Back in 2018, I was walking towards Ladbroke Grove station, going to work and “Hypothalamus” came on my earphones. I remember the feeling I got, so strong and powerful, insane vocals and beautiful chord choices. The synths were mad. "who is this" I thought, and looked at my screen to see the name Ruthven. Never heard of this artist before, but he had my attention. After listening to “Hypothalamus” on repeat for 45 minutes, I started listening to his discography, only to discover that all of his music is FIRE.
Through the years, “Hypothalamus” has become one of my top 5 all time favourite tracks. If there was a playlist that describes me as a person, this track would definitely be in it.
Ruthven’s life has always revolved around music. Raised by his mother as a single parent, he would join her as she gave piano lessons around Catford, south east London, where he grew up. He learned to play drums himself when one student’s father offered to exchange his skillset as a drummer in return for piano lessons. Age 19 and keen to give back to his community he joined the Fire Brigade. Not long after he got married and started a family, leading to the decision to put music to the side in order to spend quality time raising his sons and being a good husband to his wife. Leaving music behind entirely didn’t quite work, though, and he began playing again a few years later when a friend offered him gigs in wedding bands and at other similar functions. Coming back to making music was perhaps inevitable, given that the majority of relatives are musicians too. “I was an outlier in my family getting a ‘proper’ job,” he laughs. “I just realised I was more stressed with music not being a part of my life,” he says looking back. Around this time he downloaded Logic and began teaching himself to produce music. Happy with his early efforts, he sent some demos over to Jai and A.K. Paul who were impressed and offered to release his music. In 2017 the Paul Institute released the debut Ruthven single Evil and he was a musician once again.
It’s not just helping him release music that he credits to the Pauls, the enigmatic siblings reinvigorated his enthusiasm for contemporary music at a time when it was faltering. “They showed me that modern music isn’t bland and watered down,” he says. “They were putting out music in a cultivated way and it sounded fresh.” Ruthven’s songs work on a similar basis. By taking the DNA of timeless hits from the past and filtering them through a modern lens his music is neither retro by design nor disposable efforts to keep up with the times. “The fact that I love music from the 70s and 80s, things like Marvin Gaye, Kool & The Gang, isn’t because I’m stuck in the past. It’s just that the music is so strong. I want to take the best things from the history of music and use them in a modern way,” he says, explaining his philosophy. northerntransmissions
Ruthven’s songs are an antidote for lazy, laid-back pop music. His music channels Prince and Peter Gabriel, and his tracks pack as much punch as they do dulcet melody. pitchfork
Whereas previous Ruthven songs have stayed firmly in a danceable groove, "Don't Keep It To Yourself" finds a peaceful glow in its warm synths and stays there — the burst of energy from the guitar solo only enhances the surrounding smoothness. “’Don’t Keep It To Yourself’ is about your ‘someone’ confiding their secrets with you & you enjoying," Ruthven said in a press statement, "and perhaps being kind of spurred on by what you’re hearing. Bedroom feels.” thefader
“Ruthven is a unique guy, with a unique pathway into the industry,” says A. K. Paul. “I’ve seen him come a long way in the past five years working with him for Paul Institute releases. We became friends in the process too – some deep discussions have gone down in the studio! With the production I tried to bring an extra layer of quality and self awareness to what was essentially a deep talent and musicality in his demos. I’m gassed to have been there at the start of his journey!” factmag
“Everything I’ve recorded in these live sessions is going to be my voice,” says Ruthven. “Even if it’s raw, even if it’s brutally honest sometimes, it’s me.” Delivering an electric performance of his new single, ‘Don’t Keep It To Yourself’, as well as two new songs, ‘123 Days’ and ‘The Window’, this is not only a document of the artist’s raw talent but also a glimpse of Ruthven’s new chapter. With the prospect of more live shows and tours on the horizon, it’s clear that what the artist really wants is for people to sing along. “We don’t know how things will go,” he says, “but I hope that I’ve written some stuff that people can really sink their teeth into.” factmag