Photography by Kelly Ardito©
HALA is the wonderful work of singer songwriter Ian Ruhala, Detroit's answer to Third Outing favourites such as Jackson Honeycutt or Brighton's Sulky Boy. It's good company to be in. Written in a cold Detroit Attic, HALA's new release Spoonfed is a work of real quality and beyond his years...
A body of work varied throughout and licked with Bugg-esque lyricism, cool has just relaxed its way back into alternative music with HALA's new release Spoonfed, out now on Balaclava Records. Talking to Ruhala you really get the impression that Spoonfed is his heart and his soul. It's the condensed work of his college days songbook and that atmosphere is reflected strongly in his music. Sweet harmonies of love and life, the record is a portrait of being 19. But then why does the sound come across so mature? Is it writing beyond his years? Potentially. That's why we asked Ruhala if this work could ever be topped. And of course it can, but still, it remains nicely surprising that the cold, lonely, Detroit attic has yielded such a warm, inclusive, and appealing sound.
It's a testament to the record that it's difficult to pick clear standouts or highlights. The music varies greatly from the classic and the loud, to the clever, the slow and the twang. Though we do get the impression that the sound of HALA is best portrayed with the more upbeat offerings. The guy is a natural songwriter, and so the hooks heard on tracks such as Not Your Modern Man or Reruns really grab your attention. But then as soon as we hear the slower, downbeat tracks, I've Been Right & I've Been Wrong (Ben's Song) or moments of Feelings Locked Up Tight especially, forget what we say about "more upbeat offerings", this guy can pretty much do it all.
So with that said, there's no more to analyse about HALA except to listen to the record. Oh and talk to the main man himself! Listen below right now, be impressed, and then continue for the full in depth interview with Ian Ruhala, HALA-lujah!
The HALA autobiography so far would be titled?
I Guess If Music Doesn't Work Out I Can Always Become A Knuckle-ball Pitcher For The Cubs, an autobiography by singer/songwriter Ian Ruhala.
Let's start with the new record. On the cover there's a picture of the Beatles. Why?
We added a couple props for the album cover, but that little picture of The Beatles was already on our wall at our house, so I decided to keep it there I guess.
Three things about this record people don't know yet?
Firstly, I did the entire record in about a month. I recorded it all in my room, which at the time was an attic. The acoustic guitar you hear on the record, is an Aria. I bought it for $90, at a music store shack thing, in Pennsylvania. Finally, I wrote and recorded the last song on the record Just Because a day before the mixing/mastering process began.
Some songs sound very classic, like I've Been Right & I've Been Wrong. And some sound more like fun and experimental. Can you explain this?
I tried to bring several emotions to table with Spoonfed. Albums really are like playlists anyway, and any good playlist has it's happier tunes, and then more touching tracks sprinkled in between. When I'm writing, I try not to think about the whole concept thing, I try to just naturally write what comes to me. In the end, if I think the song is well written and properly recorded, that is really the only credentials it needs to be considered to make the final cut.
How was the atmosphere when you recorded and the environment surrounding you in the attic in Detroit?
When I was going to college, I was writing a lot. I wrote about 60 songs during the semester. Many of those tracks ended up on Spoonfed. But, I really did not like the school I was going to, and I knew if I stayed any longer I probably would have found trouble. So I moved into this attic in Detroit. My friends and band mates were renting out this house behind the Motown Museum in the city, and it just seemed like a good time. I took a break from school and spent basically most of January recording the album in this attic. It was cold, very cold, but it was fun and definitely impacted me creatively in a positive way.
Do you think you'll ever top Spoonfed?
Yes. I am only 19, so that is not really a concern for me. One day I would love to do a record where I have like a million piece band and such; like a Van Morrison thing. That would be cool.