Fields of Joy: Get To Know Cronulla's Brightest Musical Export

Photo: Matt Viesis

Photo: Matt Viesis

In her startlingly short amount of time on planet Earth thus far, Ruby Fields has quickly established herself as a one-to-keep-your-eye-on within the Australian music scene. If you’ve listened to Triple J at all in the last twelve months or even hit up the “Australian Indie Mix” on Spotify then your eardrums have already been treated to this gal’s well-tuned wavelengths. 

In her hometown (and bodyboarding stronghold) of Cronulla, Ruby’s presence has been felt and adored among the local booger-scene as her talents have permeated both the musical and Mexican food professions - two much-loved pastimes of most lid riders. Working casually at El Sol Bar while forming the foundations of her sure-to-explode musical career, Fields has in some ways embodied the taco of certain success: to a formidable helping of sheer talent has been added a spicy business acumen, topped with a creamy dollop of sheer joy and encased in a shell of absolute likability, you can expect to be hearing both the name and tunes of Ruby on your radio all the more frequently. 

We sent our Cronulla correspondent Luke O’Connor to have a chat with the musical prodigy. She took the chance to reflect on some of her influences as well as some of her ambitions - from grass to the Splendour in the Grass, respectively.

Photo: Matt Viesis

Photo: Matt Viesis

MM: Your EP, Your Dad's Opinion for Dinner is a doozy Rubes. Could you shed a little more light on why you chose an upside-down baby for the artwork though? 

RF: This was one of the first photos ever taken of me when I was finally in the stage of crawling. My mum snapped the photo and that was it man - I was looking through my legs and she just took it from behind. To me, the photo almost resembles a baby version of me saying “fuck you” with my finger up, and a soiled nappy in your face. Your Dad's Opinion for Dinner is just saying “you’re a fuckwit”, so it just worked. Kind of a big baby middle finger just sticking up at you.

MM: In your latest tune “dinosaur”, you make mention of being scared whilst surfing due to you possibly drowning underwater, what made you confess such a deeply manifested fear through your lyrics? 

RF: I don’t know, I started talking about small things like spiders and then I really thought every time I get into the ocean I have this mounting feeling of fear. As soon as I’m ground level with those waves and I see them coming theres something that just terrifies me and the ocean is just its own little unpredictable system. When your at a skate park you hit concrete, thats never going to move, but the ocean to me is an insanely scary place. I remember saying to myself whilst writing this song “Im terrified of surfing”, in my experience thats where you eat the most shit. I wish I could surf, so many of my friends can surf and surf well and I feel like I’ve got the hang of it a little bit, I just wish I  wasn’t so much of a coward. The songs all about being a coward and surfing is one of those activities that creates those emotions.

MM: Whats your favourite brew of liquid courage and who do you most like sharing a brew with? 

RF: Love myself a coopers green in the bottle and weirdly enough I don’t think I've enjoyed sharing a brew more with anyone else than my parents. I love getting them a little bit pissed as they tend to really open up to me and I learn a little bit about them more and more each time. Love a beer with my mates, always a fun time but what ever the circumstances my parents will alway be in my life. My mum swears heaps and when ever we get on the wines we will play a game of pool. The amount of swear words coming out of that house pretty much resembles a domestic, mum and I are just laughing as we say them to each other, its gets dirty. 

MM: Is that a trait throughout the Phillips family? 

RF: Its hard to say, as my mum is the confident extravert whilst my dad’s a polite introvert who’s insanely clever but also loves a beer. So I feel like they’ve completely smashed together when they had me as I’ve got all these attributes like being quiet like my dad, loving a beer but out and loud like my mum at the same time. I don’t know, I think the Phillips clan is definitely rude and not afraid to broach uncomfortable topics. 

MM: What is it like residing right on the edge of the third oldest National Park in the world? Do you ever draw inspiration from that area? 

RF: Hahaha! We just got lucky, all my mates wanted this place for ages and the owner finally switched and said “ok, a bunch of fuckwit teenagers can move in here”. What am I saying actually, all my house mates range between 25 and 30, its just very relaxed and progressive at the same time. Waking up there every morning to the sound of animals, rain falling or even the trees rustling from the howling wind ripping up the coast is all time. Opening up my curtains directly to greenery, walking around the back and having breakfast in the presence of all these trees as two or three horses cruise around is unparalleled. It is insanely tranquil. Great for writing songs especially. Thats where we all, as a band, choose to jam. Especially when we can fit it in during the day, the band room just has windows around the whole thing. I've never felt more relaxed than living there, it's a great place for a muso or an artist to live, especially a surfer considering it's only a five minute drive from a lot of good breaks. 

Photo: Matt Viesis

Photo: Matt Viesis

MM: During the film clip for your single “P-Plates” you have called on some classic cameo performances from your close bunch of mates and family, including your manager Girgis. Was it your ingenious idea to dress him up as a money driven uber driver glad in gold chains? 

