Off Duty: Rock-‘N-Roll Royalty & Songstress, Ruby Stewart

Written By James Kicinski-McCoy

Photography by: The Bleu

My friend Ruby Stewart (a.k.a. Leggy Stewart, due to having legs for miles) and I have been trying to nail down a good time to shoot since Bleu launched back in April of this year. Between her constant tour dates and my sporadic work travel, we kept missing each other, but finally made it happen earlier this month. Ruby is the daughter of one of the biggest names in music, true rock legend Rod Stewart and model Kelly Emberg. Following in her dad’s footsteps, the 30-something made the move to Nashville to pursue her own songstress dreams, which are all coming true. Ruby is doing big things in Music City and is one half of The Sisterhood Band with her longtime friend and bandmate Alyssa Bonagura. The two of them haven’t slowed down since joining forces and have been very busy writing and preforming their folky, country songs all over the States and Europe.

I met Ruby a few years ago after her recent move at a mutual friend’s dinner party. I loved her immediately, not only because she’s hilarious and tells the best stories from her all but ordinary childhood, but also she’s a gem of a human, can cut a mean rug, and is truly one of the kindest and most humble ladies I know. Today, she’s giving Bleu an exclusive look into her meant-to-be home, sharing a few of those stories I mentioned above, and talking all things music, how she spends her time away from the road, and stealing clothes from her mom and dad’s closet. I do hope you enjoy!

And Other Stories jumpsuit and shoes. Gucci belt.
And Other Stories jumpsuit and shoes. Gucci belt.

How do you typically spend a day off?  “I’m rarely home, so when I do get a day off at home I usually clean my house, tend to my house plants, and read and write. I love nature, so I like to take my dogs hiking or do Bikram yoga.”

What do you wear when you’re spending the day at home and off duty?  “Big, cozy sweater (usually stolen from my dad) and leggings.”

Do you sleep-in on your days off?  “Yes, absolutely. I love to sleep and have very vivid dreams, which I like to write down and use for songwriting inspiration.”

How many times (if any) do you hit snooze?  “I’ll hit snooze two times at the most.”

Mom and Dad.
Mom and Dad.

What’s the very first thing you do when you wake up?  “I like to take 20 minutes in nature every morning before I start my day. I usually wake between 7:30 and 8 a.m. I let my dogs out and open all the doors to my house, make a myself a coffee, sit out on my front lawn, take in the sun, and watch the birds with my dogs. This is my morning meditation. Then, I dive into work emails and texts.”

What’s on your bedside table?  “Clary Oil, a Baies Diptyque candle, Smith’s Rosebud Salve, and whatever book I am reading at the time.”

What’s the story behind your home and how long have you lived there?  “I moved from Los Angeles to Nashville five years ago in the pursuit of music. I packed all my instruments and dogs into my Prius and drove there with only a dream to create. For three years, I was renting a little house down the street from my creative counterpart Alyssa Bonagura. I eventually decided this was the place I wanted to spread my roots. I looked at 30 houses before I found my little 1929 Tudor. I wanted to preserve some history here in Nashville after watching them tear down so many historic homes and rebuild a tall and skinny home for ten people. I was looking to save and preserve. The story goes: after a long day of looking at houses, my real estate agent and I were heading back to my house at the time. I was feeling a bit discouraged that I hadn’t found a house I could call home in three months of searching. She saw a home newly on the market pop up in her email. We decided to go take a look at it since we were in the neighborhood. She told me it was out of my price range, but we should take a look at it anyways. As soon as we pulled in the driveway, something felt oddly familiar about the house and all the trees surrounding it. When we walked in, the smell reminded me of something I couldn’t quite place — like a hotel I had stayed in as child. I couldn’t quite place it. Everything about it felt like déjà vu. The land plot is a triangle and the inner layout of the house is circular. All the main rooms link together in a circle. I’m into sacred geometry, so those things spoke to me. I put a bid on the house and ended up being outbid. I was pretty bummed about it and remember asking the universe if it was supposed to be my home to make some magic happen. The next morning, I got a call from my real estate agent saying the other bidder backed out last minute. I immediately booked an inspection and got a pretty hefty amount shaved off of my asking price due to restoration. I moved in on August 27th. I have spent two years taking care and restoring her to her original glory, and in return, she holds a lot of memories.”

