RuthAnne (aka Ruth-Anne Cunningham) is a talented songwriter & artist who has co-written several pop hit singles. Originally from Dublin, Ireland and now based in London, U.K., she has co-written hits for Niall Horan (“Slow Hands”), Martin Garrix & Bebe Rexha (“In the Name of Love”), Britney Spears (“Work Bitch”) and JoJo (“Too Little Too Late”).
In addition to her songwriting credits, RuthAnne is a promising artist who has a strong, soulful voice, and she will be releasing her debut album early next year (2020). She has already released several singles (including “The Vow” and “Love Again”) that display her artist potential. On top of this, she has been the featured vocalist on cuts with Lindsey Stirling, Zedd, Rob Thomas, JRY and other artists.
RuthAnne grew up in Dublin, and she started singing and writing songs when she was eight years old. She learned to play piano, and she was inspired by listening to Alicia Keys, Lauryn Hill and other artists. By the time she was a teenager, she was already advanced enough as a songwriter & singer to fly to Los Angeles and collaborate with top songwriters & producers.
When she was 17, RuthAnne co-wrote “Too Little Too Late” in L.A. with hit songwriters Billy Steinberg & Josh Alexander, and in 2006 it became a worldwide hit for JoJo. This success quickly established her as a pop songwriter to watch.
In 2013, RuthAnne moved to Los Angeles, and she co-wrote hits for Britney Spears (“Work Bitch”), and Martin Garrix & Bebe Rexha (“In the Name of Love”). She also co-wrote two songs for One Direction’s multi-platinum album, Four, and she’s had cuts with John Legend, Pentatonix, Maren Morris, Westlife, Lindsey Stirling and other artists.
It was in 2017 that RuthAnne had a key collaboration with hit artist, Niall Horan (formerly of One Direction). She co-wrote five songs that made Horan’s debut album Flicker, including the hit “Slow Hands.” She is also writing songs with Horan for his follow-up album.
RuthAnne has recently signed a worldwide music publishing deal with Reservoir (an independent music publisher). She works closely with Donna Caseine (EVP of Creative at Reservoir).
We are pleased to do this new Q&A interview with RuthAnne. She tells how she got started, and how she co-wrote her hit songs. She also discusses her artist career and upcoming album.
Here’s the video of RuthAnne’s single, “Love Again.”
DK: I read that you grew up in Ireland. How did you get started as a songwriter and singer?
RuthAnne: I was really obsessed with music…I always remember singing and writing songs. I wrote my first song when I was 7—my dad gave me a 2-track tape recorder with a mic plugged into it. We also had a piano in the house, so I started teaching myself to play, and then I started writing on the piano.
When I was 13, I set up a girl band with some friends, because I wanted to hear the harmonies, and listen to the songs back that I was writing. Then I got this free loop CD called Ejay Hip-Hop Loops, and I put together beats and wrote songs on top of them. So that’s how I got started…the songwriting part was a huge, therapeutic thing for me.
DK: When you were growing up, did you also want to be an artist?
RuthAnne: I always wanted to sing. Whenever we’d be away on holiday, I’d sing at Karaoke competitions. I also performed in musical theatre productions. I was known around my area for being a singer, and it’s always been my goal to be an artist.
But then I fell into songwriting for other artists, when I co-wrote “Too Little Too Late” for JoJo, and it started my songwriting career. People then wanted me to write songs for their artists. So kind of by accident, my journey went a different way at first. I started as a professional songwriter, and as people started hearing my voice, they were like, “You should be an artist as well.” So it’s come full circle for me being an artist.
DK: How did you write the hit “Too Little Too Late” with Billy Steinberg and Josh Alexander?
Ruthanne: It was my first trip to Los Angeles, I was 17, and it was just my third day of co-writing ever. When we wrote that song, it was originally for me to record as an artist. I recorded it, but I also thought it would be good for JoJo, but I didn’t tell Billy or Josh that. Then two years later, after the song had been circulating around, they called me and said, “JoJo wants to do it.” And I was over the moon, because I knew that was the right thing.
Here’s the video of Niall Horan’s hit “Slow Hands,” which
was co-written by RuthAnne.
DK: When you’re co-writing, do you feel that writing melody and lyrics is your strength? And do you play piano when you write?
RuthAnne: When I’m in a room writing with other people, my strength is melody and lyrics. I’m quicker with my words and melodies. When I write by myself, I write on piano, and I play piano as part of my live shows. But in writing sessions, I’m more of a topliner.
DK: In 2013, you co-wrote Britney Spears hit, “Work Bitch.” How did you connect with the other writers and write this song?
RuthAnne: I was working with one of the co-writers, Anthony Preston…he was working with (hit writer/producer) will.i.am. We had written a bunch of the melodies and lyrics that are now in “Work Bitch,” but they were on a different track. And then, when Anthony was working with will.i.am, he heard what they’d started for “Work Bitch,” and he sang will.i.am what we had done. will.i.am then said, “Those parts fit—let’s have Britney record those parts as well, and I’ll piece them together.”
