Ruby Amanfu has been singing, writing and recording her whole life. She knew it was time to make a new record after covering Bob Dylan’s “Not Dark Yet” at New York’s Dylan Fest tribute show. We were there, and can attest that she brought the house down. The song inspired her to make the beautiful album Standing Still, a collection of deep cut covers, hand picked by Ruby. She tells us the story below.
“When I was about ten years old, I thought that for sure, I was going to be a classical music singer. As a kid I worked on a side of my voice that was very operatic. In sixth grade, I joined my first classical choir. One day in class, we were performing ‘Joy to the World,’ and the director told us to line up and sing one by one to make sure that we were in tune. When he got to me, he said ‘Ruby, your voice is too fuzzy to sing this music.’
I was devastated. I felt like he had said, ‘You do not pass, you do not go on to sing this type of music.’ It was one of those moments that really redefined me. I started listening to things other than classical music and you know what I found out?
I fit. It may not be where I originally thought I would fit, but I found a place where I absolutely did fit, and there was no looking back.
At Dylan Fest, I sang a song called “Not Dark” which is one of the most, hah, dark yet light songs that Bob Dylan ever wrote. Before I sang the song, George Harrison's son, Dhani, came up to me and put his hands on my shoulders and said, “I want you to know that Bob wrote this about my dad when he was dying.”
I couldn't believe that specific story was told to me before I went onstage to sing that song. Talk about ammo right?
I already felt that connected to the song, but when Dhani told me that, it took it to another level.
I felt like I had to do right by it and be as honest as I could in sharing the message, because I know that Bob Dylan was being super honest and vulnerable when he shared the message. Afterwards, I was talking to Alex Levy and Austin Scaggs, and just said a record has to be made, something has to come of this. There was such a change in me that night.
I hadn't put out a lot of music of my own within that past ten years and after that night, we knew that it was time. So we started dreaming, and quickly those dreams were real. We said ‘OK, lets find a place somewhere outside of Nashville in the woods, find a cabin and make this record.’ We brought in the guys who played the song at that show. We were also able to bring in Mark Howard, who actually engineered Bob Dylan’s version of “Not Dark.” Talk about a dream coming true.
On this album, I wanted to do songs that made me be vulnerable and open, so that when I was performing them there would be an honest and telling truth. Once you put it on a record, it lives forever. I want what lives forever to be authentic.
My first love has always been songwriting, but I knew that there were songwriters just like myself who had recorded songs that they didn't write. We songwriters still have the ability to take ownership of songs in the ways translate and express them.
I had to respect the lyrics and they had to resonate with me. That’s how I chose the songs that went on this record. I knew that when I performed those songs, I might cry. I might need to take a break. I might have moments where I connect with a song so much it feels like I could have written it.”