Name: Ruta Di
Occupation: Singer, songwriter, guitarist
Recent release: Ruta Di's formidable sophomore album Yellow Summer is out now.
Recommendations: ‘Educated’ by Tara Westover; ‘Painting’ (1946) by Francis Bacon
If you enjoyed this interview with Ruta Di and would like to find out more about her music and guitar courses, visit her official website. She is also on Instagram, Facebook, and Soundcloud.
When did you start writing/producing/playing music and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I started having piano classes when I was 6. I was going to performing arts primary school where we had lots of music, drawing and drama classes. Playing music was very natural and fun for me.
My first attempt to write music was in primary school - my friend and I wrote a musical that later was performed by our class in a Christmas music showcase. We came up with a story and songs for different characters however we didn’t know anything about harmony and chords so my mum helped us with that.
When I was very young I was mainly playing classical music and Lithuanian folk songs. I also had The Spice Girls and Queen tapes. Later on, in my teenage years I discovered rock and jazz music.
When I listen to music, I see shapes, objects and colours. What happens in your body when you’re listening and how does it influence your approach to creativity?
Music evokes emotions in me - happiness, sadness, anger, surprise etc and very often a mix of these emotions.
Threnody To The Victims Of Hiroshima by Krzysztof Penderecki brings feelings of horror, “Isn’t She Lovely” by Stevie Wonder - pure joy and love, “Precious Things” by Tori Amos - anger, Philip Glass's music calms me down.
Music can also bring up memories of people and places. If I was listening to the song/album that really touched me, I might remember were exactly I was, what the weather was like, the smell and who I was with.
How would you describe your development as an artist in terms of interests and challenges, searching for a personal voice, as well as breakthroughs?
Regarding interests, when I started playing guitar I was really into Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin and The Doors. In Music Conservatory I got introduced to jazz and my love for it grew stronger and greater over the years.
When I was 16, I heard Mahavishnu Orchestra for the first time and I was blown away - I couldn’t believe that such cool music exists on this earth! I had a period when I really admired fusion guitarists - Allan Holdsworth and Scott Henderson. At the same time I appreciated Wes Montgomery, John Coltrane, Pat Metheny and many many more jazz musicians. There was a time when I listened to a lot of blues, then American minimalism, IDM, neo-soul and pop artists as well. I enjoy exploring different artists and different genres and discovering great music.
I do not believe in breakthroughs in searching for a personal voice or becoming a better artist - I think it’s a quite slow and gradual process which requires time, effort and commitment. One of the biggest challenges in music is that to learn certain things and master them can take a lot of time so you have to be patient. And maybe there will be some things that you will never be able to do.
Another big challenge - believing in yourself and your music even when things don’t go that well. You will definitely hear a lot of times ‘no’ but you have to stay positive and keep going.
Tell me a bit about your sense of identity and how it influences both your preferences as a listener and your creativity as an artist, please. What, would you say, are the key ideas behind your approach to music and art?
I’m very eclectic when it comes to listening to music. One day I might be listening to Billie Eilish, next day to Coltrane, Aphex Twin or Steve Reich. It really depends on my mood and I don’t want to limit myself with one genre. There’s so much good music on this planet!
That reflects in my personality as well - I have a very dreamy side of me but at the same time I can be very rational. I might be very outgoing one day and super introverted next day. I might be wearing jeans and a plain T shirt one day and full on make up and heels next day. And the list goes on and on.
For a long time I saw my inability to fit in into one box musically and as a person as a flaw but I embrace it now and realise that it’s actually a strength. The key approach to music and art is to be honest and not to be afraid to try out new things.
How would you describe your views on topics like originality and innovation versus perfection and timelessness in music? Are you interested in a “music of the future” or “continuing a tradition”?
In my opinion, the greatest artists are innovators.
Over the course of your development, what have been your most important instruments and tools - and what are the most promising strategies for working with them?
Most important tools - my mind, feelings and body, my voice, guitar, laptop, piano.
