Who Remembers Mixed Tapes?


I’m sure there are some of you who immediately think of the cult classics that centered around the ideas of tapes, tape decks and those prehistoric form of music distribution.  In 2009, there was an entire movie centered around this form of listening and recording.  I can remember sitting in front of my JVC listening to Casey Kasem (we we sadly lost last year) waiting for the opening strains of my favorite song to hit the big red “record” button and start what would be an 8 song montage of radio songs I loved.  Those days are so far behind us, I had almost forgotten the crude approach to music listening and loving until today.

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This musical generation behind me has probably never held a Scotch tape, and if they were asked about it they would definitely assume we were talking about something sticky.  The digital world has changed music forever.  How do you remember the music?

Renee Ruth

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Hours before 2015…


And I am thinking about how long it’s been since I composed anything on this blog.  I had initially thought to do a creative status update on FB, and then remembered this cognitive outlet.  So here is how I would like to say goodbye to the last year…

Dear 2014,

When I first met you, ironically, I had just left one of the best New Year’s parties with a friend who moved away not long after you and I were introduced and headed to a celebration at the very place I will now say goodbye to you.  For those who don’t follow (smile), I was at a party at Martin Donovan’s and we all went to Jimmy’s on the James after the ball dropped to dance the night away. I met 2014 as a newly single, eternal student, who once had musical dreams, family dreams and felt left with her academic aspirations.  That first day together I spent on my own determining to complete the doctorate I was chipping away at and to start writing music one of those three hundred and sixty five days.  That first day was spent at the OCC workout room, looking out over a southern VA landscape I’ve grown to love and I didn’t know how you and I were going to spend the next year, but I was determined to make it matter.

I would never have guessed, that at the end of our days together, I would be getting to do the what I love the most: Sing!  You couldn’t have convinced me that I would have found a band of fantastic musicians, we would end up in the studio before the summer was over, we would release a live CD AND a single, and we’d end up driving to Richmond to Audition for American’s Got Talent.  While all this is going on, you got to see me complete the very last doctoral class I will ever physically take and begin the opening pages of my dissertation.  If you had told me that this year I would find a man who loved me more than life itself I wouldn’t have believed that either, but those were just the tips of the iceberg of experiences that marked this past year.

2014, when I think of the last year we’ve spent together, and the milestones in my life you walked me through, I can honestly say I am sad to see you go; however, it is truly my prayer that when I meet 2015 in a few hours, the dreams that I hold for that year will be much like they were last year whenI met you: Far exceed anything I could have imagined.

The Lord has walked through the beginning and ending of so many things in my life and it is the prayer for the coming year that He maintains His hand in my life and takes me to the places I have always dreamed of!

Here is to the coming year and all the dreams, hopes and experiences it holds!!

Renee Ruth

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“Find my iPhone”


So my phone went missing Saturday night, March 1st 2014, either during or shortly after my last set at Jimmy’s on the James.  That place has always been like a second home, even when I’d been gone for a few months, I came back to the same audience and community that had loved me long before I left.  I have seen posted numerous places on Facebook that you aren’t doing something right if you don’t have any haters, and it is no secret I have a few, but I never translated the idea of “haters” into potential “thieves” until last night.

There was a table of customers at my show, only one or two who I knew, that did not seem like they were necessarily there to support my music and my band.  My phone sat with my things at the front table near all our gear, and at the end of my set I ran to the bathroom and came back to pack up my things.  My friends and long time fans had been sitting there when I left so I didn’t notice the missing phone as anything alarming right off the bat, I had assumed like friends had done in the past, when they left the table of things, they carried personal possessions that were there with them.  It wasn’t until 30 minutes later when the place cleared out and I began inquiring who picked it up that I became concerned.  When we tried to call the phone and it was off, having arrived at Jimmy’s at 8pm fully charged, I started to get that feeling…you know the one that tells you something isn’t right.

