Tag Archives: Los Angeles

Artist Feature: Alex Ruger

Alex Ruger

You can only change where you are by truly knowing where you are, questioning your motivations and why you’re doing what you’re doing, being brutally honest with yourself. There’s no room for self-deception or ego in an artist’s life.

– Alex Ruger

Leading off with some basics, where are you from? And where are you at?

AR: I grew up in central Indiana, studying piano and guitar and a bit of viola. I played in some bands–progressive rock, funk, jazz, lots of stuff. There wasn’t really a point where I “decided” that I’d be doing music for a living–it was just the obvious choice and always has been, so I went straight to Boston’s Berklee College of Music after graduating high school. My first two years at Berklee were mostly spent studying jazz guitar and working towards being a sort of jack-of-all-trades guitarist, but after a horrendous bout with tendinitis nearly ended my career before it had even began, I changed my focus to what, in retrospect, was my passion and goal all along: composition (and more specifically, writing music for movies, TV, and video games). After a couple years adjusting to my new trajectory, I graduated Berklee and moved to Los Angeles back in September 2013. Since then, I’ve been working for a few composers–including Bear McCreary and Penka Kouneva–and as a freelance composer, as well as balancing the odd producing, arranging, or mixing gig. I’m falling in love with the cultural and artistic melting pot that is LA–and the fact that I can go surfing pretty much any day is a nice plus.

What does Reflection and Response mean to you?

AR: Refinement. Self-awareness and mindfully whittling away the unnecessary is an important and ongoing process for me–not just in my music, but throughout my life.

With regards to writing music, John Mayer said it better than I can. I’m paraphrasing, but he once said something to the effect of, “When you write, it’s like when you were a kid, throwing glitter on to a plate covered with glue. But it’s only when you shake off the glitter that doesn’t stick are you able to see the pattern it’s making.” That’s the fun part–shaking off the stuff that doesn’t stick.

When making music, that process is fun, but when you’re whittling away at yourself, it’s hard, and only recently have I begun to the see the patterns–thought processes, motivations, etc. You can only change where you are by truly knowing where you are, questioning your motivations and why you’re doing what you’re doing, being brutally honest with yourself. There’s no room for self-deception or ego in an artist’s life. And none of that introspection matters if you don’t have the courage to change and put what you’ve learned to work. It’s all about working towards a more refined version of you, and hopefully your art will reflect that.

How does your piece “Christmas 1914 in No Man’s Land” fit in with that definition?

AR: A great example of this is actually one of my non-film pieces, entitled “Christmas 1914 in No Man’s Land” (inspired by the Christmas Truce of World War I). It was a beautiful near-miracle that occurred right in the middle of what is quite possibly the nastiest war in human history–the two sides stopped fighting and enjoyed Christmas together. But it’s also a sad story–they began fighting again the next day. So the crux of the piece is an emotion that’s hard to describe–bittersweet comes closer than anything else, but it’s still not quite right. I guess that the saying, “Where words fail, music speaks” isn’t just some dumb phrase to put on refrigerator magnets!

To achieve this weird intersection of emotions, I really had to reel myself in and make sure that I wasn’t stepping on my own toes. Certain phrases needed room to speak, while others needed to be interrupted by the next one. Every note really mattered–it took a lot of “shaking off the glitter” to come to the end result. Even though I recorded it nearly a year ago, I’m still very happy with it. The number of things I want to go back and change is unusually low.

Alex Ruger - Conducting What else have you been working on recently? What are you looking to work on next? Continue reading

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Artist Feature: Naïmah

I had the good pleasure of meeting Naïmah at a local coffeehouse in Greenpoint, Brooklyn a couple weeks ago. A Washington D.C.-based singer-songwriter, Naïmah is currently working on her own EP, writing songs for a handful of other artists, and playing shows in the DC and New York areas. We’re happy to welcome her to the Collective as she discusses her understanding and application of Reflection and Response, the creative process behind her song Wolf and I, and various other topics. We’re looking forward to a lot more dope work from Naïmah in the months and years ahead! Check out the dialogue below.

Naimah

Support each other. I’ve witnessed too much animosity in the art world, especially jealousy-driven. Everyone has their own gift, their own individual way of looking at something, and at the end of the day, no one can replicate that.

– Naïmah

Leading off with some basics, where are you from? And where are you at?

N: I’m from Washington, D.C., and after going to boarding school in Boston, and college at USC in Los Angeles, I’ve made my way back to the District. A bit surprising to some, as I’m emanating those California vibes “for sure”, but it’s nice to be home and planting my roots and growing where I first got started.

What does Reflection and Response mean to you?

N: Within the harmony of those two actions I find the creative process at its best.  The thing about art as I see it, or at least how I approach my music, is that it is always a response to a reflection on a moment, a person, a feeling, and so on.

Whether I realize something is on my mind or not, songwriting helps me navigate through that process of reflection, and to figure out just how much that subject meant—or means—to me.  Each song is me saying, “This is my response about X. This is how I feel.”

And the incredible part is when that individual reflection and response, my response, captures the way someone else might also feel in their own reflection, or to allow them to see their feelings in a new light.

It’s hard to make this intangible transaction into a tangible explanation, but I hope that all makes sense.

How does ‘Wolf and I’ fit in with that definition? 

N: It doesn’t get more “reflection and response” than in Wolf and I. Well, it does, but prior to writing the song I’d been in a phase of day-dreaming and imagining and writing songs based on these scenes I made up when, after a trip to New York, I was headed back home on the bus, feverishly free-writing in my notes on my iPhone (let me say how restrictive auto-correct and that little screen is) as I attempted to capture how I felt about the events that had just occurred, and all the moments and experiences making up my relationship with this particular person and situation.

Wolf and I is a love song in its most basic interpretation, but I think the fact that it’s really so much more than that below the surface is why people have been able to connect with it. It’s about perception, the way you look at something, the good and the bad all at once.

Wolf is a simile I used to describe someone and something both close and distant, endearing, and in the process of change; and Wolf and I was my reflection, my attempt to articulate, all these thoughts in some kind of compact organization that I could store them in.

Since writing the song, I’ve opened back up to the realization of how important reflection and response is, and how my songs come to life when they are created in this frame of mind.

Photo by Alexandra Howland

Photo by Alexandra Howland

What else have you been working on recently? What are you looking to work on next?

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Snapshots From The Collective

Ralphs is Closed! by Sarah Ballister

Ralphs closed!

Reflection and Response.

The Snapshots From the Collective series works to create a space for Reflection and Response through photography. ANYone who wants to contribute ANY photos to this project can email us submissions at the.lifestyle.rr@gmail.com. One photo will be posted each week, and photos will only be used for the purposes of this series. Thank you and we look forward to building and expanding the Collective!!

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Snapshots from the Collective

Griffith Observatory by Sarah Ballister

Griffith Observatory

Reflection and Response.

The Snapshots From the Collective series works to create a space for Reflection and Response through photography. ANYone who wants to contribute ANY photos to this project can email us submissions at the.lifestyle.rr@gmail.com. One photo will be posted each week, and photos will only be used for the purposes of this series. Thank you and we look forward to building and expanding the Collective!!!

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