This is how Ruth B turned her Vine success into a major music career
The first time I heard “Lost Boy,” I was in a coffee shop. I was going through the normal motions of a morning when I heard an unadorned piano ballad coming through the speakers: “‘Run, run lost boy,’ they say to me./ Away from all of reality.” Even with the espresso maker humming in the background, the feeling in this singer’s voice was unmissable. By the time she slipped into falsetto I was hooked.
Ruth B’s single “Lost Boy” is an unlikely hit. It’s a simple song, a song about Peter Pan, a song with no hint of a beat drop, a song written six seconds at a time via Vine.
Two years ago, Ruth Berhe was a Canadian teenager uploading Vine covers of herself singing Ed Sheeran and Lana Del Rey songs in her childhood bedroom. Her voice is beautiful, and on many of the Vine riffs she plays piano. As she soars through improvised high notes, it’s clear that she’s something special — even with a stuffed animal penguin in the background.
One day, on a whim, she uploaded an original line of music: “I am a lost boy from Neverland/ usually hanging out with Peter Pan.”
“I was watching Once Upon a Time and had just finished binge-watching the season, so that day when I went to play on my keyboard I was kind of just singing different words, and playing around with random chords,” Ruth told HelloGiggles. “One of the lines that I sang was: ‘I am lost boy from Neverland, usually hanging out with Peter Pan.’ I really didn’t even think anything of it, but I decided I’d post it to Vine because it kept ringing through my head.”
That whim paid dividends. “It started to get a really big reaction,” Ruth said. “It had about 85,000 likes in a week and the majority of the comments left were, ‘we want to hear more.’ So I did that. For a week, I’d come home every day after school and write a new line to the song, and eventually I had a chorus.”
What that meant for us Vine users, is that we got to see the evolution of what would become a chart-topping pop song in real-time. “Lost Boy” is currently #42 on the Billboard Hot 100.
In between uploading Vines, Ruth was in college majoring in political science and hoping to become a lawyer. After she uploaded the sequence of “Lost Boy” snippets, however, that dream made way for music. “I posted [the “Lost Boy” chorus] to YouTube in January of 2015, and I started getting a lot of positive responses from major labels in the U.S. and management companies,” Ruth said. But before she set off to take meetings in America, she decided she wanted to have a few more songs under her belt. “I sat down for a week and wrote the EP. I mean, it wasn’t the EP at the time, it was just songs that had been waiting to be written by me.”
A year and a half later, Ruth has a huge hit, a full-length album in the works, and a recently released music video for “Lost Boy.” When the camera zooms in on her fingers playing the piano in the video, it’s hard not to think of those same hands playing the piano in the Vines — only now the nail polish isn’t chipped.
I saw Ruth perform live in New York last week. It was a small venue, and her voice filled the room — she sounded even more beautiful than she does on the now finished EP and just as exciting as she did on those early Vines.
Ruth makes her ascent sound easy and, when you have talent like she does, perhaps it is. But a quick look at social media proves that to rise from the pack of the thousands of musicians uploading their sound to social is impressive in and of itself. Her recipe for musical social media success sounds simple: “You have to stick with it, do it because you love it and be as original as possible,” she says. “There’s a lot of content that goes onto the internet so you have to make everything your own.” Much easier said than done.
When Ruth performed in New York, she lauded Adele’s songwriting. When we spoke she mentioned how much she admires the writing of artists like Paul McCartney, John Lennon, and Ed Sheeran. She called out one song in particular, “Yellow Submarine” by The Beatles. “I love how crazy that song is and I wish I had written it,” she says. It won’t be long now before young artists are saying they wish they’d written that song about Neverland. Thanks to Vine, they’ll be able to see exactly how Ruth B did it.