Over the past 10-15 years, soul music has seen a remarkable resurgence with a number of contemporary acts across the States and the world have adopted the sound – but instead of pure revivalism, have given the genre a modern twist. Adding to that ever growing list of contemporary soul acts is the Atlanta, GA-based band Ruby Velle and the Soulphonics. The act can trace their formation to when the band’s founding members Spencer Garn (keys), Scott Clayton (guitar) and Ruby Velle (singer/songwriter) met and started performing together in Gainesville, FL back in 2006. Shortly, after their formation, the trio of Garn, Clayton and Velle relocated to Atlanta.
At the time, the band was playing mostly soul and R&B covers, selling out small clubs on the weekends while Garn built the band’s recording studio and rehearsal space, Diamond Street. Built with the idea that having their own space and recording equipment would allow the members of the band to take their time writing, perfecting and recording their material. Their debut effort, It’s About Time, which was recorded at Diamond Street, received national attention as album track “My Dear” was featured as an iTunes Single of the Week, which pushed the album to the top of iTunes R&B and Soul charts. The album received praise across the blogosphere – and interestingly enough, has been accepted by underground DJ culture, as several DJs have made remixes of “My Dear” and their Feet on the Ground EP. Adding to a growing national and (now) international profile. the band’s “Heartlite” 7 inch single was featured by Starbucks as its “Pick of the Week” during Christmas 2012, and was playable on every Starbucks wi-fi log-in screen across the world – and Delta Airlines picked up the song, making it available on all flights. And as a result, the Atlanta, GA-based soul act made several major festival appearances including at The Governor’s Ball and One Music Festival. They’ve also shared stages with the likes of Erykah Badu, The xx, Goodie Mob, Gary Clark, Jr., Animal Collective, Feist and Kendrick Lamar, among others. All of these highlights have helped the act land near one million downloads and streams. (As you can imagine, for a an indie act, these highlights can truly make a band,)
Interestingly, Ruby Velle and the Soulphonics are heavily featured in a recent episode of PBS’ Music Voyager. The band performs multiple times during the half-hour episode, which also features Run the Jewels and OutKast’s Big Boi, and finds Velle acting as a tour guide through the city. And while that was going on, the band has been busy working on the material that will comprise their forthcoming sophomore effort. As the band’s Scott Clayon says, “Most bands like ours tend to hold onto that soul-revue formula—black suits with skinny ties, side steppin’ to the groove, gimmicky segues. We’re moving into more modern elements of rock and pop through the lens of soul and classic R&B.” Their latest single “Tried On A Smile” is tentatively slated to appear on the band’s sophomore effort and the song reminds me quite a bit of Chicago’s The Right Now as the song manages to channel old school soul but possess subtle elements of and disco. But perhaps more important, the song is effortlessly uplifting – it simply says that even in the most difficult time smiling and happiness are not just a choice but they’re contagious. If it doesn’t make you feel happier, then you have a cold and evil heart.