“I wouldn’t have thought I would be here,” says Ruby Jackson. “But I’m stoked this is what I’m doing.”
I meet with the singer in her vibrant, plant-adorned living room in North Sydney (Cammeraygal land). She exudes a sense of welcoming calm and optimism. Dressed in a white turtleneck top, she sits relaxed on the lounge sipping on a cool glass of water. Jackson appears just as laidback and cool as in her Instagram posts.
The 23-year-old soul/R&B artist, based in Sydney, draws on jazz influences. Her sound is melodic, groovy, upbeat and recognisably unique, while her approach to storytelling and versatile vocals have set her apart as a new sound in the Australian scene.
Jackson always knew she would end up working in music, growing up with a country musician mum and opera singer dad to encourage her.
“I got into writing music in high school, and I started to realise I was really into it,” she says. “I remember they would always try to get me to sing.”
Since 2020, Jackson has released five singles, with ‘Simplicities’ being her debut. Two of her songs have aired on youth radio station Triple J, and her newest song Sweeter For Me, taken from her six-track debut EP of the same name, is on its current rotation of featured tracks. In 2023, she accompanied a star-studded lineup of acts such as 1tbsp and Bec Stevens at Brisbane’s BIGSOUND festival, marking her first time on the big stage.
Jackson’s music journey began during the alternative boom of the early-to mid 2000s, back when CDs were all the rage and genres were evolving beyond one fixed sound. One of her biggest influences was the controversial and outspoken Lily Allen, a British artist whose satirical but catchy tracks were making waves at the time.
Why Lily Allen? “She stands out, and you can hear personality in her sound. it’s like I can feel her smiling when she’s singing. I love her lyrics. The storytelling is so unique.” says Jackson, “And I quite like to have those elements in my music.”
She explains that this UK sound is very much something that she draws upon as an influence, Mahalia being one of her favourite current artists. While the music of the 2000s was avant-garde and fuelled by a fire of boundary-pushing – it’s become formative to who Jackson is now. Of course, she’s used these inspirations to curate a captivating sound of her own.
“I’m creating songs the way I instinctively would, but this also comes with paying homage to artists that inspire me.”
A consistent part of the songwriting process for me has been concept-driven tracks.
While there was a clear influence towards music, Jackson explains to me that she wasn’t always sure of where it would lead her. I ask how she went from a kid dancing around the living room yelling out Pussycat Dolls and Black-Eyed Peas songs to a professional recording artist.
“I was really into music for film,” she says, “so I was like, ‘alright, I’m definitely going to go and study composition’. But after this, I didn’t really know what I was going to do yet”. However, while studying composition at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, a growing passion for R&B began to develop. “I started listening to a bunch of R&B, like Anderson. Paak, Mac Miller and this Sydney artist, RISSA”. RISSA is another soul / R&B artist who has become a recent Triple J feature. Jackson credits her as a big inspiration in her pivot towards R&B.
Authenticity is what she strives for the most, and it shines through in a meld of R&B and soul style with catchy pop lyricism. One of her standout tracks Out of Fashion was where she began to find her feet. This was the first time she worked with Finbar Stuart, a Sydney-based producer who worked with an array of artists across Australia, such as Maina Doe and BOY SODA. Stuart is also the mixing mastermind behind Jackson’s recent success, Guilty Pleasure – a song written at a time when she was inspired by the warmth of her close friendships.
Jackson’s creative process is pretty simple, “a consistent part of the songwriting process for me has been concept-driven tracks,” she says. Jackson says she is always looking to delve into unique scenarios and expand them, “on my EP that came out, I’ve got a song called Until my Alarm, and I remember telling my friend that I really want to write a song about when you have a dream about someone, and then you wake up, and you see them differently”.
Whether it’s about strange dreams or platonic love, Jackson loves to delve into imaginary worlds and scenarios to expand them into melodic and groovy tracks.
Jackson is a young artist in a monumental industry, and finds much of it a challenge.
“There’s this pressure to go on TikTok and try to land a video that goes viral,” she says. “That’s just normal talk these days, which is a little bizarre, I personally find it hard to wrap my head around.”
The ‘TikTokification’ of the world has forced artists to make their music short, snappy, and fleeting – a product of commercialisation stemming from the never-ending need for social media content.
“The toughest part is probably trying to navigate social media presence because, obviously, we’re in such a social media heavy world,” she adds. “It’s a mystery, trying to figure out the best way to attain an audience on there.”
“The best thing you can do is stay true to yourself as an artist,” she says. “Work in your own lane, not someone else’s.”
Main image by Eisha Karageorgiou