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Strolling Down the 'Highway Of Dreams' with Pamela Ruby Russell
By Matthew S. Robinson
(more articles from this author)
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Singer, songwriter, restauranteur, tarot card reader and circus elephant rider, Pamela Ruby Russell is living quite a life! Yet she still has a lot more adventures ahead of her on her "Highway Of Dreams." And not only is it a new album, it is her life story and her philosophy. After a past filled with its share of hard times and tough climbs, Pamela still has lofty goals in her sights. It is these dreams and desires that have buoyed her through into her most recent and most lasting career change.

[MusicDish] How, when, and why did you decide to get into music?

Pamela Ruby Russell My earliest memories of wanting to sing came from when my Grandmother used to take me to the opera in NYC, and when I saw the Beatles at Shea Stadium, while sitting in the front row of the press box seats. But I didn't pursue music until much later on in my life. Before that, I co-owned a restaurant called "Vital Vittles" in Provincetown on the Cape in Massachusetts. I also lived in the Caribbean (on a French island, designing jewelry), and also south of the border. While I was living in Mexico I rode an elephant in a circus, in fishnet stockings, sequins and feathers, bareback!!! You try that! I sang on top of a Mayan temple at midnight! Yes, I've had some pretty wonderful experiences! Right now I am working on a screenplay about a wild woman ancestor of mine who was also a singer, and I am performing, promoting and marketing my music.

[MusicDish] Is music your primary thing now?

Pamela Ruby Russell Yes, it has been for quite a while. It's what makes me feel whole. If I am not singing or writing, I kind of feel like I am not doing what I am 'sposed to be doing or something, unless I am traveling of course. I was sort of searching along the way to find my passion and I think I have, I know I have!

[MusicDish] Has it been difficult entering the entertainment field at this stage in your life?

Pamela Ruby Russell I think it might be difficult at any stage in one's life because the competition is so steep. You have to just love it, see it, regardless of the end result because if you're in music, you are probably in it for the long haul. I borrowed a piano for the restaurant I had years ago, which I opened by the way because no one would give me a job as a waitress 'cuz I didn't "have the experience." I hadn't touched a piano in years. When I finally did begin to play again, I lacked confidence - I struggled with the thought that it should just come naturally, but I found that we are all born with music in us, and it's the practice that brings it out and nourishes it. I teach voice sometimes now, and I love it. It is the greatest feeling to help someone else open up to themselves and others.

[MusicDish] What pushed you towards music?

Pamela Ruby Russell It wasn't really something I had a choice about. It was and still is like eating and breathing to me. I had lived through some heavy family stuff, my mother committed suicide when I was younger. Writing and singing was my way of surviving. It helped me to keep my sanity and keep me away from self-destructing myself. Though that may sound kind of extreme, I am sure that is why many of us become musicians, writers, artists and performers.

[MusicDish] Who were your musical heroes?

Pamela Ruby Russell I went to school in Boston for a while and I used to go hear the incredibly gifted songwriter, singer and 12 string guitarist, Tim Buckley [Jeff's dad] perform every night he was in town. He had a voice that gave me shivers. I have all his records and I still listen to them and get blown away by them. I also really like, whew, are you ready? Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Keith Jarrett, Rickie Lee Jones, Minnie Ripperton, Cyndi Lauper, Judy Garland, Tom Waits, Bruce Cockburn, Steven Tyler, Louis Armstrong, Chet Baker, 'Lil Green, Linda Ronstadt, Bonnie Rait, Dusty Springfield, Chris Isaack (his Baja Sessions album) and Lucinda Williams. I really love Edith Piaf. Oh, and that Impulse album with John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman. Wow! I am so glad that these artists continue to get the acclaim they so richly deserve. They are all great musicians! There are so many more that I love. I also saw Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock and on New Year's Eve at the Fillmore East. I used to work at the most amazing music store, the Record Hunter on Fifth Avenue in NYC, way back when, and got free tickets to everything! There's a big centerfold photo of me in Rolling Stone Magazine's Special Edition, on the "Groovy Way" bridge at the first Woodstock. Wow, that was an amazing week, truly awesome!!

[MusicDish] How did these people help shape your music?

Pamela Ruby Russell For me, the most important thing is being in touch with my true feelings, in what I sing and how I live. Many songwriting teachers say to do it every day, like an exercise. I find that, to me the most meaningful songs are the ones that come when I am being honest, I guess you could say, vulnerable and open. Ouch! And that is not always so simple, at least not for me. Yes, it does take practice. The musicians I admire the most, like the ones I named before, seem to have come from a place where their music is something they have to do. We all want to make a living, but some of us need this music thing, like food and water, like air, like love. The greats, the musicians, singers and songwriters that allow the music to flow right out of their hearts, through to us, because they have to just do it, they inspire me. I hope my listeners will say the same about me someday, that I keep integrity and honesty in my music.

[MusicDish] Just what is "Highway of Dreams?"

Pamela Ruby Russell It's my CD and it is many other things. The CD's title came from me picking songs from different periods in my life as a songwriter and poet. "HIGHWAY OF DREAMS" is also the name of one of the songs. Each piece, each story if you will, represents a stop along my "HIGHWAY," like sign posts along the road. I have so many songs, it was hard to choose. The CD took four years to complete. I financed it myself and it was a real labor of love. It is "my baby." I am looking forward to recording my next CD, now that I know the ropes better. You never know how many albums you are going to do, so you gotta' put out your best work every chance you get. You also have to love the process and the people you are working with, hopefully. Peter Calo (Carly Simon/guitarist), Robert Holmes ('Til Tuesday/ guitarist) and Mark Baxter (Steven Tyler's vocal coach) among other brilliant players, are on my CD. I feel humbled that musicians, wait, people of their caliber, wanted to work with me. Now I'm looking for a new producer and some management and promotion. I hope I'm as fortunate with my next recording as I have been with "HIGHWAY."

[MusicDish] What do you want from your music?

Pamela Ruby Russell Not too much I guess. Well, I do want to have fun! [She smiles.] I want to feel that I am doing something constructive and not just putting out product and spending time here on the Earth. I feel that the greatest gift a songwriter can give is an honest lyric and a good melody that inspires and touches people. Performing and writing are powerful mediums, to be enjoyed and at the same time, treated with respect. I hope that my pursuit of music as a career and life path will continue to remind me, and show my listeners, that music can encompass all parts of one's "voice" and can help heal and bring joy to us and others at any time in our lives. That's what I am working on now, and I don't know where it's going to lead me, but I am excited and I am definitely on my HIGHWAY OF DREAMS. I hope you will join me!

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