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Ruth B: 5 songs that changed my life

Del Cowie

When she began posting snippets of her songs online in 2013, Ruth B — full name Ruth Berhe — was only giving us a few seconds of music at a time. Safe Haven, her full-length debut out this week, is a full 12 songs.

During those four years, Ruth B blew up with the single "Lost Boy," which became a Billboard chart hit in 2015. She consolidated that success with the release of her EP, The Intro, that same yearHer career has only gone from strength to strength, highlighted by her recent win at the Junos for best breakthrough artist.

On Safe Haven, Ruth B teamed with New Zealand record producer Joel Little — known for his work with Lorde — on her Los Angeles recording sessions.

"It was really important for me to be involved with everything because these songs, I literally nurtured them and so I didn’t want to just throw them at someone and say do what you want," says Ruth B. "So Joel and I worked very closely together and we got them to the point where I feel really strong about them."

Mike Elizondo, known for his work with Dr. Dre, Eminem and 50 Cent, among others, also contributed to the recording process. But given the intimate nature of the songs — where Ruth B and her piano are the focal points no matter what other elements are added — it's no surprise that virtually the whole album was a collaboration between Ruth B and Little.

With the release of her album, Ruth B will be on the road touring, including a performance at the CBC Music Festival on May 27. But she took some time out to speak about the music that has inspired her in life.

1. Carole King, 'It's Too Late'

"The music I grew up on was Lauryn Hill, the Beatles, Stevie Wonder, Carole King. I listen to a lot of storytellers, and that’s exactly what I try to do with my music because I try to tell a story. There’s characters, there’s problems, solutions, plot, all of it — and all of those artists do an awesome job of conveying a message and a story. I’m always listening to that stuff, so definitely you are what you eat."

2. Lauryn Hill, 'To Zion'

"The whole Miseducation of Lauryn Hill album has inspired me endlessly. 'To Zion' is my favourite song of all time. 'Tell Him,' off her acoustic album. These songs make you paint pictures in your head and make you want to know more about the artist’s life."

3. The Beatles, 'Yesterday'

"The Beatles, I like every song. I mean 'Yesterday,' 'Hello, Goodbye,' all of them. I think the classic artists just have a way about making you feel something, which I feel sometimes gets lost in mainstream music today. It’s kind of all about the same thing."

4. Stevie Wonder, 'Isn't She Lovely'

"My favourite Stevie Wonder song is 'Isn’t She Lovely' because my dad always tells me that, when I was born, that was the song he was always listening to. And that album [Songs in the Key of Life] has always resonated with me."

5. Teddy Afro, 'Lambadina'

"In terms of my parents, I was raised on Ethiopian music. It’s a very big part of my culture. I speak the language and it’s a huge part of my life. I grew up listening to a lot of gospel, worship and Ethiopian music and I still do. It’s always in the car. I think Ethiopian music is very rich melodically and lyrically, and maybe that’s infused its way into my music ... I guess the main artist is Teddy Afro, he’s the super famous artist everybody knows if you’re Ethiopian. I love him."

Follow Del Cowie: @vibesandstuff

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