Young Americana: Amber Rubarth

AMBER RUBARTH HAS MORE EXPERIENCE ON THE FOLK CIRCUIT, NATIONALLY AND INTERNATIONALLY, THAN MANY OF HER NASHVILLE PEERS. SHE’S BEEN RELEASING MUSIC SINCE 2005 AND WAS THE WINNER OF MOUNTAIN STAGE’S NEW SONG CONTEST IN 2010 WHICH LED TO THE ALBUM A COMMON CASE OF DISAPPEARING, PRODUCED BY JAQUIRE KING IN 2011.

THE TEAM AT WMOT AND MUSIC CITY ROOTS HAVE BEEN ANTICIPATING RUBARTH’S NEW RECORD SINCE SHE PLAYED THE TITLE TRACK OFF OF IT, WILDFLOWERS IN THE GRAVEYARD, DURING A GUEST APPEARANCE WITH DAVE EGGAR AT MUSIC CITY ROOTS IN 2016. THE WAIT WAS WELL WORTH IT, AS THE RECORD IS BEAUTIFULLY ARRANGED AND PRODUCED, AND THEMATICALLY EPITOMIZES THE FOLK TRADITION. RUBARTH TALKED TO US ABOUT THE PHYSICAL PRESENCE OF WILDFLOWERS IN THE GRAVEYARD IN HER LIFE, AND HOW THAT CAME TO BECOME THE NAME OF THE ALBUM.

I am Amber Rubarth and my new record is called Wildflowers in the Graveyard. It just came out September 29th. It’s built around the theme of life-death renewal cycles, in nature and in relationships, just how things move. I wrote it soon after a car accident and I didn’t know if I would be able to play music again. It was a really difficult time for me, and I looked to nature to see the more graceful ways that things let go of what used to be and move on - and how a lot of times death of something will lead to fertile soil or something else. So that’s what the whole album is built around, kind of exploring that idea. The wildflowers in the graveyard was a scene that I kept walking by when I lived in New York. There were all these wildflowers growing over old gravestones from the 1800s, and it was just a thing I kept on referring to to know that I would be okay later.

Can you tell us about where we filmed this video?

There’s a secret park in Nashville and it’s hidden...kind of in plain site. And no one ever goes there but me. There’s this little wooden stage. It’s where I took the cover for my album also. There’s little fairy villages that kids have built throughout the park. It’s just this really charming space with lots of birds and squirrels.

So there’s a movie coming out that you’re in?

It's called American Folk and it's coming out on January 26th next year. And the writer/director of it wanted - there’s a whole bunch of music, it’s kind of honoring American folk music - and the writer wanted two musicians trying to act, rather than actors trying to play music, because music is what carries the whole thing. So it’s Joe Purdy and myself. We filmed it across the country, in 14 states and it was a wild adventure. It takes place the week of September 11th, so the setting it’s in are all the positive things that were done that week that weren’t covered as much by the media. People were really going out of their way to show kindness to each other without the duality of politics. So people really tried to bring themselves together and tried to deal with this trauma in a way that was supportive of each other. It’s set during that week and the two characters connect over loving the same old folk songs. David Hines, the guy who wrote it, one of his big things that he connected that with is that folk music and music in general is shared and it’s for the message and for the community. And it’s not like, I think what we’ve turned it into with pop music today. There’s a separation. Like how big can the artist be compared to the fans? It’s kind of a different thing than what the seeds of it were built around. The songs didn’t belong to anybody; they belonged to everybody.

So do you guys sing the whole soundtrack as well?

Yeah, everything was done live for the film. We did it while we were on camera. So we actually went back and recorded the full soundtrack so we would have songs without dialogue and stuff.

Is it a musical?

It’s a story with music interspersed. They end up connecting over doing this long drive and the van keeps breaking down so they make music together.  

Will the movie be in theaters when it comes out?

Yeah, they’re doing a ten city theatrical release. Then we’re doing a tour around it, and the soundtrack is coming out on Thirty Tigers.

So is the tour your own music or music from the movie?

Kind of both, but we’re promoting the movie.

That’s a cool concept. I’ve never really heard of that.

I know! None of us - the writer/director, David Hines had never made a movie before; Joe and I had never acted before.

You’re about to go to South Africa?

I’m leaving in a few days for two weeks.

Why South Africa?

Because it’s amazing! I went there last year for a tour also and I got invited because this venue in England had double booked the night and and I ended up on this bill with this South African artist. And I got to do his album release tour with him last year, a co-bill. And we had so much fun, we’re doing it again this year. It’s beautiful out there and this time it’s just around… it’s called KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern region of South Africa and it’s super lush. It’s going to be Spring there which is wild. It’s just beautiful and very wild and untouched and raw and gorgeous people. We’re playing a lot villages and venues. A lot of folk club, sitting rooms, but we’re also doing...last year one of my favorite parts was playing for this little school called Zulufadder and we’re filling in a lot of things like that too. It's such a gift when you’re able to travel some place totally different. It shakes you from your world.