The seasoned songwriter taking her place in the spotlight.
You may not know RuthAnne by name, but you’ve definitely heard her music before. “Too Little To Late” by Jojo? “Work Bitch” by Britney? The best One Direction song ever “No Control”? Yep, Ruth-Anne Cunningham is the mastermind behind all of them.
A prolific songwriter, RuthAnne is now stepping out behind the writing desk and releasing her own music. Dropping her debut single “The Vow” today, it’s a beautiful depiction of unconditional love and an exciting first glimpse at her debut album soon to follow.
Set to wow in 2018, we caught up with the Irish singer-songwriter to chat Hollywood heartbreak, writing bangers and what’s next to come.
So going back to the beginning, when did you first start getting interested in music?
I honesty came out of the womb just singing straight in key, no I’m only joking. I think my parents realised when I was seven and we went to Portugal, and there was a karaoke band. I was obsessed with Grease, I’d watch it all the time and I was telling my mum to let me go up, and she was like “you don’t know the words.” But little did she know… I did “Hopelessly Devoted To You” and I swear it would have gone viral because I looked like a three year old. Everyone was getting their video cameras out – like, the old ones – and then I won the competition and they got out a bottle of champagne and my parents were like “this is amazing, we can bring her places and get free drinks!”
So I was then brought to every karaoke competition in Portugal, won them so many drinks and started realising “oh, I don’t know if I’m any good but people are giving me stuff.” I used to go around to like hard-core drug-gangs in my neighbourhood – it was not a good neighbourhood – and I’d go up to them at 10 years old like “I’ll sing for you if you give me money” and I’d get money for sweets. It was the best ever. Yeah. It always was in me.
And when was the kind of idea of thinking about doing it for a living?
I asked mom and dad and they were like “you just always were doing it.” I would teach myself. I would listen to Mariah Carey, record myself and listen to it until I got it right. It was just in me to practice, practice, practice. I was just obsessed with it. I feel like I always wanted to do it and when I came to 15-16, the Alicia Keys album came out and I learned the whole thing on piano and I was like to my mom, “I haven’t been discovered yet, my life is over” and I was crying like “please let me leave school?” and she was like “you’re not leaving but when you’re finished school you don’t have to go to college.” So I did my exams and the next day flew to LA.
Obviously you’ve written certified bangers for so many people. How did you get into that?
I didn’t know that you could be a songwriter for other people actually. It was just so weird for me at 18 like “you’re gonna write for Shakira today” and then she wasn’t even in the room. So that took a bit of adjusting because I was just used to singing my own songs. So with “Too Little Too Late” I knew it wasn’t for me. I sang the demo but I knew it was for JoJo. I did take a break from it because I found it really hard to be travelling all the time when I was younger and I was very lonely all of the time. I took a break and then I missed it so much so I moved to London to keep doing it and I met, like, Pixie and Professor Green and started doing the UK scene then when I was ready I was like “I’m ready to move to LA now and be a global success!”
And when you put out those songs, do you have a different feeling to when you put out your own songs?
I think when you put out your own songs you are always more nervous since your name is on it. If people hate it, you can’t hide. What’s good and bad is that when you give out a song is that that’s your baby and you’re giving it to a record label, sometimes they fuck it up and it doesn’t do as well because they didn’t release it right or the video was wrong or they produced it or mixed it wrong. Or then you have these moments that are amazing and it’s a surprise because you honestly have no idea how a song is gonna do. Like, I have never sat there and gone like “this is a hit, this is gonna be huge.” I do believe in the strength in a song but I have seen some great ones not do well and then I’ve seen some not so great ones do well, so you never know. So I think it’s easier when it’s not your name. But, with this music now that I’m doing, it’s so me that even if it didn’t do well I’d probably just been like “fuck everyone else.”
That’s the kind of attitude to have though.
Yeah and I used to be like so afraid because now it’s streaming. Obviously if a song comes out it’s gonna have a certain amount of streams within 24 hours just because of who it is and I am used to my songs getting good streams at the moment. I had to just have a word with myself, like “you’re not in this for the numbers or fame. You’re in this for the art and if your audience is 500 people or 50000 people, those 500 people are just as supportive as 50000 people.”
And so song-writing wise, where do you find inspiration when you’re writing?
My life. I have the most stories that I can tell. I’ll do a book some day. A memoir: An Irish Woman Dating In LA. It’s just fucking hilarious the men there. I’ve encountered some great ones but I’ve meet some crazy delusional men. Writing is easy for me because I have so many stories and I am the type that will be sitting somewhere and go “should I do this? Uh, but think of the story I’ll get out of it.” I’m kind of like “let’s just do it for the story guys, we’re gonna get a great one!” I like to make people laugh and I don’t go too extreme but I have had things happen and I’m just like “do it for the story”.
What’s the story behind “The Vow”?
It’s interesting because “The Vow” is the last song I wrote for the album. The album started a year before and it went from shitty Hollywood heartbreak to hopeful again and then to this place where “The Vow” came out. I started feeling loved again and happy and loving myself. I was behaving in a way that wasn’t really loving towards myself. There was a man, who’s a best friend, and we kind of had feelings for each other but we’re long distance and it just doesn’t work, we’re better as friends and blah blah blah. He was the most consistent man in my life that wasn’t just wanting sex from me which is really refreshing these days where it’s very like “let’s bang” and no commitment-type-thing. He was just calling to see how I was, he was talking about how when we’re 80 we’re gonna be sitting in these pubs in Ireland and I started thinking of the journey of life together. And I woke up in the middle of the night and I wrote the lyrics of “The Vow”.
I walked up to my producer later and went like “’I’ve written the cheesiest lyrics ever, I don’t write like this, I don’t know what’s happening, I write heartbreak, this is weird.” And they were freaking out and I was cringing, and they went “these are really good!”
Amazing. And what can we expect from the album?
It really is heartbreak, hope and love. Details of an Irish girl in LA and Hollywood and in the deepest corners of Hollywood, you know, fame and celebrity and money and this little Irish girl coming in trying to make waves in this big pond and being screwed over and heartbroken and on her way back. I have a song about stalking my ex on instagram and finding out he’s banging a play-mate its like, the tales of heartbreak and then and it’s very soulful hip-hop R n B storytelling. But it’s very real and it honestly is like my deepest darkest, most vulnerable moments for the past two years.
Is that difficult to know that more people are gonna be listening to them?
First I was like really shitting it. I’m gonna have to stand there and tell these stores about being used for sex and being in that kind of like “oh we’re just banging but we’re friends-thing” and then just pretend to be cool with it. I’m gonna have to be telling these stories, but I’ve found my strength in being vulnerable. And as much as that’s scary when I look out and I see other girls that are crying and someone comes up to me and says “I’m going though that”, I know that I’m not alone.
Is that the feeling that you want people to take away from the record?
Yeah, I want people to take away that it’s OK to not be OK.