How do you like Nashville?  “I love Nashville’s sense of community. It reminds me of the little beach town called Manhattan Beach in California that I grew up in, except no beaches. I am very close with all my neighbors. We all take care of each other and often have dinner parties. The music scene is like no other I have ever seen. I often compare it to Laurel Canyon in the ’60s. There is this sense of freedom that allows creativity to flourish in its natural form. There is no hierarchy, no ego, no entitlement. Nashville is a growing city of misfits and outsiders that have found a common place to create. I love it here and hope that never changes.”

What are some things that you cherish in your home and why?  “I like to call these things ‘the tornado items’ — what you grab when you run into the basement after the sirens start to go off. Above my Wurlitzer upright piano, I have two prints of my parents. One I found in my mom’s house and the other I found in my dad’s. Of course the one my mom kept is in perfect condition, and the one I found in my dad’s is weathered. It reminds me that how you treat and take care of love is how it is received. I have my dad’s guitars including the one he wrote ‘Maggie May’ on in my house. I have some vinyl signed by my favorite artists like Stevie Nicks and Led Zeppelin. The ashes of my two dogs Bogart and Bella, who I lost in this house. Before I was born, my mom and dad went on a trip to France and bought this little love seat that is now in my sunroom. I never saw them together because they separated when I was two, so to fantasize them walking around buying antique furniture in a foreign country makes me smile. When I got my first royalty check, my mom took me to Sotheby’s to teach me how to invest in art and antique furniture. She used to be an interior designer, so she has taught me about different eras of decor. That day, I bought a Mucha poster called ‘La Plume’, Gallé vase, and a Daum lamp.”

Tell us about the art in your home.  “A lot of my artwork I have nicked from my dad. I have a poster over my record player that was from his first home. I have a signed running poster of Hunter S. Thompson when he ran for mayor of Aspen. I have a lot of my friend, Tasya Van Ree’s, pieces. I love the androgynous symmetry of her work. The prints of musicians in my dinning area, I found in Camden in London. I like to collect Catholic artwork from all around the world and different exotic framed butterflies. I don’t know why I have an affinity with these things, I just do.”

Where do you find / shop for home decor?  “Honestly, a lot of my furniture is antique or passed down. When I lived in L.A., I used to love going to the Rose Bowl Flea Market and finding one-of-a-kind pieces. I love anything with history. It gives and inanimate object a life, a story. I like to protect those kind of things. It baffles me to think that my couch and record console will be around long after I am dead and gone [laughs]. I like to go to Gaslamp here in Nashville. I also love West Elm and World Market.”

Antique glass coffee table found by Ruby's mom.
Antique glass coffee table found by Ruby's mom.

Ruby's dad's silk custom made shirt. Vintage Dior silk pants.
Ruby's dad's silk custom made shirt. Vintage Dior silk pants.

Tell us about Merlot.  “Merlot is QUEEN. She’s a little flirt and supermodel. She is my sidekick and my best friend. I bring her on tour with me. She keeps me sane in a forever changing lifestyle. She has a very old soul and understands me more than most of my human friends.”

Night in or night out? How do you spend it?  “A night in with friends — wine, music, and a home-cooked meal. Or, I am happy cuddling up with my dogs and roommate Cadara to watch a film.”

Favorite, must-read books? Women Who Run with the Wolves, Becoming Supernatural by Dr. Joe Dispenza, The Seat of the Soul by Gary Zukav, and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.”

Coffee table books and magazines you love? Paper, V Magazine, Italian Vogue (because free the nipple), and W Magazine.”

Favorite candles?  “Diptyque Baies and Wild Fig and Cedar by Paddy Wax.”

Song currently on repeat?  “My girls Haim’s new single ‘Summer Girl’, James Bay’s ‘Fade Out’, Mark Ronson and Lykke Li’s ‘Late Night Feelings’, and King Princess’ song ‘Prophet’.”

Vintage table lamps passed down from Ruby's dad.
Vintage table lamps passed down from Ruby's dad.

Favorite Netflix series / movie?  “Netflix is great, but I have been watching a lot more on Hulu and HBO. For HBO: Euphoria and Big Little Lies. On Hulu: Handmaid’s Tale. And, on Netflix: The OA and When They See Us. For a few years, I have been really obsessed with all of Brit Marling’s work and story. My favorite of hers is I Origins. I also love Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Darjeeling Limited, and A Single Man. My guilty pleasures would be The Notebook, Almost Famous, and It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Describe your personal style / style philosophy.  “Be yourself, but also leave room for fantasy. My personal style is one-of-a-kind pieces worn with love and purpose. I like to dress up like I am playing different characters in a play. I like to think of my style as innocent.”

What’s the one thing in your closet you would save in a fire?  “Probably something of my mom’s or dad’s.”

