothing’s Perfect is released on 22nd October via Pink Lane Records


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