Most promising strategies - try something new, challenge myself, learn from other people. Be consistent and committed. Finish what you start.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please.
Wake up. Coffee. Voice steaming. Journaling. Exercises with vocal tube. Practising guitar and singing. Teaching. Admin. Gym, running or boxing. Socialising. Writing music. Listening to music.
Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece, live performance or album that’s particularly dear to you, please?
The first phase is listening to lots of different music, reading, looking for inspiration in art. Once I find artists/songs I really like, I analyse how they are made and why they sound that good.
Another important thing for me is to have space in my mind. I had a huge wave of inspiration after my album’s release - I knew that I’ve done everything I had to and now I can move on.
When it comes to writing songs, quite a lot of them come to me spontaneously - I might start humming a melody while doing something else. If I like it, I record it on my phone and then once I have time to sit down with my guitar, I look for chords. I also sit down to write music intentionally of course.
If I feel inspired, I can finish a song quickly. If not, I might spend hours and hours and have nothing in the end. But I think those days are also necessary, they are part of the process.
Listening can be both a solitary and a communal activity. Likewise, creating music can be private or collaborative. Can you talk about your preferences in this regard and how these constellations influence creative results?
Most of my music is written in solitude. I like to take my time, I enjoy being by myself, so it feels very natural to me.
However, I had some great experiences playing/writing with other musicians. That kind of working can help you to see your music in a new light and of course you get out of your comfort zone.
So I’d say that it’s the best to have both.
How do your work and your creativity relate to the world and what is the role of music in society?
Obviously the role of music in our society is huge. Music accompanies us on every step of our lives - weddings, funerals, lullabies, birthday songs, anthems, religious music, ringtones, music for entertainment, dance, films and the list goes on.
Music can represent beliefs, lifestyle, identity and values. It can help us to express emotions and communicate with each other. It can be a source of joy and a place of solace in difficult times. At the same time music can have no purpose or role - it can just be there. Music lifts us above everyday dullness.
Regarding how my music relates to the world - the songs I write are inspired by the experiences, feelings and thoughts I have while living my life on on this planet called Earth. That’s a direct connection with the world. I’m also very interested in how it relates to people and vice versa.
Quite a few listeners told me that I’m very honest in my music. For me that’s one of the best compliments to get. I think it’s brilliant if people can relate or find something familiar in my songs. I believe that human beings have more in common than the differences that separate us. Music can help us realise that.
Art can be a way of dealing with the big topics in life: Life, loss, death, love, pain, and many more. In which way and on which occasions has music – both your own or that of others - contributed to your understanding of these questions?
I think that art gives a feeling of what the meaning of life, death, love and pain is - which cannot be translated into words. I experienced that countless times on all occasions listed above.
I think that’s one of the reason why I feel so drawn to music. It also helps to relate to others and not feel isolated. A talented artist will be able to express her/his emotions through art in a way that will affect emotionally the listener/viewer - that’s the superpower of art.
How do you see the connection between music and science and what can these two fields reveal about each other?
Both artists and scientists are innovators, creatives exploring new territories. However science is looking for definite answers, truth and ways to improve our everyday lives while music or other art forms don’t have to have a functional purpose.
Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you feel as though writing or performing a piece of music is inherently different from something like making a great cup of coffee? What do you express through music that you couldn’t or wouldn’t in more mundane tasks?
Interesting question. Both artist and tea lovers can be creative. I believe that all human beings are creative in some way. However there is a difference between being creative and being an artist. Every artist is creative but not every creative person is an artist.
I find it difficult to compare writing music and mundane tasks - I don’t see how I could express myself through making my bed, cleaning, hoovering etc - self expression would be very limited compared to the freedom you have in music.
Music is vibration in the air, captured by our ear drums. From your perspective as a creator and listener, do you have an explanation how it able to transmit such diverse and potentially deep messages?
No, it is a mystery for me! It goes through our ears and somehow touches our hearts.