A six-second video about Peter Pan on the now extinct Vine app may sound like nothing special, but for local songstress Ruth Berhe, it was the launching point of her very new and successful career.
Under the stage name Ruth B., Berhe began using Vine the way most did, creating comical six-second videos with her friends. It wasn’t until she posted a video of her Drake cover, “Shot For Me,” that she started garnering followers.
After continued posts of cover songs, Berhe released a snippet of her original song “Lost Boy,” detailing the feelings of a “lost boy from Neverland” while playing piano.
Audiences immediately craved a full version of the song which lead Berhe to unveil the completed track on YouTube in early 2015. “Lost Boy” achieved 85,000 likes in one week. A few months later, Berhe received letters from various labels wanting to sign her.
“Many different people started to reach out, so that month I was flying to New York a bunch and meeting labels. Columbia just happened to be the best,” Berhe says from a chaotic New York airport.
The Columbia Records deal allowed Berhe to release her four-song EP The Intro in late 2015 and eventually her full length LP Safe Haven this past May.
Safe Haven features stripped down piano ballads paired with Berhe’s angelic voice, but also debuts Berhe’s more pop-oriented sound on songs like “Dandelions” and “World War 3.”
““Lost Boy” was the first song that I wrote and I think when you hear the newer songs on the album you can kind of hear the growth,” Berhe says. “I don’t know if it’s a mental decision or not, but when I write the songs, I can hear them in my head. It’s more about conveying what I hear in my head and turning that into real studio music.”
Her songwriting process has changed as well. Crafting songs used to be much more structured, but now it’s all based on feel.
“It’s quite abstract. Before it was lyrics and then melody, but now it’s based on whatever I’m feeling. Like, I might look at someone’s face and feel a certain melody or a phrase,” Berhe says.
Since her successes, Berhe has had to adjust to the pop star life and plans to eventually move out of her parents’ Edmonton home. Still, Edmonton will always be her “Safe Haven.”
“I love Edmonton, but there’s not much for me going on there in terms of my work. It’s all out here,” she says, referring to New York.
Berhe took home Breakthrough Artist of the Year at this year’s Juno Awards, an experience she could only describe as “surreal.”
“I didn’t see it coming,” Berhe says. “Just for me to even be invited to the Junos was huge, and then to win … I was sitting not too far from the prime minister too, so that was the coolest.”
Making music was always in the cards for Berhe. Even if she had not got noticed on social media, she knows she would still be writing songs.
“I always knew that this was what I was going to do,” Berhe says. “I just didn’t necessarily know how.”