If you haven't heard of Ruth B, you must have been living off the grid in 2015. The 22-year-old claimed fame when her six-second song—that would later become "Lost Boy"—posted to Vine caught everyone's attention. The short hook instantly became a radio hit, and the fairy tale-inspired track landed her a record deal with Columbia Records. Nearly two years after it all began, Ruth B is finally releasing her debut full-length album, Safe Haven.
She tells us that the album is really about giving in to your emotions. "You can throw a filter on everything and make it look pretty; it's almost like you're encouraged to not ever actually get your heart invested," she says. "I just want people to know that it's really cool to feel."
There is a great range of emotions when you go from being a high schooler to a successful singer so quickly, and these feelings really shine through on Ruth B's album. Safe Haven proves that taking your time to get to know yourself and dig into your new role in the world really pays off. The listener is treated to an intimate look at Ruth B's life over the past two years as she moved away from tumultuous high school relationships and into adulthood freedoms.
Stream the entire album below and read on as Ruth B reveals the emotions that went into each track.
It was actually inspired by a line that I heard when I was working three years ago at Marshalls. A little old lady was telling me about how much she was getting into fights with her significant other. But the one thing that stuck out to me was she said how even though this person hurts her so much and said some pretty terrible things at times, she would always set the table: “Even when he slams the door and drives away and doesn't speak to me, I always set the dinner table and wait for him.” That just resonated with me, and I think it's important that people know: You're not alone and you can be confused sometimes about what someone's role is in your life. So, I think "Mixed Signals" is just talking about how sometimes you don't know, but you stay regardless.
"Dandelions" is probably the lightest and cutest song on the album. I was actually just looking out the window when I saw a dandelion, and I started writing the song. A couple weeks prior to that I had watched an interview with Sia about her songwriting process where she said, “One of the best ways to write is to pick a pretty word and write around that.” So I remember thinking, Wow, dandelion is a really pretty word. I should write around it.
"Unrighteous" is one of those really honest, vulnerable songs. It talks about a relationship—it can be romantic, it can be friendship, it could be anything. In my case it was romantic. But sometimes we get caught up in something that we know isn't good for us, but we stay 'cause it's fun even though we know it's going to end. For me, it was so important that I knew I wasn't alone in decisions that I was making. It was about something that I'm not necessarily proud of but that I know will help someone, and "Unrighteous" is one of those things. When I was in that relationship, I knew that I actually didn't love the person and that they probably didn't really love me, but it made me feel good for that moment; I think sometimes you meet the wrong person at the right time.
I wrote that one a couple years ago, and it's about keeping it real and always looking for authenticity in your relationships. [Like how I] grew up and realized that I shouldn't be in the relationship like the one in "Unrighteous" and the one in "Mixed Signals." It was a song that I wrote in the heat of the moment. Usually, when I write, I let my emotions kind of grow and figure out how I'm feeling and then put them into a song. But with "Superficial Love," I felt it in the moment I wrote it, and it helped me kind of get over that situation. So it was about really loving yourself for who you are and making sure the people in your life are the same way.
"If This Is Love"
"If This Is Love" happened very quickly. I wrote it in probably 10 or 15 minutes. I was actually working in a space in New York for my first-ever New York show and I wrote it and it was cool 'cause I performed it that next day. My manager said, "Don't play it even though it's really good, you don't know the words." But I thought it was important that I sing it, and it was one of my favorite career highlights so far. Sometimes you get confused about love and you don't know all the answers and that's okay, and I think the best part about this song is you can interpret it in so many ways. A lot of times people will be like, “Who broke your heart?” and “Who did this?” about this song. But it wasn't even about a who. But I loved that I've written it and people kind of construe their own memories and put their own faces to it.
It's crazy 'cause that was the first song I wrote back in 2015. I guess that one started as just a joke really, like it was the one line, "I am a lost boy from Neverland, usually hanging out with Peter Pan." I really never thought anything of it until I posted it online and got a pretty good reaction. I guess when I wrote it I really did want to make sure that it wasn't as cheesy as it could have been. I think that song had a lot of potential to be just about pixie dust and fairies and all that, but I wanted to make it deeper. So I really did try to relate it to real life; at points, we're all lonely and we're all just in need of a friend.
