Rich Ruth Talks Nashville, Experimentation, and Playing Live in a Plethora of Contexts (6/26 at JB’s w/ Mikaela Davis)

“The live shows are heading in this doom jazz direction,” says Nashville musician Rich Ruth during a May phone chat.  Although Ruth is perhaps most recognizable as a touring...

“The live shows are heading in this doom jazz direction,” says Nashville musician Rich Ruth during a May phone chat.  Although Ruth is perhaps most recognizable as a touring member of Americana singer/songwriter S.G. Goodman’s band, he also spends just as much time on the road with his own experimental music.  His third solo LP, Water Still Flows, drops June 21st on Third Man Records.  The album’s lead single, “Crying in the Trees,” was described by Nashville Scene as a, “showcase of Ruth’s ideas expanding.  A two-chord progression on thick doom-y guitar is something of a black hole, with the rest of the piece teetering on its event horizon.”

Throughout April and May, Rich Ruth was on the road supporting psychedelic rockers (and longtime friends of his) All Them Witches (“Those guys are old friends of mine, from back in the day.  My band played shitty dive bars with them back in like 2012, so it’s incredible to see them play all these huge things.”), in addition to headlining dates.  The day after Water Still Flows hits shelves, Rich Ruth will be hitting the road once again.  Between headlining shows, he’ll find himself supporting harpist Mikaela Davis – who we most frequently find amongst the jam band contingent – on three dates, including a June 26th stop at Johnny Brenda’s.  “I’m up for whatever.  It’s been kind of a wild ride.  We’ve toured with such a variety of bands, from Tortoise to All Them Witches to Circles Around The Sun,” Ruth tells me.

“I would say the overall sound and production aesthetic leans a lot heavier on this record,” Ruth tells me of Water Still Flows, going on to explain, “It has heavier, doomier guitar sounds, like Sleep, Melvins, and Sunn O))), picking up where the last album [2022’s I Survived, It’s Over] left off.”  He says that the project had himself and his collaborators, “fusing these heavier sounds with these jazz and ambient sounds [of 2019’s Calming Signals LP].”  These collaborators include saxophonist Sam Que, pedal steel player Spencer Cullum, drummer Ruben Gingrich, violinist Patrick M’gonigle, and Mikaela Davis herself, who plays harp on “Crying in the Trees.”  “Getting Mikaela Davis to play harp on it gives it this mystical, Alice Coltrane quality,” Ruth says of Davis’ contribution to the track.

Water Still Flows was born out of two years Ruth spent continuously on the road with both S.G. Goodman and his own outfit, inspired by the musician coming to terms with all of the trials and tribulations that come along with spending over a decade trying to maintain a sustainable life as a musician, in addition to the sounds of Nashville itself.  “It’s in a good place these days…  I’ve been here 12 years now, and back then it was a very youthful, rowdy scene, with lots of punk bands and garage bands…  At this point, we got older, and during the pandemic a lot of people became professional side musicians,” he tells me, but also says that he considers his label to be one of the entities enabling Nashville musicians to grow and experiment with these weirder things: “At Third Man, there’s more emphasis on people doing experimental stuff…  It’s phenomenal.  I feel very, very fortunate that I’m in really amazing hands, and I live right by there, so I can just pop in!”

On June 22nd Rich Ruth will be playing the Water Still Flows Album Release Show at The Blue Room in Nashville, before embarking on his three dates with Mikaela Davis.  Ruth explains that he was first introduced to Davis when she was touring with instrumental supergroup Circles Around The Sun in 2023: “I met her when I opened for Circles Around The Sun a little more than a year ago, and she was really cool about liking our music and wanting to sit in with us.  I played with her a bit at Pickathon, and she really dove into it.  And I’d never played with a harpist before.”  He even tells me he’s hoping Davis will be part of his performance on June 26th at Johnny Brenda’s: “I’m hoping she’ll get in for a chunk of the set, which I’m sure she will, as long as there’s room onstage [laughs].”  And he admits that he doesn’t mind if it proves to be a tight squeeze on JB’s stage: “I fucking love Johnny Brenda’s!  It’s places like Johnny Brenda’s where I feel most comfortable.”

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During the day Izzy Cihak teaches transgression, subversion, and revolution at Temple University. At night he haunts Philthy's best venues to cover worthwhile acts for Philthy Mag. Morrissey is everything to him and, in their own heads, all of his friends see themselves as Zooey Deschanel.