Now here is how “Find my iPhone” really works.  At the restaurant, we were able to call my phone and it continued to go into voicemail.  Since Jimmy’s doesn’t have wifi, I had to wait to get home to try and track my phone.  Had I believed my gut about the theft, I should have ran next door and found wifi to track my phone that was on (as it was ringing before it dumped into vm) but by the time I got home the repetitive calls (I’m assuming) caused the thief to shut off the phone.  When that happens, “Find my iPhone” will only return an “offline” status and a notification that action will be taken next time the phone is on the network.  I knew this meant that if the thief had any cell phone savvy, they would never turn that phone back on…

Like someone PM’d me on Facebook, the Lord has definitely always guided me and protected me, even in the moments I’ve been wronged, and this individual was obviously unaware of the IOS 7 capabilities and he turned my phone on Sunday at 3:44pm.  What happens with IOS7 is you have the ability to put your phone in “lock mode.”  Once you do this, when the phone is turned on a message is received on the locked screen saying “This phone has been lost, please call ‘x'” and there is absolutely nothing else that can be done with the phone.  It is a brick. I spent all day Sunday blacklisting the phone with the police, reporting it stolen with AT&T (meaning it can’t even be hacked and used), and studying the GPS coordinates that “Find my iPhone” provides the minute the phone is online.  Here is what I had at 5pm Sunday:

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And this map location:

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You just don’t realize how important something like a cell phone is until it’s gone, especially since a number of years ago we all nearly did away with landlines all together.  I had to screen shot these onto my iPad (which only worked when connected to wifi) and took it in the car with me to set out to Madison Heights.  My thought was, maybe they had enough sense to know that a locked phone is worth the price of a brick, to them, and the just turned it off and tossed it behind this building.

So here I am, at dusk, on the side of a building shuffling thorough grass and rubble that was located next to the equipment shop that ended up being where the little red dot landed.  A church was located next to the shop, so maybe I had a false sense of safety, because the back of my mind still held a few FB people who warned me about going to “certain parts of Madison Heights alone.”

Then I heard the screech of truck tires.

I glance over my shoulder and see a massive white truck with two guys in it looking very hard at me.  It is amazing how quickly you can calculate things when the adrenaline is rushing and you think you are in danger.  I was reaching for my keys and racing for the drivers side door of my car as I heard the truck peel into the parking lot and head for my car and I deduced that there was no way I unlock and get into my car before the driver of the truck got out of his.  I still try.  As I’m reaching for the handle, I glance at the driver’s face and notice a look of concern rather than anger and for a minute my guard drops.  I wave a white flag with, “Hey!  Do you guys own this place?”  My question immediately disarms the driver who has cleverly blocked my car with the length of his vehicle.  Quickly I learn it is his grandfather’s equipment store, and there had been a recent theft (ironic) and the driver and his passenger get out of the truck and help me search for my potentially abandoned iPhone.

As I get in my car, dejected that my phone was still MIA, I say a quick prayer thanking the Lord that nothing unfortunate happened to me (like FB friends had foreshadowed) and headed back home to silence.  It’s amazing how attached we are to our phones and how connected we are and it’s something we’re uniquely unaware of until its gone.  I called it an early night, worn out from the chase, and woke up the next day to a host of posts regarding my missing phone and GPS coordinates.

When I woke up the next day, I had a list of posts regarding the coordinates I posted above.  Turns out a former coworker, lived on that road next too the pin drop along with the suspected thief (that was sent in PM’s to me over the course of the night).  I sat at my computer and realized that the thief had turned on my phone, saw that “lost phone” message and decided to not return the phone; this was definitely theft.  So I started to think like the thief.  If I lifted an iPhone my goal was probably to make a few bucks selling it.  If this thief had any tech sense, they’d have figured out the phone in “lock mode” is now worth nothing to them but it was worth $800 to me.  Someone on FB said, why don’t you offer a reward and I immediately posted a status saying anyone who “found” my phone would be given $100 (1/8th of what the phone was worth to me since I found out there was no insurance on the phone).

Friends posted, re-posted and I heard nothing but I did hear from my online jobs who were needing to reach me via phone and I didn’t have one.  I waited a few hours and ended up on the snow-day at AT&T replacing my stolen phone with a phone from the Next Plan.  Essentially, the replacement phone was a lease as I didn’t have the $800 to shovel out for a new phone I could own and I took my shiny new champagne colored iPhone 5S back to my apartment that afternoon to receive a phone call at 4:30 where the caller was saying to me, “you’re never going to believe this…”

