Ruby Velle & The Soulphonics
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Deep, raw funk. Stax-style Southern soul. Uplifting Motown-channeling anthems. Atlanta’s Ruby Velle and the Soulphonics are the heirs to the thrones of the old-school masters. But they’re much more than just a group of revivalists trying to create a period piece. Powerhouse singer Velle and her band will settle for nothing less than bringing these classic sounds glimmering into the now with a fresh new modern sheen.
Ruby Velle and the Soulphonics have made a name for themselves captivating audiences with their stirring live performances. They’re a world-class modern soul revue topped off with the cherry of Velle’s sultry voice, as she deftly toggles between sweetly crooned R&B tunes and expertly belted barn-burning get-downs that can instantly jolt a roomful of wallflowers into a wild dance party.
It’s this inviting and accessible bravado that has scored the band critical acclaim from outlets such as The New York Daily News, MTV, Paste and more. And in addition to their critical success, at a time when record sales are at an all-time industry low, the independent, DIY-minded Velle and the Soulphonics sold a quarter-million downloads of their single “My Dear” on iTunes, landing them in the top 30 on Billboard’s Heatseeker charts and at a stunning #4 on the iTunes R&B charts when their debut album It’s About Timewas released in 2012. The group has shared bills with megastars and indie press darlings alike, including Erykah Badu, The XX, Goodie Mob, Gary Clark Jr., Animal Collective, Feist and Kendrick Lamar.
And they continue to blaze a trail into the hearts of music fans with their new single “Tried on a Smile,” which premiered via CNNgo. The song is the first to surface from Ruby and the Soulphics’ as-yet untitled sophomore LP, which is slated for a fall 2015 release. The feel-good new single was produced and recorded at Diamond Street Studios in Atlanta by the band’s own Spencer Garn (Black Lips, Sara Rachele, The Coathangers).
“No matter how you feel before the song starts, you’ll feel great by the end of it,” Velle says, “I always have a renewed energy after singing it. It’s a real mood changer!”
Ruby Velle and the Soulphonics formed originally in Gainesville, Fla., in 2006 when the band’s core members Spencer Garn (keys), Scott Clayton (guitar) and Ruby Velle (vocals, lyricist/writer) began performing together. They soon left behind the Florida college town, and headed for Atlanta, where they found a vibrant and eclectic music scene that embraced them with open arms.
At the time, they were playing mostly soul and R&B covers, selling out small clubs on the weekends, as Garn built Diamond Street—the band’s recording studio and rehearsal space. Having their own space and recording equipment, the band was able to take their time while recording, getting everything just right.
“After I listened to the It’s About Time recordings for the first time,” Garn says, “I got those shivers telling me that this really was something special.”
It’s About Time took Ruby Velle and the Soulphonics from being one of the most popular local acts in Atlanta to a being a player on the national stage. One of the album’s standout tracks, “My Dear,” was featured as an iTunes Single of the Week, propelling it to the top of the R&B charts alongside artists like Usher & Amy Winehouse. The album was universally praised by rock, pop and hip-hop outlets, and continues to make the rounds in underground DJ culture—several EDM remixes have accompanied subsequent releases including their single for “My Dear” and 2014’s Feet on the Ground remix EP.
The band’s first release after It’s About Time, 7-inch single “Heartlite” was featured by Starbucks as its “Pick of the Week” during Christmas 2012, and was playable on every Starbucks log-in screen across the world. Delta Airlines also picked up the song, making it available to listen on all flights. These notable features, along with several successful tours and festival appearances—including The Governor’s Ball and One Music Festival—have helped Ruby Velle and the Soulphonics rack up nearly one million downloads and streams.
Currently, Ruby Velle and the Soulphonics are in the studio laying down the songs that will make up their forthcoming sophomore release. “Most bands like ours tend to hold onto that soul-revue formula—black suits with skinny ties, side steppin’ to the groove, gimmicky segues,” Clayton says. “We’re moving into more modern elements of rock and pop through the lens of soul and classic R&B.”
“That’s the next evolution for the band—to separate ourselves from the soul-revivalist set,” Velle says. “We’re bringing new things to the table while still being soulful and authentic. We package it by drawing from my own eclectic tastes, and from the band members’ diverse backgrounds. It helps set our songs apart. You might not expect it, but a lot of my affinity for singing comes from Paul Simon. I want to be a story-teller with my singing. I’m not afraid to bring a folk mentality into the soul genre. We set ourselves apart with our lyrics and our unerring stance for positivity. We want to be a pillar of the soul genre, not just a representation of what it once was.”