Ruth Nielsen: (singing)
Nick: Hi, this is Nick from the Head and Heart and I’m really pleased to bring Ruth Nielsen here today. Good afternoon. Well, good morning to you.
Ruth Nielsen: Good morning. How are you?
Nick: I’m very, very well and I understand that even though you’re not originally from Yorkshire, you’ve been here for like a decade, maybe 16 years.
Ruth Nielsen: Yeah, so overall in the UK, I’ve been down South for a few years, but I took my degree in Leeds in 2008, and I’ve been up here most of my time.
Nick: And originally from…
Ruth Nielsen: Denmark.
Nick: From Denmark. So almost exactly like Leeds but different.
Ruth Nielsen: It is a bit like Yorkshire. It’s on the same wavelength, but there’s a lot of character difference.
Nick: Excellent. So you play primarily keyboard?
Ruth Nielsen: Yes, that’s my main instrument since I was nine years old.
Nick: Wow. Okay.
Ruth Nielsen: And then I’ve been singing as well. So…
Nick: And in terms of music, do you write your own music? Do you do cover versions or a combination of the two?
Ruth Nielsen: A combination now. I started off with covers because I was taking songs that inspired me and I really felt like I can reflect with that, I can relate to that. And I made my own version of it. So I got known for my covers. And then I’ve started writing again as I’ve had more time to actually communicate what I feel as well and what I’ve been through.
Nick: So what kind of artists have you heard and you thought, “Man that’s great. I must figure something out from that.”
Ruth Nielsen: I’ve not had many that I’ve really taken a lot from. I pick the songs where I like it, but my main favorite artists are KT Tunstall and Carole King, Joni Mitchell and Newton Faulkner. But there’s one that particularly stands out, from when I was studying jazz at Leeds College of music, is Rachel Farrell. She absolutely had a voice of like… It was so unique. I love what she did but, I couldn’t do the same.
Nick: I mean you’ve got real old school Carole King who I remember, well, I mean I’m older than you. I remember Tapestry from 1972 and she wrote of course for a lot of different artists. Joni Mitchell, similar artists. And then new-er artists. So for you, what makes for a really good song from your point of view?
Ruth Nielsen: It’s a lot of things. It’s the story, but most of all the feeling and emotion and how it’s said, plus the music, it all comes together. There’s a lot it takes for me to really grab onto it, I think.
Nick: And when you’re writing, what kind of subjects or what happens in your writing process? Do you start with a melody or a lyric or how does that generally unfold?
Ruth Nielsen: I most of the time start with both, together and it comes when I actually want to say what’s on my mind, as the lyrics start, but the music is created kind of at the same time. There’s only been once where I’ve changed the music after. I’ve thought this music sounds too much like somebody else. I want it to be my version. But the song writing process is like a continual working process for me, even though I know exactly what I’m writing about, it’s just working it out and I really enjoy it. So…
Nick: Yeah. And in terms of… Do you play live or record, do a combination of the two?
Ruth Nielsen: I mostly play live. That’s where I really feel… Because I communicate through the music. That’s where I feel I’m alive and so jamming with other people, playing on my own. That’s the main thing for me.
Nick: Yeah. Do you teach as well?
Ruth Nielsen: Yes. I teach singing and piano. I’ve been going self-employed in the last three years, so that’s really helped me to develop as a musician as well and also very rewarding to work with other musicians.
Nick: What’s your fame? What are the most common things to come up against, in terms of teaching people, in terms of rectifying or getting people on track?
Ruth Nielsen: Most people actually know when they are making mistakes and they tell themselves off, so what I have to do is not be too loud on them. That’s the main thing really, but it’s all about what they want to learn, where they are at. So I have to adapt and meet them where they are and understand what they’re working towards as well as what are they capable of right now. And then take it from there.
Nick: And with singing, because I mean in this scene… In this, sort of talent show era, you know, everybody thinks they’re brilliant, and there’s a variation, of course.
Ruth Nielsen: There is and for me I focus on giving them a healthy practice and also giving some tips on how to do the songs. But it’s more about practicing. The reason that I’m still playing piano today is because I haven’t stopped. So, if you don’t give up you will learn. So you have to keep practicing. [crosstalk 00:05:40].
Nick: So if you’re going to send a message back to your nine year old version of you from now, what would the message, going back in time be?
Ruth Nielsen: Just don’t give up. Even if you do feel depressed or sad or there are times in your life where you’re just thinking, “I’ve had enough.” Don’t give up. It will come back to you. But it’s not… For me, it was a passion that was created or I had the passion in myself and that’s how it was brought out. But it was sort of my go to, my outlet, so I stuck with it.
Nick: And in terms of the songs you actually write, what sort of things inspire you in terms of subject matter?
Ruth Nielsen: It’s probably… It’s mostly experiences that I’ve been through and I’m processing it in my head and sometimes I can’t put out in a different way. So, I think it’s about how I communicate what I’ve felt or going through something and if I find that I can put it into a song, then that’s really good for me.
Nick: Wow. Excellent. And if we want to hear about you and they want to find out about your latest gigs, what’s the best way for them to find out about you?
Ruth Nielsen: Go to my website, it’s ruthmusic.co.uk. And I’m also on Facebook, on ruthmusiclive on Twitter or you can find me at Ruth Nielsen Music. But just be aware of the spelling of Nielsen, because It’s a Danish spelling.
Nick: So you best spell it for us just to be…
Ruth Nielsen: N-I-E-L-S-E-N.
Ruth Nielsen: Yes.
Nick: Excellent. Well, thanks for talking to us.
Ruth Nielsen: Thank you.
Nick: And I know now you’re going to play us a couple of pieces.
Ruth Nielsen: (singing)
This song is my own. It’s called Unicorn and I wrote this in May, June this year.
This is No Remorse.