Who, what, where inspires your style the most?  “My seven-year-old self.”

Do you ever steal clothes from your dad?  “I have stolen from both of my parents. That sounds so odd. I have definitely raided my dad’s silk shirt and scarf collection. I also don’t know how in the ’70s, we apparently had the same waist size. My mom has given me some Halston and Alaia from her Studio 54 days. If those pieces could talk. [Laughs]”

Vintage silk nightgown. Alexander McQueen blouse.
Vintage silk nightgown. Alexander McQueen blouse.

What are three things on your want list?  “World Peace? As far as a fashion want list, I don’t really have one. I like to discover pieces.”

Your five wardrobe staples, go…  “Celine Leather Jacket, Lone Hawk Hat, Levi’s, and a soft vintage t-shirt. My staple on a day I am working around the house is paint-splattered overalls.”

Favorite designers / brands?  “Alexander McQueen when he was still designing because he represents a passion and renegade mentality that I relate to. I love that he went into some of the most respected fashion houses in Paris with scissors. I also love Tom Ford as a person and brand. Then, 1970s YSL, Celine, and Mark Fast.”

Very favorite online shop? Spanish Moss and Bona Drag.”

If you could raid one person’s closet (dead or alive), who’s would it be and why?  “David Bowie. He is my style icon. His style was always cohesive with the next musical adventure he was going to take you on. He was like a walking theater. It kept his listeners open and almost childlike. Be whoever you want to be today. It’s something we all did as children, and that should never die in us. I stand for all forms of self-expression for everyone. Whether you are a nurse, a janitor, or an artist, everyone should practice some form of self-expression. Sometimes, when I am feeling really insecure, I will wear something loud or strange to make myself get out of myself. It’s how I lose my ego. People will judge you regardless, so might as well live how you want to and wear what you want while you’re here.”

Dresses or jeans?  “Jeans.”

Heels or flats?  “Heeled boots.”

Vintage or new?  “Vintage all the way.”

Ruby's collection of vintage fringe jackets.
Ruby's collection of vintage fringe jackets.

Breakfast / brunch of choice?  “Breakfast tacos.”

Coffee or tea? How do you take it?  “Coffee iced with almond milk or a PG Tips tea with almond milk and two sugars.”

Favorite Nashville cup? Crema.”

Fave cookbooks?  “My mom’s homemade cookbook she made me with our family’s recipes in it.”

Favorite Nashville restaurant and your go-to order?  “True Food Kitchen.”

Regular Postmates / takeout order?  “True Food and Ginger Thai.”

Any supplements you take / magic elixirs you make or swear by?  “Merlot and I take CBD oil everyday to keep the cancer away. I swear by Ashwagnada and B12 for my mood and energy. I also always travel with Vitamin C, D, Omega complex, activated charcoal and glucosamine, colloidal silver, and Manuka honey.”

How do you stay active? Do you work out?  “I have a little gym in my basement. I love my Peloton bike and app. Bikram yoga is my favorite form of exercise. I love to garden and hike as well.”

What does self-care look like for you when you’re off duty?  “I take a bath every night. It’s something I watched both my parents do. They would always retire around seven to have an hour to themselves in the bath. I think it is important to find that me time every morning and night, whatever that means to you. I usually pair that with a glass of red wine depending on the day.”

You decide to treat yourself, how do you indulge?  “Truffle Popcorn, Chardonnay, Rom-com. Need I say more?”

What are your hobbies?   “Yoga, hiking, poetry, and designing clothes.”

Signature scent?  “Le Labo The Noir 29.”

Jumpsuit by Babaton.
Jumpsuit by Babaton.

Tell us about what you do.  “I am a female singer and songwriter, a.k.a. songstress. I am in a band called The Sisterhood Band.”

Since music runs in the family, did you always know you wanted to be a performer?  “Yes, when we were little, my sister Renee and I used to put on these elaborate plays with our friends that we would charge tickets for. I remember my dad and his friends being thoroughly amused by our plays. I always loved musicals and weird soundtracks, like the Cirque du Soleil soundtrack. I remember seeing Singing in the Rain for the first time and just being floored. My grandma taught me about jazz and musicals. My dad taught me about blues and soul. And, my mom taught me about strong female singers and ’70s rock. They’ve shaped the music I am creating now.”

Who / what has been your biggest inspiration?  “People, traveling the world, and my own personal evolution. My biggest inspiration would be myself as a kid. Whenever I feel overwhelmed or nervous about something, I do it for her. She would be proud of me. I think inspiration starts when you start dreaming about what you want to be one day. I try to always remember that kid in front of the mirror pretending I am on stage because it is the most authentic part of me.”

