It all started with a post on Vine and an episode of Once Upon a Time.
Ruth Berhe was just 19 when she posted a six-second snippet of her singing a line inspired by the popular fairy tale-based TV show. That Vine was far from herself first, but it quickly proved to be special, as thousands of likes and views rolled in.
That was December 2014.
Now, she’s known as Ruth B, the girl with the crystal-clear and haunting vocals who earned massive radio play with “Lost Boy,” her piano-driven ballad that originated from that seconds-long clip.
Ruth B will bring those velvet vocals and delicate piano chords to the Fillmore Silver Spring tonight in support of Alessia Cara’s “Know-It-All Tour Part II.”
The sudden rise in fame has been “crazy” for Berhe who has gone from a relatively unknown figure on Vine to someone just one or two hit songs away from mainstream attention. She’s currently at that in-between moment where her songs are gaining traction, but she can still maintain a level of privacy in public.
Just take the one time “Lost Boy” started playing while she sat in an airport, for example.
“It was pretty funny just because I was just like, ‘Holy crap, that’s my voice, and nobody here knows that right now,'” she said. “It’s always such a cool feeling to hear yourself on the radio, and to hear a little song you came up with just for fun. That’s always really rewarding.”
Berhe didn’t join Vine in hopes of signing with Columbia Records, releasing an eerily peaceful single that the Recording Industry Association of America certified as platinum or receiving a nomination for a Teen Choice Award. She’s now accomplished all those things at the young age of 21, but really she created an account on the social media platform for the same reason most others do — just for fun.
Yet before she knew it, a swiftly recorded Vine altered the course of her life.
“It was really crazy,” she said, “especially because it was a Vine that I put zero effort into.”
That one-verse video transformed into “Lost Boy,” a nearly five-minute song of Berhe’s somber vocals lightly weaving around stripped-down piano. The song makes continual references to the fantastical world of Peter Pan, but its lyrics underlie a deeper message.
“It’s about going through being lonely, being okay with being lonely and then finding yourself in something that’s bigger than that,” Berhe said.
There’s nothing unconventional about Berhe’s sound. Piano-based singer-songwriter tracks dripping with raw emotion, if occasionally heavy-handed, is a well-tried musical formula.
What’s strange is her rise to prominence with “Lost Boy” in a time dominated by the likes of The Chainsmokers. The majority of popular songs today are electro-based, often centered on an ear worm of a dance beat that is anything but intricate and is purposefully crafted to lodge itself inside your mind and get you grooving on a sweaty dance floor.
Sure, megastars like Adele can seize worldwide attention with stripped-down power ballads. But many younger listeners have short attention spans and are rarely able to sit through a slow song from a newcomer before asking, “When’s the bass drop?”
Berhe said she isn’t opposed to playing around with different musical styles in the future. Just expect the tracks from her forthcoming debut album, which she hopes will drop in early 2017, to be two things: “real and relatable.”
“In the future, just discovering my sound and growing is really important to me,” she said. “But I know I always want to keep it about the song, about the lyrics and about the music.”