RF: It was a hundred percent my idea, I really needed a DJ *Khalid* character somewhere in there and who better than the Egyptian manager mogul himself, fucking mogul. I wouldn’t have anything else but the gold suit either. He wore that the first time Skegss sold out a tour, I’ve done that twice and he still hasn’t worn that for me. He wore it for the “P-Plates” clip and thats the only time I might get it. I'm glad it’s been forever immortalized through this clip. It needed to be documented. 

MM: By the way, congratulations on locking down a gig at Laneway Festival 2019! Having your name printed up next to quality acts like Courtney Barnett, Gang of Youths, and Methyl Ethel must be extremely gratifying. Do these announcements ever evoke the feeling of success, or are you just head down bum up about reaching that next stage of your musical career? 

RF: It's literally a mix of both. Hearing my own name on the radio produces a feeling that will never die down. I'm in the car and there’s so many other people that may be listening to it next to me on the road. They might have just heard my name and that's crazy haha. 

Laneway is great, hopefully Splendour too and as I’m planning my year out aiming for big things. The perfect way to explain it might be that I wanna do more than just sell out a metro theatre but I don’t exactly want to headline Glastonbury (that’s not saying I even could). Maybe 1pm set Glastonbury second stage. I don’t ever wanna be as famous as some one who could headline Glastonbury. I feel like your life would be pretty shit at that point. 

MM: You feel like thats to much fame? 

RF: One hundred percent, I’ve gotta be honest with you right now: its really hard acknowledging you’ve decided to go down this career path because I often think it would be real nice to come home to a solid job and someone you love. Im a musician, if it goes really well I’m going to be spending the rest of my life not being left alone, constantly touring and completely devoting myself personally, mentally and physically to my audience as I know they’d expect. If I ever slip behind with one of those performances there could be an arena full of people thinking that I’m a shit musician, there’s all this anxiety that comes with being a musician, actor, athlete or any kind of performer for that manner and its the lifestyle we’ve chosen.

I feel like at the end of the day its going to be really hard for me to find happiness in choosing either of those outcomes. On one hand I could do the home thing and be like “fuck, you could have gone bigger” or I’m going to do the huge thing and be like “I wish I had a quieter life” to appreciate the simplicity of living. Not to say I can’t have both. I'll do my best - it just seems like a scary thing to me right now. 

MM: Can you recall the biggest fuck up you’ve had on stage.

Ive had a few, but me personally making the mistake was definitely one time we played in Byron, it was my first ever tour and I got way to turbo on the beers which was completely my fault and I’m still learning how to pace myself. I still use that excuse now haha, even though it’s been almost a year and a half later. I was on stage and we had gotten through the whole set, barley as I was well blind and we finally had to perform “I want” which was this big song that everyone made a fuss over.  I already started on the wrong fret, completely didn’t realise and the boys were so loud and didn’t have any fold back so no one knew, only the people in the audience knew. The song goes on and I still haven’t realised because I stopped playing guitar through the first part of the song as I just sing and the boys were playing in a completely different key to me. This is a big song with a lot of production value we had to work on for weeks and finally when I hit my guitar for the “I wanna be, I wanna be” I finally heard my own note and where it was supposed to be… I had to stop. Sometimes the metronome doesn’t tick on and I had to restart it as it needed to be perfect. We nailed it the second time but the look on my old band members faces made me realise I hadn’t felt more disappointed in myself just from their unspoken disappointment. It was my own song and they seemed more disappointed in a shameful way, and I tried to laugh it off but it was a fair way into the song and I just couldn’t keep going. That’s never happened since though thank god.

MM: Your music has a very relatable feel to it - especially to the youth of today. Was this by design or just purely a product of your identity? 

It's a combination of both understanding your market, which as corporate as it sounds you have to, whilst producing life inspired poems and songs that have meaningful substance. It started off with me just writing songs about partying or working, listening to Courtney Barnett and a wide range of rock music. Then I got to a stage where I said - “alright, I want to start an angsty little band”, but as much as that was a true passion I have no shame in admitting thats there’s a really great market for rebellious teen songs complimented with a little dash of swearing here and there. I knew that would work. It's both passion and taking a smart approach to the music industry, because again you can have all the passion and talent in the world but if you don’t have your smarts about you, you're not going to get anywhere. 

MM: What's your three favourite pastimes to engage in whilst working casually at El Sol Bar and Restaurant, Cronulla?

Well then, I love chatting with fellow employees and work crew as the banter is absolutely amazing. I love concocting my own tacos, bit of melted cheese on a tortilla with some juicy spiced beef, sliced red onion with some exciting chipotle mayo. Doesn’t happen on the menu mate. Doesn’t also hurt to sometimes have a cheeky spliff before work and really relax into your shift.

Treat yourself to Ruby’s sounds, here: