They say age is just a number and Melbourne musicians Loretta Miller and Ruby Jones are living proof of that.
Formerly in Clairy Browne and The Bangin’ Rackettes (CBBR) together, the pair reunited for the first time on ‘Eighteen’, a rip-roaring single released last week.
An intoxicating blend of Americana, soul, and pure rock ‘n roll energy, the track reflects on Jones and Miller’s exciting experiences travelling around the world playing and making music, but it also has a more serious point to make.
For every Amy Shark success story – she became an international success well into her late 20s – there’s multiple other female artists abandoned by an industry that sees their age as a hindrance. “Ultimately, ‘Eighteen’ is a rollicking and anthemic celebration of female friendship on the road,” Jones says about the track.
“Being on tour as a female musician is a unique experience and one that isn’t often reflected in music in the way men’s stories are, so we were keen to explore this, while addressing the sombre reality of ageism and misogyny within the music industry.”
Jones delicately smoky vocals melt right into Miller’s country verve – not dissimilar to Sharon Van Etten and Angel Olsen’s partnership – highlighting that a musical reunion between the pair was always meant to happen. “It’s been a beautiful experience to create a piece of music collaboratively, that speaks to our shared experience as artists,” Miller adds.
To mark the release of ‘Eighteen’, we caught up with Miller and Jones as part of our Get To Know series to find out more about their lives, connection, and music. And if you want to hear the pair’s toe-tapping number up close, Jones and Miller will be launching the single on Saturday, September 17th at The Curtin (find tickets here).
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Loretta Miller and Ruby Jones’s ‘Eighteen’ is out now.
How did this collaboration come about?
Ruby Jones and Loretta Miller:Loretta and I had been talking about writing together for a long time. I initially wrote a verse and a chorus on the piano and sent it across to her, she sent some ideas back to me, and we jammed it out with my band over a few months.
It felt like the right time to put out a duet – I’d just released my first record and Loretta is about to release hers. We’ve been friends for over a decade and had previously played in a band together.
On paper we’ve already had this wonderful career, we’ve toured the world, played huge festivals, and signed record deals, but we found ourselves sitting with the same anxiety both embarking on solo careers in our early thirties. Will there be space for our music?
We really wanted to address ageism in music because it’s something that we feel is still somewhat of a taboo topic. I think it’s really gross how women are pushed out of the industry after 25, and it also makes me sad because I know we as a community are missing out on some amazing music because of this “ageing out” phenomenon. Our single is about all of that!
How would you describe your music to your grandma?
RJ & LM: This duet? Stevie Nicks and Dolly Parton walk into a dive bar.
Tell us about a few of your tracks; their titles and what they’re about?
‘Backbone’: I took the title of this song from an episode of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos called ‘The Backbone of The Night’. This song isn’t really about the celestial heavens, but I was watching a lot of that show at the time, and I felt like it’d be a good line for a song.
The line “Honey, you’re the backbone of my night, and I’ve been killing myself just to keep it alive” refers to seeing someone as a constant presence in your life, but having to walk away from them before you completely lose yourself.
‘The Woman Who Loves You’: ‘The Woman Who Loves You’ was written initially by Jules, my writing partner, and myself in two parts as I was in Nashville at the time and he was in Melbourne. Like a lot of the songs off my record, it was written after my last band’s traumatic breakup. It was a way of processing that, but it’s also a love song to my boyfriend, it’s part mourning the end of one thing but also falling in love all over again and starting again. The title of the song is a reference to my favourite Fleetwood Mac song ‘Silver Springs’.
‘Make It Out’: ‘Make It Out’ is about the cyclical nature of toxic relationships – wanting to leave but wanting to stay. I think we can all relate to that feeling!
‘Gonna Be Lonely’: Very country soul sounding – think Al Green, Dusty Springfield, Willie Nelson, and Bobbi Gentry. The song itself is a story of working through a very difficult situation. A relationship that’s not doing you any good… not wanting to let go, the pain being all too much and then slowly coming into your strength and the realisation that you’re going to have to face some discomfort to get where you want to be.
‘Dog’: Lots of metaphors about dogs and the moon haha. The moon has its force over the earth and life, and the dog is a lowly servant to the whims of its master. The storyteller longs to feel equal rather than cowering and pathetic… I wrote this song when I was learning about co-dependency. I was experiencing a pretty dark time in my life and feeling utterly hopeless, and the words sort of downloaded into my brain after staring up at the moon all full of sadness.
‘Carry You With Me’: It’s my take on a friend’s experience with losing someone close to her and the chaos that threw her into. For a while, she would bring the ashes with her wherever she went. It was her way of feeling like she was protecting that person and keeping them close, which is fair enough.
So while we like to carry the memory of people we’ve lost, she was literally carrying that person with her. This one is personal for me and a bit scary as it’s about people I really care about, not just a made-up thing or myself.
What do you love about your hometown?
RJ: The older I get, the more gratitude I have for living in such a fabulous city. The most wonderful fashion, such incredible music, and artistry come out of Melbourne, also the best coffee and food in the world.
LM: It’s where the music is, four seasons in one day, hot summers and cold cold water keeps you on your toes, and all my dearest friends are here. FOOD FOOD FOOD. I’m sure there’s more to it.
Career highlight so far?
RJ: Releasing my album and playing at the iconic Troubadour in West Hollywood, standing on the same stage that Joni Mitchell, Tom Waits and Carole King have all graced, was a huge moment for me.
LM: There have been many, I’m so lucky. I know I’ll probably forget one and then think of it after and be annoyed! The albums I’ve made with my other band, JAZZPARTY, and the pride I have in them, that’s the best feeling. Sharing stages with people I have so much admiration and respect for. Touring the world with Ruby and my friends.
Fave non-music hobby?
RJ: I realised in lockdown I have no hobbies. The closest thing I can muster is that I am very slowly and ineffectively learning Spanish.
LM: I’m very committed to the enjoyment of life. Food, friends, dancing, watching movies and talking shit, swimming at any opportunity, summer or winter. Lots of talking shit with Rubes about TV shows.
What’s on your dream rider?
RJ: Roses, incense, and coffee. No ranch dressing, ugh.
LM: Soft towels and robes, a fantastic light for makeup, Wild Turkey, scented oils and flowers, funeral sandwiches, the freshest oysters, and a good vodka martini! Too far? I wouldn’t be able to get on the stage, I guess… the first few things though.
Dream music collaboration?
RJ: Nick Cave.
LM: I’m doing it now! I love working with my friends and musicians that I admire and respect. That and Marlon Williams.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
RJ: Playing music and touring. I’m so keen to return to the U.S., I miss it a lot. I also have a long-standing love of pop music, and I can see myself moving into writing songs for other artists and collaborating more in that space in the future.
LM: The dream spot? Feeling more at home within myself, playing to larger audiences. I would love to be touring Europe and America again. I miss that so much, but I would also love to not feel stressed about paying my rent.
What’s your go-to karaoke song?
RJ: ‘I Touch Myself’ – Divinyls
LM: Oh dear, it’s been a while… it used to be ‘Stuck In The Middle With You’ or ‘You Ain’t Woman Enough’ by Loretta Lynn.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
RJ: When it comes to eyeliner flicks, they don’t have to be twins they just have to be related.
LM: Play your natural game.
What’s one obsession you have that no one would guess after listening to your music?
RJ: I’m obsessed with The Sopranos.
LM: I’m a Roger Federer fan girl and I’m completely obsessed with The Matrix.