At the heart of Ruby Fields’ ‘Pretty Grim’, there’s a startling realisation; this isn’t working for me. The song paints a grim picture of blood in the bathroom sink, a pounding headache and a lifestyle of barely getting by. As the song evolves, Ruby concedes that it was never meant to be this way, and that she needs something better than this.
It chimes with many’s experience in 2020. With the pandemic bringing into focus the value and qualities of our lives, ‘Pretty Grim’ encapsulates that feeling of imagining some kind of betterment. “We’ve always wanted our music to make people feel connected or understood so I guess now is actually the perfect time to be releasing,” Ruby tells NME. “There’s always aspects of this career that have the power to alienate you or make you upset, but I think the real lesson I learned after writing it was how to cultivate those things into something positive, or just learn how to deal with them in a better way.”
She adds that getting over the idea of impressing people she “doesn’t love” was a “big moment to get on paper,” she says. “It was like I’d finally put down how I felt about making new connections, in constant fear of hidden agendas. It was all feeling a bit superficial.”
This forthrightness is what continues to make Fields so endearing. The lyrics are confessional, never judgemental – an open church for one and all to air grievances and come to terms with complex emotions, as garage-rock clatters away in the background.
Little wonder that her song ‘Dinosaurs’ in 2018 gained traction with Australia’s esteemed Triple J poll, opening her up to a new audience nationwide. She calls the moment a “moment of strength for me and of immense love between the boys and myself. It was such a simple song to me that I’d written one day when I felt flat and wasn’t even meant to be released let alone but for something honest I wrote to matter to people at all gave me a lot of faith in my music that I maybe hadn’t felt in a while.”
Touring across the country at festivals and headline shows – as well as some mighty appearances on these shores at The Great Escape festival in Brighton – helped build the name and expand the parameters. Last year’s ‘Permanent Hermit’ collection, and the bruising highlights ‘Climate’ and ‘Conny’ showcasing growth and a blend of honesty and humour.
But while touring fresh out of high school sounds like a lark, it’s a tricky undertaking. By February 2019, it Fields was ready to take a leap into the unknown – she went travelling solo in Nepal and used it to witness some awe-inspiring natural highlights and reckon with some hard truths about her path.
“My tour manager and good mate Nate Foster explained to me that I probably wasn’t creating much because there was nothing to push me out of my comfort zone or to inspire me,” she says. “I think he meant to just get a job or something but I decided to go to Nepal. And it worked, we recorded a fuckin’ album when I got back!”
So a new album is brewing, but there’s issues to be taken care of in the wider Australian scene before Fields is ready to release, with live music events set to be the last to return. “It’s been tricky for musicians at every level, but particularly those on a DIY level. The thing I was used to doing for four years straight was all of a sudden stripped out from under my feet and I felt fuckin’ useless, like I’d lost my whole purpose.
But she’s used some of the down time to reflect on how to improve. “I realised I was leaning on it too much and had some work to do on myself, but I’ve absolutely loved the opportunity to pull my brain together and spend time around loved ones. There’s definitely been a blanket of anxiety over everyone in the world but I’m so lucky to live in a beautiful place where I can practice my craft, live with my band and work on myself.”
That constant improvement and recalibration is what makes ‘Pretty Grim’ the triumph it is, and the forthcoming album likely too. You can only travel as far as you allow your mind to do so healthily. Now, with a new focus and a renewed energy, Fields has the mindset – and the tunes – to go the distance.
Ruby Fields’ ‘Pretty Grim’ is out now