American singer, songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist, James Ruff always packs the rooms and fills his shows with his charismatic and wildly energetic presence, heartfelt lyrics, and laughter. He brings to life his stories with the use of polyrhythmic, groove-stirring world rhythms, folk attitude and poetic eloquence.
2014-Present, James has been in the writing and demoing phase of several new works being written in preparation for new performances and productions including what he believes will be a three album trilogy alongside his writing of several commissioned albums for film and television. On January 23, 2014, Paul Williams and James Ruff filmed and released an acoustic version of Ruff’s new song “Fields of Grey” (James Ruff Acoustic- Solo, Produced by Paul Williams, Performance by James Ruff) and in April of 2014 James released the single “Love in these walls” (Written and Produced by James Ruff, mixed by Shamel Hughes, and recorded at MLB Studios, NYC; performance by James Ruff Guitar & Lead Vocals, Harmonies, Jaxon Dillon-Fish Bass, Tim Sharp Piano, Tony Rouhotas Drums and Ali Levin Background Vocals) and “Purple Clouds” (Written, produced, performed and mixed by James Ruff).
2013-2014 shall be called “the birth of many babies” as far as the history of James Ruff’s artistic journey is considered. “The Rouge Royale” completed several live albums “Live at Arlene’s Grocery 2.24.13” (A harder electrified sound Produced by James Ruff, Mixed by Shamel Hughes, Recorded live by First Live at Arlene’s Grocery, NYC; performed by James Ruff, Jaxon Dillon-Fish and Tony Rouhotas), “Live at Rockwood Music Hall 7.13.13” (Acoustic, produced by James Ruff, mixed by Shamel Hughes, recorded live on location at Rockwood Music Hall) and toward the end of 2013 completed recording the single “Love in these Walls” at MLB Studios. James reignited the fire of his solo acoustic project and recorded the live album “James Ruff’s Acoustic Toy Drive, Live at Rockwood Music Hall 12.24.13” during a toy-drive Ruff arranged to help the children at Bellevue Hospital who had been displaced from their homes due to domestic violence.
During 2012, while performing in NYC at great venues like Rockwood Music Hall, The Bitter End, Arlene’s Grocery, Double 7 (D7), Greenhouse, WIP, Tammany Hall, The Bowery Electric, The Living Room, and Connolly’s Club, “The Rouge Royale” completed and released their first EP entitled “The Rouge Royale” (Produced by James Ruff, arranged by James Ruff, mixed and recorded by Shamel Hughes at Downtown Studios, NYC and mastered by Mesta Bisch; performance by James Ruff, Tim Sharp, Jaxon Dillon-Fish, and Tony Rouhotas) which featured “Superman”, “Stealing Whiskey” and “Toward the Sun” showcasing the groups dynamic musical taste from dance music, to Americana and their harder rock edge. Music for Emergency USA invited “The Rouge Royale” in July of 2012 to perform in order to help raise funds for those in need of disaster relief aligning the group further with Ruff’s vision of artists serving the community and the group sooner after began working on their first album.
In May of 2011 James Ruff partnered with long time friend Tim Sharp and Jaxon Dillon-Fish creating the Acoustic-Americana trio, “Ruff Sharp Fish”, who played at the United Nations, as well as local NYC venues, and aired on International T.V. in support of international human rights campaigns. A few months later the trio added Drummer Tony Rouhotas. Eventually the four artist would be known as “The Rouge Royale”, which, underwent a dynamic sonic journeys with a larger than life sound featuring James Ruff (lead vocals, acoustic and electric guitar, ukulele & harmonica),Tim Sharp (guitar, vocal harmonies and piano), Jaxon Dillon-Fish (bass guitar, and didgeridoo) and Tony Rouhotas (Drum and Percussion) . The group explored varying levels of intensity from hard rock, to pop rock and acoustic rock while creating medleys or foot stomping, dance your heart out funkadelic rhythms and a much more feet in the mud rawness than James’ previous projects and in the summer of 2011 James released his single “Aphrodite”, a beachy and happy tune which features James playing Ukulele alongside Lee Nadel on Bass, Rich Mercurio on Drums, and Billy Masters on electric guitar.
