Singer/songwriter Ruby Amanfu's career has been full of twists and turns. Born in Ghana but raised in Nashville since the age of three, she showed musical promise from a young age.
By the time she was a junior in high school, she'd already written numerous songs and spent a year singing professionally in the Nashville Symphony Chorus. Encouraged by a couple of local benefactors, she recorded her debut album, 1998's So Now the Whole World Knows, while still in high school. A few years later, a catchy R&B/pop song she and Nashville songwriter Tommy Simms had written called "Sugah" became a surprise hit in the U.K., prompting Amanfu to sign with Polydor Records and relocate to London, where she made her major-label debut with 2003's Smoke and Honey.
After a couple of years overseas, she returned home to Nashville, where she reconnected with friend and fellow songwriter Sam Brooker. The pair, who had first met at a songwriter circle in 1999, began writing and performing together as a duo, combining elements of folk, country-pop, and R&B. Sam & Ruby's self-recorded, self-titled EP featured a song called "Heaven's My Home," which was featured in the 2008 film The Secret Life of Bees. After signing with Rykodisc, they released their critically acclaimed full-length debut, The Here and the Now, in 2010, followed a year later by the EP Press On. In an unusual twist, both Amanfu and Brooker joined a nine-piece a cappella group called the Collective and participated on the third season of NBC's vocal competition The Sing-Off in 2011. Throughout this period, she continued to collaborate and write for other artists, placing songs with Kelly Clarkson, Justin Guarini, and the Duhks, and singing backup for Wanda Jackson's Jack White-produced album, The Party Ain't Over.
A year later, she released a new solo EP called The Simple Sessions and then sang on the single "Love Interruption" from Jack White's 2012 solo album, Blunderbuss. In addition to joining White's all-female touring band, she duetted with him at the 2013 Grammy Awards, raising her profile considerably. A pair of new solo singles followed that same year as her unique sound continued to evolve. For her third solo album, 2015's Standing Still, Amanfu worked with veteran producer Mark Howard and a crack band of Nashville studio and rock vets on a set of atmospheric and unusual cover songs from writers as disparate as Kanye West, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, and Richard Hawley. ~ Timothy Monger, Rovi