What was it like growing up with a superstar dad?  “Not normal, for sure. Chaotically beautiful, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I remember in fifth grade, I was a bit embarrassed to have friends over because we lived in a big house with lots of fancy furniture, and I guess I just wanted to be normal. My dad asked me one day if I even have friends because I never have them over. I told him my concerns and we made a deal that I would have my friends over if he wouldn’t embarrass me. So, I brought two of my girlfriends over one day after school. I knocked on the door and my dad answered all oiled up in a Versace speedo…with a tray of lemonade in hand. He asked us to join him by the pool. Of course, my Amercian friends didn’t understand what a speedo was, so they made fun of him for his ‘fancy underwear’. That was the last time I had friends over to my dad’s for a while. It was a long lesson of ten years, but my dad’s intention was for me to be proud of who I am and not try to fit into the mold of what was considered normal. It was a good thing to be unique and live differently.”

What’s your favorite Rod Stewart song?  “Closest to my heart would be ‘I Don’t Wanna Talk About It’. I used to listen to it when I missed my dad.”

His funniest (perhaps most embarrassing) music video?  ” ‘Tonight’s the Night‘ for the facial expressions alone.”

What does a typical work day look like for you?  “Wake up, have a coffee. Do some work emails. Work out. I’m usually always packing to go somewhere. Right now, we are in the process of making mix notes, so I’ll usually drive to get groceries or what not and make notes in the parking lot. Every day is different, depending on where we are at in our recording / touring process.”

What does the songwriting process look like for you? (What inspires a song?)  “Everything. It could be a conversation that you have and the person says something that you feel would make a great chorus or something you read in a book. Or, sometimes I wake up in the morning with a song melody in my head, so I record it in my voice notes. I am an avid believer in sleep inspiration. The process is different every time. Sometimes, they fall out of you like liquid and others have to be sculpted. It all really depends on the subject. I find it easier to write about other people’s experiences. I think it’s because I am an innate empath; I have been since I was a kid. I love to relate someone’s experience to what I know of my own, and maybe understanding more about my own through someone else’s. Songwriting is finding commonalities in the human experience, noticing the overlooked and turning it into something we all know so well. That’s why music is the human thread that keeps us all together. It’s the one thing people don’t fight about [laughs].”

Typical workday lunch?  “Rice, veggie patty, salad with avocado, and toasted almonds.”

Can you tell us how you remedy being in a creative funk? What puts you back on track?  “Creating other art. If I get stuck on something, I put it aside to draw or read. I don’t want what I am creating to hold an energy of anxiety or desperation. There’s a certain kind of pressure that isn’t healthy for creation; it’s like staring at a plant to watch it grow. It’s more rewarding to come back and notice the blossoms when they are ready. It’s almost like looking at it for the first time. Speaking of nature, getting out in nature helps me a lot, too.”

What is one thing about the industry that most people would be surprised to hear?  “How many processes music goes through before it hits the radio / streaming.”

Any advice to other women looking to start a career in music?  “I’ve heard a lot of women talk about their sex in correlation to being a musician, that it’s a negative thing to be called a female artist rather than just an artist. Not to say that that is wrong, it’s a preference. I personally keep close to my heart the women who have existed before me that never got the chance to express their art, women who have died with compositions, choreography, sculpture, public speaking, masterpieces in their hearts. I think about it a lot. I wear the title of a woman in music as a badge of honor. I consider myself a female singer-songwriter because my sex has a lot to do with how I create and where it comes from and my gratitude for what has happened before me. My advice would be to do what feels natural, always speak your mind, and to trust your intuition. It’s a magic power that every woman has.”

Any exciting news or projects on the horizon?  “We are currently in the process of finishing up our debut record, written and produced by Alyssa and me, The Sisterhood Band. I am so grateful for the evolutionary process of this record. It has taken us two years as a band to find the songs and sound. I am ready to share it with the world.”

Written by: James Kicinski-McCoy

James Kicinski-McCoy is the 40-something Founder and Editor-In-Chief of The Bleu. She likes tequila, picks fights with her husband so she can have the bed to herself, and is trying to figure out that work / life balance.

1 Comment

  1. Marilyn

    August 23, 2019 at 11:18 pm

    Thanks for the enjoyable article. I saw Ruby’s father in concert years ago and recently read his autobiography, leading to my current interest in all things Stewart. Ruby seems like a cool person with great talent and a big heart. It was fun taking a peek into her Nashville home and read her insights.


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