Later on, I got a call from Anthony, saying, “Hey, guess who’s singing that song we wrote.” And I said, “We never finished that.” Then he played it and I said, “Oh my God…is that Britney Spears?” He said, “Yeah, her record’s coming out in four days!” That was such a surprise, and I loved how she did it. I grew up listening to Britney, so to be a part of her music was really mind-blowing to me.
DK: A few years later (2016), you had a hit with “In the Name of Love” for Martin Garrix & Bebe Rexha. How did this song come together?
RuthAnne: That was a really interesting one. Me and (hit writer/producer) Matt Rad went into work that day, but our session got canceled. And a writer I’ve been walking to work with, Ilsey Juber, also had a session canceled. Then my publisher called and said, “Do you you want to add Ilsey to your session with Matt? And I said, “Let’s do this…that would be really good.”
When we got together, I said, “Let’s write a song called ‘In the Name of Love’—that could be really anthemic.” I started singing the verse, and Ilsey started finishing my sentences (laughs). Then 40 minutes later, we had the entire song…Matt played the chords on a synth pad. Then we recorded the demo, but it ended up taking two years for it to come out. It was one of those songs that people loved, but it took awhile to find a home.
Here’s the video of Martin Garrix & Bebe Rexha’s hit “In the Name
of Love,” which was co-written by RuthAnne.
I kept saying to Matt, “It needs a DJ, it needs a big track.” Matt found (hit DJ/producer) Martin Garrix, and they did the draft and Martin got Bebe Rexha on it, and then it took off. That’s one of my favorite songs, because of how it was written and how it came about. It was an unexpected hit for us.
DK: You wrote five songs with Niall Horan for his solo album Flicker, including the hit “Slow Hands.” Can you talk about your collaboration with Niall?
Ruthanne: I had worked on some One Direction songs for their album, Four. This was with (hit writer/producers) Julian Bunetta and John Ryan, who were One Direction’s main team for the last few albums. Through that, I met One Direction a few times, and Matt Rad—who I did “In the Name of Love” with—was asked to go in the studio with Niall and Louis (Tomlinson) to write for the fifth One Direction album (Made in the A.M.). And he was like, “I want to bring RuthAnne in.” And Niall had heard of me…they knew who I was from the songs I’d written on Four. So they said yes. Then on the day I went to work with Niall, Louis didn’t make the session. So Niall and I wrote a few different ideas, and we got on well. We became friends, and we stayed in touch.
Then after the next One Direction album came out, Niall texted me saying, “Would you be interested in writing with me for my first solo album?” And I told Niall, “Of course I would.” We came in, and the first day we wrote “You and Me,” which is on his album, and on the second day we wrote “Seeing Blind,” which is the duet with Maren Morris.
I ended up writing five songs with Niall that made his album. We did one with (hit writer/producer) Greg Kurstin called “Since We’re Alone,” and we did “Slow Hands” and “Fire Away” with Julian Bunetta & John Ryan. So for me, it was a process that was so easy, because every day I worked with him, those songs ended up on his record. And we became really good friends. Niall had such a vision for his album—he knew what he wanted the album to sound like, and he had this book of ideas. So as a writer, it was a dream collaboration because it was so easy for me to fill in the blanks for him. And we’ve been writing together for his next album.
Here’s the video of JoJo’s hit “Too Little Too Late,” which
was co-written by RuthAnne.
DK: You’ve also been writing & recording songs for your own album, and I like your songs “Love Again” and “The Vow.” Can you talk about your artist side and your upcoming album?
RuthAnne: Yes, I’m putting together a record…I’ve had a lot of the songs for years. I’ve been putting out songs and building my name as an artist. Basically, I felt like the songs I was writing were all my stories and very personal to me. It really is my voice and my story on every song, and I’m involved with the production and mixing too. I’ve been working with some amazing collaborators and producers who were very open to letting me get my vision out. And it resulted in songs like “The Vow” and “Love Again.”
DK: When will your album be coming out?
RuthAnne: It will come out the end of January (2020). I’m with an indie label called The Other Songs, which is through Kobalt. It’s a label set up by Alastair Webber & Billy Webber (the sons of Andrew Lloyd Webber).
DK: While you’re recording your own album, are you still writing songs for other artists?
RuthAnne: Yes. I realized a few years ago that I like the creativity of doing my own album and also writing songs for other artists. It’s an extra avenue of creativity to do both, and I’ve definitely learned to balance them. I just had a month-and-a-half on tour in Europe, and I did a month in L.A. writing for other people. So I just do it in chunks, and prioritize artists that I believe in and want to work with. I also write a lot with DJs for their projects, and I have a lot of features (as a vocalist) coming out. So it’s great—I just want to keep doing both for as long as I can.