Ruby Fields recently celebrated the fifth anniversary of her debut single, “I Want”. Fields was just 18 years of age at the time of its release and she’ll be the first to admit she still had some growing up to do. The next few years of Fields’ life were dominated by an uninterrupted run of national and international touring commitments, propped up by a succession of triple j-endorsed singles and EPs.
Fields released her debut album, Been Doin’ It For A Bit, in September 2021. The album title is a sly wink to Fields’ industry experience—not only has the Cronulla-born artist become one of this generation’s most loved local acts, but by virtue of her candid songwriting and personable performance style, Fields has done a lot of growing up in public.
Been Doin’ It For A Bit peaked at number one on the ARIA Top 50 Albums chart last October, and the celebrations continue—Fields are her band are playing at The Espy for Jack Daniel’s Live At Last, in the inner Melbourne suburb of St Kilda, on Thursday April 28th; the night out at the Espy follows Fields’ three-date Been Doin’ It For A Bit theatre tour.
“The idea of the [theatre tour] is to provide a bit more of an insight to what it was like to create the album and how we wanted the songs to be heard with the quiet in the room,” Fields says, speaking to Rolling Stone Australia from her home in the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales.
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Fields’ ability to switch between lush theatres and pub venues like the Espy reflects the depth of her songwriting and the malleability of her band. This plasticity is also represented on the new EP, Live From Repentance Creek Hall, which came out February. The EP includes live recordings of four Been Doin’ It For A Bit cuts—“Kitchen”, “Song About a Boy”, “Ouch”, “Clothes Line”—and one new song.
The arrangements on Live From Repentance Creek Hall are a significant departure from those featured on Been Doin’ It For A Bit. “Kitchen” and “Song About a Boy” are both desperately quiet and intimate; “Ouch”, originally one of the album’s more up-tempo tracks, gets made over as a dissonant indie ballad; the new song, “River”, is performed a capella.
“Apart from songs like ‘Ritalin’ [Your Dad’s Opinion For Dinner, 2018] or ‘Trouble’ [Permanent Hermit, 2019], I’d say that every song starts quiet and intimately,” says Fields.
She continues: “Sometimes there’s a bit of personal sacrifice with putting aside a song that might sound beautiful in its softer form or its more intimate form to produce it a little bit and make it a bit bigger—which is fun and the emotion’s still in the song and it’s still the lyrics I wrote and everything else, but it was nice to release that live EP because it showcased those songs how I wrote them.”
Been Doin’ It For a Bit made clear that Fields wasn’t a one trick pony, incorporating folk and country sounds alongside the grungier power pop of her two EPs. Live From Repentance Creek further emphasises the robust ideas and emotions that power Fields’ songs. Together, the two releases help dismantle the image of Fields as a guitar-slinging ratbag who can rock as hard as she can party.
This image of Fields always relied on false pretences, to be fair—Fields’ best-known song, the 2018 single, “Dinosaur”, offered a detailed view of the dynamic and emotive breadth of Fields’ songcraft. “Dinosaur” reached #9 in triple j’s Hottest 100 of 2018 and has since gained ARIA Platinum accreditation. A little over three years later, Fields is feeling confident about her creative future.
“I came straight out of high school and went straight in [to the music industry] and didn’t really know who I was yet,” she says. “But now, being 24, I’m just able to decide what I want more and what I want my sound to be. And instead of letting everything else guide me, I’ve got a bit more of an understanding of who I am as a person.”
For the show at The Espy—which is the final date on Jack Daniel’s Live At Last concert tour—Fields will be supported by singer-songwriter Adam Newling, who also happens to be the guitarist in her band. Newling’s mini-album, Half Cut and Dangerous, came out in early April.
“It’s like cowboy music,” says Fields. “It is like this grungy, sexy, lonely cowboy on a journey.” She adds, “Adam’s probably one of the people that most influenced my songwriting, showing me bands like Bright Eyes and things like that where the lyrical content was so important to the song.”
Fields will join Newling on-stage during his set. Both artists are eager to return to The Espy, the site of some of their favourite Melbourne shows. “We played three shows at the Espy before Covid when I was a bit younger and they were fuckin’ awesome,” Fields says. “They were the best venue, took so much care of us.”
The Jack Daniel’s Live At Last tour has also included shows headlined by POND, San Cisco and Psychedelic Porn Crumpets. Proceeds from Jack Daniel’s Live At Last ticket sales are going to Support Act, the music industry charity that provides crisis relief services to musicians, managers, crew, and other industry personnel.
Jack Daniel’s Live At Last Tour 2022
Tuesday, April 12th
SolBar, Sunshine Coast, QLD Psychedelic Porn Crumpets
Thursday, April 21st
Factory Theatre, Sydney, NSW San Cisco
Sunday, April 24th
Fortitude Music Hall, Brisbane, QLD
Thursday, April 28th
The Espy, Melbourne, VIC