"Young" is so fun. I wrote it about my high school graduation, actually, the party that we had that night. It was cool because I remember the last year of high school was so stressful and intense, trying to figure out what my life was going to be. All of a sudden, we didn't have a plan, our futures were so open, and that scared me. You know, 'cause all my life I had to plan exactly where I was going to be and exactly who I was going to be with, and then, for the first time, I had no idea. I remember at graduation night just enjoying that feeling for the first time. Like, okay, I don't really know what's going to happen. I could fail, I could succeed. I don't know. My favorite line in the song is "I am obsessed with bein’ a mess," and I think sometimes it's okay to not have things figured out and it's okay to not know what you're going to do.
"If By Chance"
"If By Chance" is probably the most honest song on the album and maybe the most embarrassing. There's a line that goes, "Is it so wrong of me to hope she breaks your heart?" I think everyone has that one person that, no matter how much time goes by or no matter how long you don't speak, no matter what's going on like in the back of your mind, you're kind of always thinking about and have a place in your heart for. I actually wrote it after I saw Adele in concert. I saw her at Radio City two years ago, and I remember just being so overwhelmed by her honesty and her lyrics. I'd been wanting to write this song for awhile, but I didn't have the courage; after seeing that [show], I did.
"World War 3"
That was a pretty early one too. I kind of feel like I have phases of writing songs. "Lost Boy," "World War 3," "Young," all those songs were the first pod of songs I ever wrote. That one is really cool 'cause it's an absolute story. You can see the characters, you know what the problem is, you find out what the solution is, and it's really cool. I think it's about being so hurt and so upset with someone that it literally starts to feel like a war. I don't know if I would ever feel that again. That was, I think, more of a high school dramatic song. Like, "You, you meant the world to me/ Then you went World War 3." I don't know if I'll ever get to a point where I'm that devastated over a guy. I hope I don't. But when I was in high school, yeah, if you hurt me, it was a war, and I was mad and you were mad and it felt really bad. So I think that's what that song is about. Just a bad high school breakup.
I think that's one of the last songs I wrote. I actually wrote it in Ethiopia. I got to go on a trip back home with my parents toward the summer of last year, and I was surrounded by family for the first time in a long time. My life had kind of gotten crazy, so it was really nice to be with family. It’s crazy because actually the melody of "Safe Haven" I had made four years ago on Vine. When I was in Ethiopia I had no Wi-Fi so I had kind of been going through my old videos and I came across the melody for "Safe Haven," and it was just six seconds but I really liked it, so I wrote the song to that. I always think about that and it blows my mind how you can put something out into the world and think absolutely nothing of it and come back to it two years later and here it is, the name of your first album. It's so cool. I think to me that one's all about how the past couple years of my life have gone pretty different, with changes I wasn't really expecting. But the one thing that always makes me feel safest and happy are these songs and when I'm at my piano and singing them. That's the one thing that hasn't changed: My love for music and what it means to me, so I thought it would make sense to name the album after that.
"In My Dreams"
It's another kind of story like "World War 3." Very vivid, you can see colors and images and you can hear the sound of the night. That one was more about that hopeless romantic feeling that you get when you meet someone new for the first time and you're so excited about them. I met this dude, and I was not in the place for anything like that, and I remember telling myself, Okay, if I dream about him tonight, then I'll call him. I really did want to feel something new for the first time in a long time.
It's called "First Time," the last song. I remember when I told my team that I wanted to put this as the last song, they didn't get it until I told them the story behind it. It's very cliché to say one door closes and another one opens, but that couldn't be more true in my situation. When I wrote this song, it was me kind of telling myself, Okay, I'm never going to write songs about this situation again. This is the last time that I want to write about it. It was me coming to terms with this thing that I'd been keeping bottled up for a long time. It was me saying that I'm happy for you, you're happy for me. We're grown up. It's probably the most mature song, just because I think it takes a lot to admit that you're okay with being alone and you're okay with seeing the person that you used to love be happy with someone else. It took a lot of time and courage for me to get to that point, but it was the best feeling ever. I knew when I wrote it that it was the end of this chapter and that was the best way to wrap up Safe Haven.