On a crisply warm night, just after the sun sets I’m led out to the steps of Cecil Sharp House in Camden, London for an audience with the most esteemed Ruth Minnikin. She’s sitting on the concrete steps with one of the Heavy Blinkers eating a take away, the first meal they’ve had since the morning. Rather than spend the day sightseeing, gawking like tourists at various downtown monuments and impressive buildings, Ruth spent her hours walking. Getting used to the spatial immensity of London. After so many night on the road, after so many hours sitting cramped in a rented mini-bus, after so many gigs in much smaller places London seems a little stark, overpopulated and underfriendly.

Ruth is possibly one of the nicest people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. Funny, articulate, impossibly at ease, stereotypically polite (apologising endlessly for having to conduct the interview midmeal, asking if I’m hungry); this Canadian songstress is incredibly easy to talk to. Within a couple of minutes it feels like old hack, more like meeting a long-lost friend than an interview. She pounces gleefully upon the subject of Halifax’s music scene, laughs excitedly about being an ‘indie-pioneer,’ mulls quietly over questions regarding last year’s break up of the Guthries, taking her time before answering, and remains steadfast that her classical training only strengthened the drive to create, not regurgitate.

“I did classical [piano] as a kid…not my cup of tea. I’d rather write my own stuff rather than learn someone else’s. [Classical music was] too rigid, no leeway, no self in the piece.…I’d been writing poetry for over a year when I started writing music. My English teacher got me started with a scheme for extra credit [writing poetry]. It was really encouraging, I got poems published in the high school paper, 'Verbatim,' I think. Anyway, I was in another band [Boom Aeroplane] and started writing songs too.”

Boom Aeroplane was quickly signed to EMI, but was dropped after only a couple of albums as so many indie bands are. Though this experience definitely put the corporate music world in a different light, by no means did it stop Ruth wanting to make music.

“After we got dropped a good friend of mine and I, Dale Murray [sic] were writing songs for about a year after [that] and both asked our brothers what they thought of forming a band.”

And thus The Guthries were born, with Brian Murray and Gabe Minnikin also joining the group. Sadly for fans on both sides of the Atlantic that union split a year ago last April after nearly six years together, “It was just time, we all had so much we wanted to do – Dale, Gabe and I were all writing stuff, as well as our own – and there’s only so much for that in one band.” When I ask if they’ll attempt to reunite she shakes her head a bit sadly, but then says laughing:

“We’re all still really close, they’ve all been on my records. Brian is doing his degree in Environmental Engineering at Dal [The University of Dalhousie in Halifax], and Dale is working on music too, but Gabe won. Gabe moved out of the country [to Manchester in early 2004]!”

On this tour she’s taking the “back seat – letting someone else take the lead this time!” Though her support run with the Heavy Blinkers allowed her to promote her EP, 'Ruth Minnikin', this tour also gave us a first glimpse at her first solo album as well. Recorded in August 2003, it’s a documentation of two days, live off the floor “with a couple of over-dubs.”

“We had a couple of practices so that everyone could learn the songs. I did some rough demos of it so they could fool around and have some time with it away from the group.”

The ‘group’ in this case refers to a hand-picked collection of friends and family who are also some of Canada’s finest musicians . As with her previously released EP, 'Ruth Minnikin', amongst the collected members of Ruth’s ensemble cast such illustrious artists as Rose Cousins, Anna Plaskett, Adam Puddington and Dale and Brian Murray brothers can be found in the chattering intimacy of 'Marooned and Blue'.

'Marooned and Blue' is not only her first full-length independent endeavour as a solo artist, but it was also produced and released by Ruth herself. Asked whether she’d ever want to return to a label and you get an earful.

“For independent artists a lot of revenue comes from the record sales, when you’re signed that completely gets taken away. It’s impersonal and there’s a huge loss of freedom. I’m not about to stick my albums in plastic, I’m not about to sign to another indie label. I’ve been playing music for ten years. I enjoy finding people like Penny Black to send albums. No middle person! If I don’t do it, it wouldn’t get done, I’m not relying on anyone else.”

When asked if she’ll attempt to emulate the tour she did last summer with fellow solo breakout Kate Maki – in which they singly arranged and promoted twenty-five gigs in twenty-five intimate locations in cities and towns across Canada – over here, she grins:

“I have a really good relationship with Kate,” she pauses, thinking about the prospect. “Maybe I’d come over here on an indie set-up. Jim Bryson’s interested. It wouldn’t be until early [this] summer, though. Right now I’m just concentrating on getting this [album] across Canada. Then we’ll think.”















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