DFW Music News

At 42, Dallas Music Industry Coach Brianna Ruelas Releases Debut Single 'Thieves'

Kathy Tran
Longtime Dallas music coach Brianna Ruelas is 'starting' her singing career, releasing her first single.
If you do a Google search for Brianna Ruelas, the autocomplete features the subtitle “singer.” Ruelas just released her first single, “Thieves,” and though she's technically just "starting" her singing career now at age 42, she's been a singer her whole life and a force in the music industry for the last decade.

Ruelas was born and raised in Dallas and is a music coach who's authored two books and helped many aspiring artists find their voice in a turbulent industry. Ruelas auditioned for season four of American Idol, making the top 100 before being eliminated at the Hollywood audition stage.

“That was before the DIY revolution,” Ruelas says. “Everything changed in the record industry, and I always tell people that, in my 20s, dreaming about music was more of a pipe dream. The record labels were the gatekeepers, and I wasn’t going to be P!nk. That was really far-fetched, so a show like American Idol made me think that maybe I could actually get my foot in the door and start building relationships. Maybe I can do this music thing.”

Ruelas says that despite the elimination, her experiences on the show taught her more than she could've learned trying to make music on her own.

“It’s not just about getting on the show,” Ruelas says. “It’s about maximizing and leveraging the platform. Many of these artists who go on these shows think that just because they don’t win, their music careers are over or that they somehow missed out on something. It doesn’t matter whether you win or not or how far you get, you can still win in your own way.”

After American Idol, Ruelas started a family and thought that her dreams of making music were more or less over, fueled by the persistent notions that “you can’t make it after your 20s” or “once you start having children, say goodbye to your music career,” in her words.

Subsequently, she moved into vocal and industry coaching and consulting and authored two books for artists: Performing Artist Pathway and Make Reality TV Your Reality. Many of her clients went on to find themselves with Ruelas’ help, like Jo James, who competed on Season 17 of The Voice, Frankie Leone, who won the 2018 Dallas Observer Music Award for Best Country Act, and upcoming indie/folk/rock singer-songwriter Kaatii.

“I quite literally have nothing but wonderful things to say about Brianna,” Kaatii says. “She’s, like, a huge reason that I’ve shaped into the artist that I am. She helped me find out not only who I wanted to be as an artist, but who I wanted to broadcast to. When I started working with her — I’m not gonna lie — I had not thought of any of that.”

Ruelas introduced Kaatii to California-based singer-songwriter Kara Connolly, who co-wrote “Afraid of the Dark” with Kaati and several other songs that have yet to be released.

“Brianna is a fearless, powerhouse businesswoman, mentor and support system for so many burgeoning artists, as well as an incredible talent herself,” Connolly says. “Brianna is an encourager, which is rare in our constant comparison culture. She recognizes the gold in someone and isn’t afraid to polish that and watch it shine. She’s real. She speaks openly about the shadows we all face such as self-doubt, regret and fear with an earnestness that draws you in and makes you feel at home.”

“It goes back to that notion of bucking the myth, bucking the system. Just because I’m 42 doesn’t mean I’m too old for this.” –Brianna Ruelas

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“I’m a strategist,” Ruelas says. “I’m really great when it comes to organization and planning. My husband and I are restaurant owners, so we took a lot of our entrepreneurial background in small business, and applying it to the music industry there are a lot of similarities.

“Sometimes we get so caught up in the excitement of releasing the music that we forget about step one, which is identify who our music is for, who we are and how you’re going to market and promote.”

As a result, Ruelas has spent her time helping artists get a handle on business, market themselves and launch their brand.

“A friend of mine in the neighborhood opened a music school and she asked me to be the music director, so we started coaching young singers and bands, and a lot of that experience became the basis for [my first book] Performing Artist Pathway," Ruelas says. "At the time [of writing that book] there wasn’t such an emphasis of self-care and depression in the music industry. People just weren’t talking about it at the time, so I wanted to create something that illustrated that it’s not always a cake walk.

"Artists tend to have these performance highs along with all this praise and adulation, then there’s this crash. I talked about how debilitating that can be for artists who rely on that high, so when they don’t get it, they’re a mess."

The wisdom Ruelas has accrued imbues tracks such as “Thieves,” an aching power ballad, with a sense of lived-in truth.

“It goes back to that notion of bucking the myth, bucking the system,” Ruelas says. “Just because I’m 42 doesn’t mean I’m too old for this.”