Singer-songwriter Ruby Amanfu already has an impressive roster of cosigns — now with Standing Still, her upcoming album of covers, she’s seeking to make the music of artists including Bob Dylan and Kanye West her own.
Backstory: Born in Ghana, Amanfu grew up in Nashville, where, as a teen, she sang with the Nashville Symphony Chorus (she was the youngest-ever member at 15). Labels pursued her while she was at Berklee College of Music and then Belmont University. “I barely went to class,” she says. “I hate to admit that, but I was working.”
On the Map: Following two self-released LPs, she teamed with singer Sam Brooker as rootsy soul-pop duo Sam & Ruby. Soon after, Jack White enlisted her for a head-turning vocal on the duet “Love Interruption” in 2012. “It was unexpected and key in shaping me,” says Amanfu. Next came gigs with Norah Jones, Hozier and a 7-inch single with Alabama Shakes’ Brittany Howard.
Up Next: The elegantly countrified, quietly intense performances on new album Standing Still (Aug. 28, Thirty Tigers/Rival & Co.) are the result of Amanfu choosing emotionally complex songs from sources as far-flung as Bob Dylan and Kanye West. Holing up in a secluded cabin and reimagining them with producers including Patrick Carney of The Black Keys also helped. “You want it to sound like you could have written it,” she says of the covers. “I think that comes from an artist who has an empathetic side.”
Listen to more music from this issue in the Spotify playlist below:
This story originally appeared in the Aug. 8 issue of Billboard.