Recently I had the opportunity to speak to Ruthie Foster, one of Americana music’s finest singer-songwriters, about her new album Healing Time and her future touring plans. Our conversation, edited for clarity and length, is below.
AH: How would you say your new album Healing Time differs from some of your previous work and how would you say it’s similar?
RF: Well I think it’s different because I had a chance to actually write for this album. With the lockdown and all of that, I found myself wanting to write with my brothers – my band, especially after losing our dear sister Samantha Banks, our drummer the year before. So I really wanted to have these guys involved in the writing aspect of this record.
As far as it being similar to my previous work, I think it still stays in the blues lane but is tweaked more toward soul than some of my other records. That came from all of the time I had on my hands during the lockdown as well. I started going through my album collection and I started playing a lot of my favorite soul artists like Marvin Gaye and Al Green, which always makes me feel like I’m home and is always the stuff I put on when I come back from tours.
AH: How did you arrive at Healing Time for the title of the album?
RF: I think it was fitting just because of what everybody has been through over these last few years. I believe this is the time for healing and for commemorating all the things that we have all collectively experienced. The album got pushed back a little bit because I wanted to put my heart and soul into the details of it but I think the notion of it being healing time really works for a lot of us right now.
AH: With the song “Feels Like Freedom” you have been quoted as saying “that it says everything about what I wanted to do with this album.” Could you elaborate on that?
RF: When I was going over and picking songs for the album, the song just hit me like nothing has hit me before. It just says a lot to me about feeling like, okay, I’m gonna do this record the way I want to do a record. I didn’t have anyone breathing down my neck about having to get this out now because I was in between management and honestly I was thinking about putting it out on my own label. This project was really about just doing it on my own and that’s what that song says to me, that this is my breakthrough and that this is my project to do as I please.
AH: So we have already talked about how the origins of the album can be traced to the time period of the lockdown. Do you think that that helped influence or helped bring about some of the intensely personal lyrics and feelings of many of the songs?
RF: I think it had a lot to do with it. During the lockdown, we were losing so many people in the music industry. The loss of John Prine in particular cut deep in my heart.
The lockdown also gave me a chance to find myself and get back into my studio and upgrade my own home studio. And in a lot of ways, it just got me back to the basics of a lot of things. Ultimately I think it was a gift as well as this thing that really hurt our hearts. I think it brought a lot of us back to what matters.
Additionally, I think because of all of this we’re in a different world right now which is why I see a lot of my fellow artists in the music industry pulling back on touring. There’s just so much more recognition of the importance of your mental health now, post-lockdown. That is huge, especially for those of us who are out here creating and performing our music on a daily or weekly basis.
AH: Can you elaborate on the song “4:00 AM” off the album?
RF: It was one of those songs that came from asking myself the question and not really knowing the answer of why am I out here doing this? Why am I here on the other side of the freaking world singing and playing my songs?
You know, sometimes you just get to that point when you’re out there on the road and you get all of this love and adoration from so many people and you come back to a hotel room and it’s just you, your freaking guitar, your suitcase and maybe a bottle of vodka. It’s mentally and psychologically excruciating in some ways. We’ve lost a lot of musicians to it who can’t deal with the loneliness of it.
We go and we give so much of ourselves, we’re away from our family a lot of the time and we almost leave ourselves and our own bodies when we’re up there doing what we do and then we come to these hotels with these secluded rooms and we are by ourselves. Period. It is something you have to learn to deal with. That is what I think I am trying to encapsulate with the song.
AH: I see from your website that you have a handful of show dates listed in support of the album. Do you plan on expanding your tour yet?
RF: Like a lot of other artists I’m cautious about my touring right now. I don’t want to get out and tour and end up owing everybody a lot of money because like every other normal human being, I have to take care of my personal finances too. Tours are expensive and can wreck you financially if you are not careful.
But I do plan on getting out there as much as I can to support the new record because I do miss my people, my little circle of folks who love my music. I need and love that connection to the audience as much as they do, so yes I will be getting out there.
Thank you for talking with us, Ruthie Foster.
Ruthie Foster’s new album Healing Time as well as the schedule of her tour dates are available on her website.