Talking on the replacement phone I was forced to get two days later for work, the voice on the other end said they got in touch with my former coworker, informed him of the reward, and this individual said he had my phone and wanted his reward.  I sat there stunned.  I was getting my phone back, I’d already gotten a new phone, this person had my phone or immediate access to it and I used to be his manager ten years ago and his co-worker last year at Jimmy’s on the James.  He had been there the night it went missing and now he “found” it.  When the phone was brought back to the restaurant that night at 5pm, this person was shown the GPS satellite location, along with the GPS map that was produced when my phone was turned on the next day and he appeared surprised that you could pinpoint a phone location and it pinned my phone suspiciously close to where these two individuals lived and worked.  He still took the reward money in exchange for my phone he brought, and left.  I can’t help but wonder how those men would feel if someone came to the ones car wash shop in Madison Heights or the others new restaurant on 29 and “found” one of their phones or other items of value?

Instagram, Twitter, and FaceBook…


I needed an escape.  2013 was a series of roller coasters, mainly of which I didn’t know I was riding until the ride halted to a stop.  I needed somewhere to go where fewer people knew me and I could release a lot of the world that I was hanging on to, dreaming of, hoping for.  There seemed no better way to do it than throwing myself down the side of a mountain at 35 miles per hour on a set of skis.

Wintergreen became a home away from home, where I met a whole group of new, wonderful people and I was able to end up going there with a couple great friends 2014 brought me.  It was on one of these “escapes” my friends and I were stuck on a lift at dusk because the generator broke.  Suspended in what we decided was 30ft of air – as we contemplated after 30 minutes of motionless suspension whether or not we could make the jump, and then 45 minutes into the hang whether we could do it if we had to – we found ourselves trapped with a seventeen year old snowboarder who took pictures for us of our plight.

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Over the minutes that seemed like hours as the sun fell out of the sky and the temperatures dropped and in an effort to avoid the escalating fear that there might be helicopters carrying us off the lift, we made nonsensical conversation with each other.  Snapping pictures for us, our seventeen year old companion interjects with, “you need to tag me in those.” I immediately ask him to friend me on Facebook and I’d be happy to, but he stops me short and informs me that while he has a Facebook account, he doesn’t use it. His generation uses Twitter and Facebook.

Facebook has always been a vehicle of sorts for me.  As an international living in the US, it has been a way to keep up with my nephew who is growing too fast, my sister, brother in law, cousins, etc. A few years after Facebook’s inception, there was that moment where a high school reunion was made possible virtually and I found all my friends from elementary school and high school back in Canada.  Then I started singing and it became a way to promote my work, shows, progress, etc. I’ll never leave Facebook, but getting stuck on the lift at Wintergreen taught me that even social media changes as quickly as time passes and in order to accommodate I have started using the accounts I set up with Instagram and Twitter years ago.

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ReneeRuth

Instagram: http://instagram.com/renee_ruth

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/renee.ruth

So now you can follow my virtual thoughts in three different places, it makes me wonder what the next social media outlet will be in another few years…

Returning to my Roots…


I had not yet moved to the ’03 in Lynchburg (this tiny towns closest version of 90210) but I had just finished my first-ever show at one of my old haunts, Bullbranch.  It was somewhere in 2005 that I met Dave Ellis and his wife Melanie and over the years spent many holidays in their company and in their restaurants.  When I decided to start performing, I approached them with the request to sing on a Wednesday night at their restaurant with what little I had then: a mic, a Behringer amp, my keyboard and my dad’s guitar.  That was the spring of 2010. With little to lose (except repeat customers and my reputation) they allowed me to sing a week later.

ImageI sang every Wednesday for the next four months and am indebted to both of them for not only allowing me the audience and space to build my performance chops, but allowing me to return almost four years later on a Saturday night with my newly formed band: Fred Jackson (drums), Charles T Bailey (Bass) and Andy Poindexter (Keys). 

Tomorrow will be my first show at Mangia since May 2010, apart from the cameo’s I would later make at open mic nights, and I am beyond excited to return to that space with some of my old originals, remixed for a dance groove, as well as a bunch of new covers that have only happened in recent weeks and some of them tomorrow at rehearsal with the band.  There is something that you can not replace with just a group of musicians when you find chemistry between bandmates.  It’s like a relationship that you’ll never forget because you could read each others mind, were each others biggest fans, and would do anything for each other.  This is why I will randomly inform social networking sites how lucky I am.  I have found a band that believes in me as much as I believe in them, and when that’s the foundation the sky is the limit!

