New Jersey native Katie Ruvane has wasted no time in launching her career as a singer-songwriter since graduating Nashville’s Belmont University last December. To spread word of her soulful folk balladry, she cut an album, then drove herself from Florida to Maine, playing house shows to raise funds and stir up anticipation for her debut full length.
Take notice: versatile and elegant, Ruvane’s voice flows beautifully through her acoustic-electric soundbeds. It’s feathery in the upper register, hazy and world-weary down low. Below, you can hear the latter across “Black Magic” and “All Night;” on “True,” the former shines through on the EP’s most striking track. Ruvane names Phoebe Bridgers has a particular influence, and on “True,” Bridgers’ knack for gut-wrenching minimalism — haunting background vocals, even empty sonic space — is put on brilliant display.
Ruvane’s 10-song debut The Lines is set to arrive via three EP-sized installments this Fall. Part I is out Thursday (Sept. 27) but Billboard is premiering its three tracks exclusively below, along with a conversation with the artist today (Sept. 25).
You just finished playing two months’ worth of house concerts down the East Coast. What was that like?
Those house shows were the time of my life, and actually helped me cover the costs of making this album. It all started last October, when I was contacted by local indie production company Lost Harbor Music to help me independently record my first full-length album. Because of Belmont, Zach Hughes (the founder of Lost Harbor) and I knew a ton of the same people and I couldn’t wait to work with him. But I was still finishing college, unsigned, unmanaged and totally broke. Luckily, that’s where Lost Harbor stepped in, helping me organize a pre-order campaign to cover the costs of making the record. After graduating from Belmont last December, I launched my own LLC to consolidate all of my booking, production and management under one company that I run myself. I partnered with Lost Harbor Music to launch the album pre-order campaign just after New Year’s. The first two months of 2018 were spent making phone calls, writing letters, and awkwardly messaging people on Facebook to ask them to pre-order CDs and t-shirts, and come to house shows so I could afford to make this album. My high school choir director even helped me put on a fundraiser show in my school’s auditorium and get my hometown involved. After two months of campaigning, we had 80% of the album costs raised and I had a summer’s worth of house shows on the calendar.
After a very busy spring recording and editing, I threw my guitar and a suitcase in my car and drove from Florida to Maine, performing unplugged solo sets of my upcoming album in backyards, living rooms, basements — wherever folks would have me. I covered the cost of gas by selling more pre-orders for CDs at each show. The DIY route definitely requires a ton of organization and resilience. Nobody will work harder for you than you. But more than anything, I learned that’s it’s essential to know when and how to let other people step in and help — because people really do want to help!
What sort of mindset or life experience inspired these songs?
Part I is a collection of the first three songs on my debut 10-track album, The Lines. This first release is poised delicately on the line before knowing someone, before falling for them. I think it’s one of the more comfortable spaces to be in. It’s daydreaming; it’s harmless. And it’s so easy to get caught up in the dream, that we don’t even feel ourselves tripping over the line. “Black Magic,” “All Night,” and “True” are the first three times I tripped.
Who are some contemporary artists you find especially inspiring?
I’m a huge fan of Phoebe Bridgers. [Her album] Stranger in the Alps quickly became one of my all-time favorite records since it came out last year, and I listened to it nearly every day while we were making my album. The rawness of her storytelling is almost graphic and I’m right there with her in every word. She also introduced me to Soccer Mommy, a Nashville band, which writes killer deadpan lines over interesting guitar intervals that my sister and I are obsessed with. I’ve always loved Sara Bareilles, too — her transition from songwriter to international touring artist to Broadway musical writer and actress is something extraterrestrial. Her book, Sounds Like Me, is my Bible. More than anyone, though, I look up to Brandi Carlile. The combination of the power in her voice and the nostalgia in her lyrics has always had a way of helping me get back to center.
What do you have coming up?
Part II and Part III of The Lines will follow this release throughout October and November. People can keep up with me best on Instagram or checking in with my website. If you want to check out more music, I have several live sessions on my YouTube channel, and have an early single called “Nicotine” on Spotify. I’m also currently planning a release show in Nashville after the release of Part III and will be sharing updates on all of my socials as things come together.