An Interview with Bulgarian R&B Artist, Ruth Koléva

ruth koleva interview

If you’ve been following along, you know how much I love an amazing voice. Ruth Koléva has been one of my favorite voices in 2017. Ruth Koleva was born in Bulgaria at a time known as post-Communist Eastern Europe. This helped develop her sound.  Her career really started to take flight after her debut album, RUTH, was awarded the top prize at the BG Radio Awards in 2014. Her new album, Truth, comes out February 16th.

She has a percussive/jazzy/funky/R&B style behind the vocals. On her newest track with Boyan, there is a wobbling effect that sound like it’s giving the vocals more movement. The way she moves around the instrumentation is another aspect of her music that I admire. I’m all about dynamic arrangements, unique sounds, and a mobile, tonally appeasing voice. Ruth Koléva checks all three of those boxes.

I had the opportunity to interview the artist below. The first soundcloud embed is of her newest single with Boyan, Love Me. Take a listen before you go to the interview. Then, when you’re ready, click play on the next soundcloud embed and read the interview below for the FULL Ruth Koléva experience.


Where are you from and how has that shaped the musician you are today? 

I am from Bulgaria, an awkward little country in South-East Europe. It is a weird place to grow up, being born in the year of “Democracy” after 50 years of SSSR influence. I was lucky enough to be born in the family of an Olympic champion, so we ran off when I was 2. My family lived in Asia for a few years until our country got back together (it actually didn’t for a long time). Living in place like Bulgaria (a very old and full of history country) gave me a lot appreciation for culture. I grew up listening to jazz and soul, and was very fortunate to work with amazing musicians. It was relatively easy to get big here, since the scene is small. That was also the most difficult part as well, since everybody knew each other.

What instruments did you play when you were younger?

I used to play piano as a kind, but my dad had to sell it to pay the bills when I was around 10. I bought myself a piano with the first money I earned from music. I was 15.

Are there an instruments that you currently wish you COULD play?

Too many to say. I’d love to be able to play the Harp or a Violin, but these are so hard to learn. I’d also like to learn that bass – that would be easier. (My bass player will kill me for saying that.)

Tell us the story of how you started creating music?

My parents divorced. I was lonely and very depressed. Music saved me. I didn’t have any friends, and kids were bullying me in school about the divorce. I would hide on the stairs in my apartment building and write lyrics and sing them – that sort of relieved the pain.

What was your favorite studio moment when producing your newest single, What you say to a girl?

Playing with people like Ron Avant, Gene Coye and Jameel Bruuner – it was a great, inspiring experience.

What do you like to do when you’re simply hanging out – aside from music?

 I like traveling a lot. I like staring at waterfalls. I like to cook for my friends – it’s all a lot like therapy.

Are you involved in any extracurricular activities?

I teach rarely. Only with people I really believe in. One of my (3) students is a finalist in X Factor Bulgaria at the moment.  I am one of the faces and ambassadors of Avon against breast cancer, and a charity foundation for kids with disabilities, I can too.

Who are your musical influences?

Pearl Jam, Marvin Gaye, Michael Jackson, George Michael, Pam Grear, Johhny Cash, D’angelo, Kamasi Washington, Massive Attack. I love diverse music.

What DAW do you (or your producer) use and why?

Logic. I don’t know ask him 🙂 @KanWakan

Do you have a favorite mic you like to use?

I own a Earthworks SR40V – Condenser Mic – it’s amazing.

Do you have singing warmups that you do? If so, which ones?

Not for quite a lot of years. I try and take good care of my voice with diet. I sing everyday, so I do believe I stay in “shape.”

Do you have a typical music production process? If yes, can you explain it?

Studio-wise, when we work on a album we work only on that for a month. Nobody is doing anything else. Recordings usually take up to 3 weeks, no more, straight in the studio everyday. Vocals are recorded last.

Who has been one of your favorite artists to collab with?

I love Kaidi Tatham. This guy is my hero!

Do you have any tips for young singers out there?

Do not try to sound like someone you like. Listen do different styles and form your own.

What are some of your favorite venues to play and why?

Cotton Club Japan is definitely a great spot. I love Mau Mau where we did the Jazz Refreshed session, Bitef Art Cafe in Belgrade is awesome. In Bulgaria I love Cubo, Sofia Live Club and Terminal 1.

What is your favorite color?


What food do you eat the most?

Indian and Vietnamese.

Do you have a favorite in-studio snack?

A Redbull and a glass of wine would do.

What is your favorite social media platform and why?

I’m into Instagram lately. It’s quick and easy, though, so many people try to fake life there, and it’s crazy. Facebook is still a strong asset for me.

What is next for Ruth Koleva?

Confidence. Truth will be out on February 16th, than I’m off on a world tour in the spring/summer.

Chris Stack

After graduating from Kenyon College, Chris Stack joined a branding and marketing startup, BrandYourself (as seen on SharkTank), in New York City. After leading the company to grow past profitability as a leading account manager, Chris set his sights on his passion: music. He currently runs his own LLC in New York City, helping musicians in the city with their online presence and marketability. A native of the Washington DC area, Chris Stack's passions and hobbies include music production (8 years on Ableton), marketing, baseball (Mets), football (Ravens), Netflix n chillin, and the experience economy.

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