Ruby Gill is a South African/Australian songwriter with insights for days. She eloquently takes us through her debut album, i’m gonna die with this frown on my face, answering four simple questions for each song in the excellent track listing. I can’t help but feeling the same way about Gill’s music as I did the first time I heard Laura Marling – both come across wise beyond their years. Fans of Christian Lee Hutson and Fiona Apple will find a lot to love in Gill’s candid (and often humourous) songwriting. But enough from me. Go check out the record wherever you enjoy your favourite music, and follow along with Gill’s own track-by-track commentary below.
I FORGOT TO BE PROFOUND TODAY
About The Song: I have always harboured a lot of internal pressure to be externally ‘interesting’ and to perform to a level that pleases the corporation/community’s ideals of what a functional, successful, worthy adult might look and act like. This song was my questioning of that narrative, my small act of defiance against a job that makes me tired and a world that i never feel truly good enough for.
Favourite Lyric: ‘We’re gonna need a bigger blanket / everybody’s getting cold…’
Micro-review (5 words or less): The ultimate resignation letter
What Emoji Would This Song Be?:
About: My one small request for some stability among the turbulence, asking for a rock to hold onto in the big river.
Favourite lyric: ‘Broken without clear intention, who’s to blame?’
Micro-review: Chaotic energy at its finest
STOCKINGS FOR SKATING
About: Whenever I faced difficult adult times and wasn’t coping anymore, I would get in my car and drive the 6 hours it takes to get from Joburg to Kwa-Zulu Natal to rock up at my mum’s house, take my shoes off and skate down the parquet passageway in my stockings. I miss that reclamation of childhood being only 600km away.
Favourite lyric: ‘Take me dancing…’
Micro-review: Will make you love socks
I’M GONNA DIE WITH THIS FROWN ON MY FACE
About: A song I wrote about being angry all of the time. Every minute of every day.
Favourite lyric: ‘I’m gonna die with this frown on my face / they’re going to lower me down / asking why I’ve been this angry all of my days / even when you came around…’
Micro-review: A resting bitch face anthem
PUBLIC PANIC ATTACKS
About: A song about having a panic attack in public.
Favourite lyric: ‘Your silhouette’s blocking up my telescope lens…’
Micro-review: Will make you feel seen
About: It’s about moving to Australia and realising how much unresolved stuff I was carrying with me, putting on the people around me and not dealing with. All the dirty laundry piles up and then it is very hard to forgive yourself and/or clean up.
Favourite lyric: ‘While the south was burning / I spent a decade learning how to be thinner…’
Micro-review: Devastating maybe even triggering
IN TIME WITH THE ENGINE TURNING OVER
About: I always fight with people in cars. When you go on a long drive with someone you can say things you wouldn’t say to their face because you’re looking out the windscreen and there’s no eye contact. It all comes out of me.
Favourite lyric: ‘If you’re gonna fight love, well you can get out…’
Micro-review: For couples everywhere
About: A short story about a white family in their Joburg mansion full of great danes and table tennis tables and a wilful ignorance about the complexity of the land and society around them. I thought it was specific but after moving to Australia turns out it maybe applies to a larger group of people.
Favourite lyric: ‘Polish all the cutlery / even though nobody’s here to see…’
Micro-review: Welcome to white people’s houses
About: My letter to the Australian immigration department about being stuck on a bridging visa, so far from the land and people that raised me. Obviously did not send it as I would have been deported.
Favourite lyric: ‘And I’m tired of all your bureaucratic nonsense…’
Micro-review: Makes you call your mum
About: I once went birdwatching alone in a remote forest in South Africa, species wish list in hand, full of hope for new friends and sightings, but the 6am mist and rain was not playing ball. Not even a pigeon. I felt righteous anger at nature for failing me, until I came to a clearing, and through the mist sounded the call of a Verreaux’s Eagle-owl. I knew it was a Verreaux’s Eagle-owl because I had also been listening to a CD-Rom of the bird calls of Southern Africa on repeat for 3 weeks in preparation. I never saw the owl, but it reminded me that all around us, nature is alive even when we have no proof of it. Places and people continue to exist even when we can’t see them.
Favourite lyric: ‘All my defenses come out lined up like teeth in a ten-year-old’s mouth / waiting for someone to pull them out…’
Micro-review: Soaring. Like an owl
About: I was thinking a lot about my unhealthy attraction to people who smoke cigarettes. I was raised on secondhand smoke and although I can’t roll a ciggie to save my life, my tendency is to surround myself with people and experiences that remind me of that childhood. They’re not always so healthy. Trauma is fun.
Favourite lyric: ‘You made me weak at my knees / and I’ve got pretty strong knees…’
Micro-review: Hilarious but also heartbreaking?? How?
ALL THE BIRDS UNDER THE WESTGATE
About: I was going over to my ex-partner’s apartment (our apartment?) to fetch the last of my belongings after we split up. He was cooking curry when I got there – my curry recipe that I had taught him – and he was doing a relatively good job of it so I commented that it smelled good and he took that as an opportunity to ask me to ‘finish it up’ for him so I ended up making rotis while he took a phone call on the balcony just thinking, this has to be the weirdest night of my life. When I got home, wrote this song in one sitting, went to sleep and never saw him again.
Favourite lyric: ‘There’s a picture missing / was it one of us kissing?‘
Micro-review: Want to cry? Here goes