B&L: What animal do you associate yourself with (given our ties to oxen)?
Foster: Hmm… (Laughs). Gosh. Well let’s see. My go-to is an elephant, but I don’t have a memory worth squat, so it’s not that. I think I’ll go with an ol’ fashioned loyal dog. I’m loyal, yeah. Let’s go with that (laughs).
B&L: Why music? Why do you seek it? Why do you create it? How’d it come calling to you?
Foster: You know, music didn’t really come to me; I sort of came here with it. I’ve tried day jobs; I’ve had other jobs. But I always come back to it. No matter how much I try to get away from it… Because I’m an introvert for the most part. Being in front of people is kind of scary for me, believe it or not. So I got a degree in broadcasting and tried those other jobs. I really want to be behind the camera, but I always seem to be pulled back up front. But, you know, music fills me up. It fills my spirit. It really does.
B&L: What other jobs have you taken a stab at?
Foster: Oh, I’ve done a lot of administrative work. I’ve worked in advertisement agencies. I’ve been a secretary at a music studio in Charleston. I worked at two TV stations as a camera operator. I love that. I love broadcasting. That’s still a big love of mine. I worked on helicopters while I was in the Navy, and I loved that too. I love working with my hands. But music called me back.
B&L: Do you prefer to tour around in a helicopter?
Foster: (Laughs). No. No, not at all. If there’s an issue with a helicopter and you’re in the air, there’s nowhere to go but down. So, no (laughs).
B&L: What’s the making of a great show? What do you look or hope for as the folks setting foot on that stage?
Foster: The ideal show is when I can set foot on the stage and not get in the way. I like to let the energy take over. I write a set list before every show, but I’ve trained myself to let the energy in the room call the shots. That’s my hope anyhow – that there’s a great energy in the room. And there nearly always is.
B&L: Is songwriting a relatively easy thing for you? How does that process unfold? What inspires the act of pushing a pen across paper for Ruthie Foster?
Foster: It’s actually very hard for me. It comes in pieces. I need to be focused. I can’t be running around touring, or have distractions around me, but then, if it’s just me sitting down or lying on a bed or something, I wind up just staring at the ceiling fan (laughs). And honestly, that’s as beautiful day for me (laughs). These days though, I’ve managed to find a balance with my travel and being home actually visiting with people, which has enabled me to be inspired to write. I feel a lot more open and willing to write these days.
B&L: Maybe my question about the animal will inspire a song.
Foster: Mmm-Hmmm. (Laughs).
B&L: While we’re talking songs, what’s one tune that exists out there in the ether that blows you away that you kind of wish you had written?
Foster: Oh, gosh, there’s so many. There’s tons of those. One that comes to mind is from my friend Julie Gold – “From a Distance.” It’s just a gorgeous song, and believe me, I’ve told her so. Also, lately I’ve been listening to a lot of India Arie. I love where she’s at with her life, and how she writes about it while she’s in it. She knows how to put life on the page and into the guitar. I love that. That’s it for now while I’m on the spot (laughs). They change day-to-day and sometimes hour-to-hour.
B&L: You’re new record is called “Promise of a Brand New Day.” That’s a pretty bold statement. It’s very optimistic. Are you an optimist? What does the sentiment of being granted a new day mean to you?
Foster: I guess an optimist is what people call it. For me, I have faith that people will do the right thing. “Promise of a Brand New Day” is really just reflective of me being raised around my grandmother. She was a huge influence on me. It’s based around all the things she said to me. I sat down one day and put it all on one page. I believe in it. One of the things Big Momma used to call me – that’s what I called her, Big Momma – was that what happens today, no matter how much you think you may have really messed up, we have this gift to be able to change it in an instant, with one thought and following that trail. I think she was the first of what we see in these “self-help” gurus. She was that for me.
B&L: What can folks expect when they come out to see you perform at the Stone Church on Sunday, September 27th?
Foster: Well, I’m coming with my drummer, so it’ll be a duo format. We’ve been rehearsing some new stuff, and building on the older stuff. We’re playing the songs we really love. People can expect a really intimate show, and a Hallelujah time, that’s for sure.
Ruthie Foster will be at the Stone Church on Sunday, September 27th. For tickets and more information click here.