Hope to see some of you out tomorrow night for my first night back on 2496 Rivermont Ave with my amazing band!

Cheers!

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Where nothing else matters…


I can remember my first trip overseas, the huge metal tub jet streaming through the Atlantic air and little me somewhere in the belly of this monster clutching my Bible and repetitively praying that the plane not only stayed airborne but safely landed in Amsterdam.  That was the first of nine flights I took in Europe that summer and if you had been a passenger on any one of those planes, you would not have missed the blond hair, ash white skin and black leather bound Bible.  You would have, however, missed my blue eyes because they were almost always closed in prayer.

I have always said that I never walk closer to God then when I was flying in a plane and until this past summer I avoided aircrafts like the plague. Then I met someone who changed all of that for me forever.  I still say a prayer taking off and hold my breath on landings, but I no longer spend every last second of a flight deep in prayer.  Instead, I’ve been able to take my attention elsewhere and have seen beauty in places I was too terrified to look before. It truly doesn’t get much more heavenly than this:

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I don’t get to fly much anymore, and (ironically) I now miss it terribly, but I have found something here on the ground that’s elicited a similar response: skiing.  I skied a lot as a kid, but quit when I moved to VA in the late 90’s.  The conditions were “sub par” in my superior Canadian opinion.  I’ve grown up (matured) since then.  There are only a few things as beautiful as the top of a mountain looking down terrain you may or may not survive and the only thing that reminds you of civilization are the other people that might be with you on the mountain and the wires carrying lifts up and down the hills.  Otherwise, the expanse is an escape only matched by the clouds in the sky.

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Flying allows you to leave the rest of life (worries, issues, problems, stress) on the ground and disappear into a solitude that is beyond comparison.  There are two places that do the same thing for me: alone on a mountain with the scenery and skis, and on a stage with a microphone and my musician family.  Everything else going on in the world disappears…

This Little Child


I still say Merry Christmas, and will always say Merry Christmas. 

For those who choose not to, that is your own prerogative, but this is more than a hallmark holiday to me.

As a singer songwriter, there are a number of songwriters that I look up to and would aspire to write songs as crafted as theirs, but on this holiday eve I want to draw attention to one in particular: Scott Wesley Brown.

If you don’t know him, or know much about him, look him up.  He wrote a song that I have heard my entire life.  I can still imagine the Christmas tree at the bottom of the stairs in my childhood house on Hemlock drive and the strains of this song below floating through the house as my mom worked on Christmas dinner and my dad sat with his ovation and sang along.  Those days are long gone, and faint memories, but the truths of the words in Brown’s song have never changed in years past or years to come.

Here is the TRUE meaning of Christmas

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THIS LITTLE CHILD

Verse 1
Who would of thought that long ago
So very far away
A little child would be born
And in a manger laid
And who would have thought this little child
Was born the King of kings
The Son of just a carpenter
For whom the angels sing
And who would have thought that as He grew
And with other children played
This child with whom they laughed and sang
Would die for them some day
And who would have thought this little child
Could make a blind man see
Feed the hungry make rich the poor
And set the sinner free
Oh who would have tho’t this little child
Was who the prophets said
Would take away the sins of man
And rise up from the dead

Chorus 1
O I believe and I will always sing
This little child is the King
O I believe and I will always sing
This little child
He is the King of kings

Verse 2
Many years have come and gone
Yet this world remains the same
Empires have been built and fallen
Only time has made a change
Nation against nation
Brother against brother
Men so filled with hatred
Killing one another
And over half the world is starving
While our banner of decency is torn
Debating over disarmament
Killing children before they’re born
And fools who march to win the right
To justify their sin
Oh ev’ry nation that has fallen
Has fallen from within
Yet in the midst of this darkness
There is a hope a light that burns
This little child the King of kings
Some day will return

Chorus 2
And I believe and I will always sing
This little child is the King
And I believe and I will always sing
This little child
He is the King of kings

Verse 3
Who would have thought this little child
Is who the prophets said
Will return to judge this world
The living and the dead
Oh can’t you see that long ago
So very far away
This little child our only hope
Was born a King that day
And can’t you see that here and now
As unto Him we pray
This Lord of lords who is our hope
Is still King today
He’s still the King today