Kelly Jean Caldwell and Aran Ruth

Posted on March 2, 2011


“We realized we were both huge KISS fans,” says Kelly Jean Caldwell, on the dawn of her friendship with fellow folkstress Aran Ruth. After having discovered Ruth online and becoming absorbed in her music, Caldwell approached her at a bar, and soon they were making flyers for their first of many shows together. “Have you ever been to Sears later in life and gotten your picture taken? … They were like, ‘you guys are too big for those props.’”

“Sometimes it’s a really good idea to follow through on the drunken plans,” says Ruth.

Songbird Caldwell, with solo albums produced and released by Fred Thomas (Saturday Looks Good to Me, Ypsilanti Records), an EP and a 7” on Top Hat, now fronts a frenzied and haunting, punkish-country rabble including husband Brian Blair (Bad Faces Clan), Craig Brown (Terrible Twos, Mahonies), Todd McNulty (The Sugarcoats, Lee Marvin Computer Arm) and Kevin Sullivan. “You get to go crazy. I’m finally old enough that I’m confident enough to like, roll around on the ground, and scream, and say stuff.” The group will soon head to a secluded Michigan cabin to record a full-length with Derek Stanton of Awesome Color.

With a split 7” with Scott Michalski, a cassingle and digital download in the books, Ruth hopes to self-release a full-length sometime this year. She courageously performs alone—after previously pairing with a keyboardist, blending supernatural soundscapes into her delicate songs—and often finds it difficult to be discerned over the din of Detroit. “When I play on a rock bill, everyone’s there with the expectation of a rock show… because it’s framed that way,” she says. “You want to party. It’s tough.”

Ruth hopes to appropriately showcase the quieter side of Detroit by way of house shows and an upcoming in-store appearance at Royal Oak’s UHF Records. “I think when people go into it and it’s already framed as a mellow night, people will have that expectation,” says Ruth. “There’s no folk scene… that’s probably the closest thing to the style of what I play, but that doesn’t really fully explain it.”

“You sound like Pink Floyd,” Caldwell confers. “But you also are like, the folkiest, folk-downer, motherfolker I’ve ever known. There’s a tiny Fred Neil tucked inside you.”

Kelly Jean Caldwell, Aran Ruth, Gardens and the Sugarcoats • Friday 03/04 • The Belmont • 10215 Joseph Campeau, Hamtramck •

the interview:

03.02.11 / Real Detroit Weekly

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