Checking In: Ruthie Foster Extends Mother’s Day

Parenting in a pandemic: “There’s an entirely new math”

“Ladies and gentlemen, please give a warm welcome to my mom, Ruthie Foster,” begins the new Live at the Paramount. “Please enjoy the show.” Judging from the 70-plus minutes by Austin’s grande roots dame and an 18-strong big band – deep, regal, crackling in the exchange between soul and souls – the opening segue from Maya into Ruthie preserves Mother’s Day.

Austin Chronicle: Where are you sheltering and under what circumstances? Who else is there and how’s that going?

Ruthie Foster: I’ve been home in San Marcos. My daughter is here part time too, along with my partner. It’s been an interesting big shift not being on the road this time of the year. I’m finding that I have a lot more room in my day for outdoor activities, walks, riding our bikes, and ample time to get a lot of household duties done. I’m checking in with friends and family more too.

AC: At what point did C-19 shut down operations for you, and what went down with the ship, so to speak, both personally & professionally?

RF: My daughter was already on spring break from school when we went into shut down mode. So it was more about figuring out how she was going to continue school online and how that was going to look with the co-parenting setup. I had to go back to third grade! There’s an entirely new math I wasn’t aware of, but figured out eventually.

It’s been a learning curve for all of us.

“My daughter was already on spring break from school when we went into shutdown mode. So it was more about figuring out how she was going to continue school online and how that was going to look with a co-parenting setup. I had to go back to third grade!”

As for my music schedule, I was due to be on tour, but then day by day everything else on the books started to shut down, pull out, or reschedule for later in the year. I was already coming out of a five-month hiatus, so this basically is an extension to that. Although I’m releasing my new big band album in May, it’s pretty obvious there won’t be a release party.

All in all, this is giving me a chance to do some writing and learn more about my music software, so that the band and I can exchange and track new material.

AC: As a global culture, people employ music for every purpose imaginable, obviously spanning religion to entertainment and everything in between. What happens to communities like ours when people can no longer access it in person?

RF: Music truly is a way to not only communicate, educate, but to be together as a culture. I feel Austin has stepped up to the plate with keeping that feeling alive – virtually, for now. Any night of the week, you can catch an artist online being creative, playing their music, answering questions, and fans sharing and giving what they can to help financially.

Austin’s musically nurturing environment is still very much alive and that’s a beautiful thing to witness in times like these.

AC: Everyone’s had to shift or drastically alter their work situation. What does that look like for you?

RF: Writing new material with my band has opened up considerably. I spend time tracking vocals for other artists’ projects, releases, local PSAs, and local and regional commercial music. I’m also a certified personal trainer, so that gives me another option.

AC: What’s your soundtrack for the apocalypse and what role does music play for you as a fan and scholar of it in times of hardship?

RF: Music is essential with how I start my day; I start with meditation music while writing my morning pages and emptying my head. This gives me a chance to set my intention and is the most important part of my day. Even if I have to wake up early to make time for this, I’m always so much more in tune with how I handle and respond to whatever else happens that day.

I have quite a few favorite playlists that are handy for the rest of my day, put together by myself, friends, and family. They include everything from Ben Folds to Kirk Franklin, 1970s funk to Foo Fighters. Lots of dance music.

It’s pretty eclectic.

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