After releasing the 2011 EP Out of an Eggshell Ruggles knew she was on the right path. It was the production and recording involvement of Steve Vidaic and Mike Yach at Immersive Records – a label that technically didn’t exist before Cynics & Saints’ conception – that brought this substantial project to fruition. Ruggles was confident that she had found the right partners for Cynics & Saints. However, working within the restraints of a limited budget often meant that the studio’s other paying clients had to come first. Multiple setbacks and unforeseen roadblocks (including Bruce Springsteen borrowing equipment that was needed to master the record) delayed the album’s completion, testing Ruggles’ ability to keep the faith.
“I’m the kind of person who spent eight years training a wild horse,” she says, “but this still tested my patience beyond anything else I’ve ever done. A lot of the life lessons of this process have been about letting go.”
The album’s slow progression wasn’t the only challenge to Ruggles’ commitment. The never-ending struggle to pay the bills pulled time and energy away from the studio and at one point Ruggles could count 5 other day jobs but still relied on food stamps; while touring a car break-in resulted in the loss of her computer, entire wardrobe and a battered morale. During the peak of recording Ruggles was further tested when her long term relationship – the relationship the bulk of the record was inspired by – imploded in slow motion. “I’d go into the vocal booth with my fists clenched and sing whole songs that way,” she says.
Yet the 29-year-old musician continued to rally, with every shift in priorities serving the goal of making music her life. “Every time I try to do something else, music is all I can think about and everything I ache for,” says Ruggles. “It’s this healing force that makes us feel less alone and more okay with not being okay. I want to give that gift.” To further this goal, Ruggles started the Give:Voice Project, giving 10% of her on-tour sales to arts-related causes.
Cynics & Saints, while it speaks to the universal, is also an accurate representation of where Ruggles finds herself both personally and musically; a self-professed cynic fighting not to be a cynic. “Sometimes you want to give up and the only thing you know how to do to cope with it all is write another song,” Ruggles tell us. “As soon as it’s written all you want to do is sing it triumphantly for anyone who will listen. So you go out and book another tour and make another album. Because every time you try to give up, you write another song instead.”
Like any complete story, Cynics & Saints is filled with both fight and surrender. Elmore Magazine said, “Ruggles is honest and captivating in her lyrics and although the album is inspired by her own strengths and personal battles, these songs speak to everyone.”
Since 2013, Lara Ruggles has been featured in a multi-media ad campaign for Lyft; been a two-time finalist in the Tucson Folk Festival Song Contest; won the Colorado Creative Industries Career Advancement Grant; and been nominated for the 2015 Denver Westword Music Awards. She’s toured the US multiple times, shared stages with Seryn, Nina Storey, Ben Ottewell, Paper Bird, and the Shook Twins, and had songs from Cynics & Saints featured on The Huffington Post, Elmore Magazine, PopMatters, and Denver Westword.
FEMMusic: “…the most honest album I’ve heard since James Taylor or Joan Baez. Every single song exposes and elevates her.”
Westword: “Fighting Time” is one of the standout tracks on Cynics & Saints, the debut full-length from singer-songwriter Lara Ruggles. It’s brooding, poetic, and angry as hell. Ruggles hurls threats with her impressive vocal range: “It’s fighting time, and I need to see blood on the floor/if it’s mine or yours.”
Marquee Magazine: “Despite Ruggles being a self-professed cynic, the album has a resoundingly positive flavor and sees Ruggles move from acoustic balladry to modern folk pop with her simply beautiful voice holding court throughout.”
Elmore Magazine: “Lara Ruggles is a singer/songwriter from Colorado with a catchy folk style and amazing vocal range. Her LP Cynics & Saints will be released tomorrow. Ruggles is honest and captivating in her lyrics and although the album is inspired by her own strengths and personal battles, these songs speak to everyone.”
The Huffington Post premiered the official music video for Moon in my Heart.
PopMatters: “…as you can hear on her stunning track “The Dove”, the 29-year-old combines Americana and lavish 1970s Laurel Canyon singer-songwriter fare with the confidence of a master. What starts off as a mournful blues dirge morphs into a gorgeous piece worthy of Carole King, and it leaves you craving to hear what the rest of the new record will be like.”
The Troubadour’s Road picked “Never Not Broken” as one of its top 25 songs of 2014.
Westword: “…every chair in the venue was taken and every pair of eyes was transfixed on Lara Ruggles. The Denver songwriter was on stage belting out her soul, singing personal songs full of creative metaphors and turns of phrases and delicate guitar strums. No one was talking, no one was playing on his phone. Ruggles had the room’s undivided attention…’Her voice!’ and ‘Wow, that last song!’ was on the lips of the wine-tipsy attendees.”
AXS : “The perfect tune for the holiday season, Lara Ruggles’ “All the Christmas I Need” is just one of the many catchy, soulful, and beautiful songs this Colorado folk singer/songwriter has masterfully crafted.”
Underground Minds: “Clever, smart, and witty are just a few words to describe the lyrics written by Ruggles…“Small is Beautiful” not only has haunting lyrics, but Ruggles’ vocals provide the extra touch of beauty the song calls for.”
The Colorado Music Buzz: “An incredible lyricist and expressive singer with both power and beauty, Lara Ruggles as composer is fearless, taking some of her songs into a mostly unexplored, even modern classical, landscape. Lara’s an accomplished Pianist, Guitar player, and Folk Artist to be reckoned with – by cracking open her debut Out of an Eggshell. With broad natural talent, her songs flow melodically and emotionally, captivating the listener into the aura of her passionate sphere with her voice…lush and evocative.”
The Tucson Weekly: “It was recently announced that Sarah McLachlan’s Lilith Fair Tour, which rounded up some of the biggest female musicians of the day a decade ago, is being revived in 2010. While she’s not yet big enough to warrant an invitation, Colorado singer-songwriter Lara Ruggles would fit the bill well. Her slightly ethereal songs, backed by her piano- and guitar-playing, fit nicely into the template forged by McLachlan (and Tori Amos, Jewel and the young Joni Mitchell)—and she sings the hell out of them.”
Photo by Art Heffron Photography.