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"I love what I used to do," Smith says. "But I've always listened to rock 'n' roll. I don't really listen to that other stuff. I mean, I listen to bluegrass and country, I guess, but I'm not sitting at home listening to George Strait and Carrie Underwood all day. I'm listening to Tom Waits and Bright Eyes and, yes, My Morning Jacket. I've always loved that kind of music. It's what I've always wanted to do. I just didn't have the tools — the players and songs — to do that."
She thinks she does now. For two months, she and her band worked for this set, readying this new direction for her sound. After a 2006 debut LP that was immediately followed by two EPs and a live album, she's considering the LP she hopes to release next spring to be her true debut.
"I've been, like, this fiddle prodigy and this novelty, really," she acknowledges. "This is really the more adult Ruby Jane. It may not be my first album, but it'll be the debut of the adult me. And I may not even really be an adult yet. But this is the kind of music I want to make. I always, always will be playing the fiddle. But I'm also all about being outside of the box, and I'm not about doing what people expect me to do, ever. My entire life, I've always tried to do things and work really, really hard at things that no one would expect of me. I've obviously been very blessed with many opportunities, but I've always tried to do the unexpected. That's what all my heroes do."
And she said it: She wants to be like Jim James.
The whole ball-of-energy bit is a good start. So is her overall conviction.
"I just want to rock," she says, somehow sounding at once wistful and confident. "I want to blow people's minds."