2010 was a philanthropic year for Ruff as his presence has been felt and seen in response to the Haitian crisis through benefit concerts, as well as work with the poor and hungry of his now hometown NYC. Partnership with mentor Lee Nadel (bassist for Regina Spektor, who played and co-produced James’ new production “Take My Hand” with partner Rich Mercurio) lead James to the recording of a fresh sounding EP full exciting layers, lyrical sentiment similar to “Into the Wild” by Eddy Vedder, and harmonies reminiscent of Queen. Lee Nadel on bass, Rich Mercurio (Drummer for Enrique Iglesias, Jewel, and more) and guitar virtuoso Billy Masters (plays with Billy Joel, Lyle Lovette, Kid Rock, and more) sonically bring James’ very unique style to a whole new level. The live video recording of James’ song “Take My Hand” was released March 10, 2010,(Produced by James Ruff, filmed by Edimy Michael).
While working with his band “James Ruff and The Bandits”, in May of 2009 James released his self produced debut album “Long Journey Home” through the completion of a 23 state national tour. “Long Journey Home” a stripped down acoustic album, featuring co-producers Ryan Vaughn (drums) and Jeff Berner (bass-sound engineer), encompasses elevated and rich – at times comical poetry. Evident musical influences from traditional U.S. folk from the 60’s and 70’s, delta blues and world rhythms from James’ travels abroad create an interesting textural blend.
Since 2003 Ruff has played the NYC circuit and surrounding areas. In earlier years Ruff toured Prague, Amsterdam, Hungary, and Mexico and in 2008 toured Ghana, West Africa playing and studying with African legend Mustapha Teddy Addy and Reggae Artist “Courage” Alane Kofi. As the cold sheets of ice came down upon NYC in early February of 2009 Ruff and partner Sinnott decided to tour Costa Rica where they met “the grandfather of calypso” Mr. Walter Ferguson learning calypso rhythm and groove. Upon the release of debut LP “Long Journey Home” in 2009 Ruff completed a grass roots four-month US tour spanning 23 states. James plays acoustic guitar, dances and has been noted for his very powerful and tender voice.
“Long Journey Home” features eight full-length songs as well as one hidden track rumored to find its way into Ruff’s next album in a new shaped form. Ruff (producer) worked with other talents such as Jeff Berner (Galluminum Foil Productions) and Ryan Vaughn who both co-produced and appeared in the album. Vaughn played percussion and drums utilizing both kit and cajone on the songs “At the Water’s Edge”, “Sing Liberty”, “Tears from God”, “Coconut Song”, “We Will” and “Baby Blue”. And with Ruff’s request, the two sang side by side on the song “Sing Liberty” a folk fusion tackling political issues, which later metamorphoses into a dance groove. Berner is featured playing electric bass on “At the Water’s Edge” and can also be heard playing electric guitar on “Tears from God”. While Ruff wanted Ms. Sinnott to sing on the album proper timing could not be established and instead miss Emily Easterly is found singing beautiful harmonies on “Coconut Song.”
While James’ main instruments of choice are his voice and guitar, during his 2008 stay in Ghana, Africa he studied tribal polyrhythms with world famous Mustapha Tettey Addy. James also played with the African drumming and dancing group Folkloric Selamta, studying under master drummer Nii Quao. Samir Chatterjee (one of India’s most highly recognized tabla players) has also been one of James’ musical mentors.
He studies and writes with Wendy Parr (who teaches Regina Spektor, and wrote music for “Slum Dog Millionaire”). He has also studied vocally with Seth Riggs (known for teaching, Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles and many others) and has worked with Holly Lemar, co-writer of “Breathe” (top of charts, 1999).