Ruby Waters

Ontario singer-songwriter Ruby Waters is carefree and coping

We spoke to Waters about an ascendant music career on hold and how her Métis heritage has been inspirational.

In the eyes of the industry, Ruby Waters is a fresh new talent with a lot of potential and promise that will propel her to stardom. Her track record in such a short time speaks for itself: popularizing a tune on Reddit before its streaming release, hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube and being the opening act for City and Colour on their 2019 international tour. But for Waters, there is nothing new about her career in music.

“I started performing when I was really quite young,” says Waters. “I can remember being as young as four, being with my mom doing music stuff. I started busking and performing in bars when I was 12, 13. When I was 14, a couple of people would ask me, ‘You want a drink?’ I was like ‘Fuck ya.’”

Waters isn’t one to shy away from acknowledging the role that cigarettes and alcohol can play as coping mechanisms for mental health issues. The artist’s debut EP, Almost Naked, introduces her at her most raw and vulnerable. While many of the tunes are rooted in tales of heartbreak, they carry an air of optimism and rejuvenation. Listeners are rooting for Ruby — her carefree attitude is contagious.

Water’s most recent release, If It Comes Down to It, feels a lot like a continuation from where its predecessor left off. Rolling out an EP amid a pandemic and provincial restrictions is certainly not ideal, and the incapacity to play live shows and meet new faces is unsettling.

“Different places, different people, different feelings, different sounds of music that we’ve been making,” says Waters. “Lots has changed, but we’re still out here keeping it real.”

Waters celebrated the release of her project with immediate family from the comfort of her country house near Orangeville, Ontario. Over the last few months, she has bounced back-and-forth from country to city on various couches, meeting up with her management team and hitting the studio to record new tunes.

“I’m contemplating where I want to settle next,” says Waters. “It’s so nice in the country, and in the city there’s so much opportunity, but then with all this COVID stuff, it’s like — damn, I can be anywhere. I guess as far as creativity goes, it’s nice to be able to breathe out here. I like it.”

Waters is no stranger to the country, having been born just outside of Shelburne, Ontario. Her father is Slovakian, and her mother, a musical inspiration to Waters in her own right, is from Northern Quebec and of Métis descent.

The singer-songwriter cites her Métis roots as inspiration for some of the songs that she writes. Waters enjoys using her music to tell stories from the perspectives of those who have it worse than most.

“I’d love to be able to learn how to speak out for any community that feels like they don’t have enough word in the world.”

Waters, having visited multiple Indigenous reserves, spoke about the hardships faced by the Métis community that largely stems from the communal trauma of residential schools.

“It’s about the opportunity. Accessibility to, like, clean water, good schooling and fun activities so that people aren’t so depressed and don’t rely so much on other ways of escaping mentally.”

Waters has donated to the Native Women’s Resource Centre in Toronto and hopes to further give back to Indigenous communities through merchandise sales. She says that she would like to see more money donated to arts programs in these schools to inspire the children in the communities.

As for her future moves, Waters isn’t exactly sure what’s in store for her next project. She happily strolls along with no concrete plans, but her laissez-faire outlook is comforting.

“Making it to the point I have is a dream come true and it’s been a crazy ride. I always say if I were to die tomorrow, I’d be happy with the accomplishments I’ve made.” ■

This feature was originally published in the December issue of Cult MTL. For more about Ruby Waters, please visit her website.

For more Montreal music coverage, please visit the Music section.