Singer-songwriter Amber Rubarth is The Rancho La Puerta Folk Festival Co-Host, Creative Director, and one of the performers. She sat down with Co-Producer, Co-Host, and Commentator Carissa Stolting to talk about our upcoming folk festival, her new work, and thoughts on performing.
You’ve been a regular artist at Rancho La Puerta the last 5 years. What makes living and performing at The Ranch different than residencies and performances elsewhere?
Ah, where can I start! Rancho La Puerta holds such a magical, delicious space for creativity and spirit. It feels alive, awake, energizing, tender… meeting you wherever you’re at and emerging from a pure love for wellbeing, woven into sacred expansive land, fed from the soil Salvador has poured himself into with such enthusiasm for decades! Every detail, from how the groundskeepers prune by hand to the way the chefs merge the seasonal growth with incredible meals – you sink in and feel a part of something so wild and alive and interconnected. The experience is so extraordinary and thoughtful. It’s an enormous gift to perform and teach at The Ranch, the community and land truly holds a special place in my heart.
As the curator of the first Rancho La Puerta Folk Festival, can you share what you hope visiting artists will experience? And what do you hope the Folk Festival will offer guests at The Ranch?
We are so lucky to have some of the best folk artists from around the country joining us, and each one of them is so deeply aligned with healing, wellbeing and vitality in both their artistry and lives. For the artists it’s a unique week because in addition to the performance and collaboration it’s also a time of retreat and refilling the creative cup. And for guests – music is such a beautiful heart opener and cuts through in ways many other things can’t – I really think this week will hold a lot of magic for guests as the music is so intimately woven into experiences throughout the week.
You’re an artist in many different forms (actor, sculptor, playwright), but music is your primary form of expression. What makes creating music especially compelling? Or… to possibly over-simplify… why do you choose to make music?
Oh wow, thank you. I truly do love the creative process and so whatever form that wants to take still always feels like the same essence behind it to me. I moved to Carson City to become a wood sculptor at 17 years old (4-year apprenticeship) and lit up at the idea that the form is already in there and you get to release it. Songwriting feels so similar in way, it’s this dance of creating something and exposing something, working hard while letting go. A few years ago I got asked to co-star in a feature film where the two leads were musicians, and though I’d never acted before the experience of it felt natural in a way like it was merging the presence of songwriting with the collaborative nature of conversation. I loved it! And yes, anything writing (currently working on a script that was born of a dream) is so wondrous to me – I’m fascinated by our subconscious and dreams, and art feels like just such a beautiful way to be in relation with that.
The thing I love most about music in particular is the shared aspect. Writing I always feel like I can tell all – I never think about “the audience” during that part of the process. But then once it’s ready to be shared it’s too late to filter anything and I get excited to share what’s emerged, so it kind of creates this funny trick where then you’re on stage sharing your heart. It helps me connect more deeply with others and myself, feels like such a wonderful practice.
Will you share one extremely bright moment or highlight from your work as an artist thus far? And will you share one sneak peek into what’s coming next?
Gosh, I’ve been so incredibly fortunate these past years to tour all over the world, countless European tours, Japan, South Korea and recently have been going to South Africa quite a bit. It’s such a gift to get to play music in other countries and find that heart connection – I’m a bit shy so especially for me it allows me to connect where I don’t know if I’d know how otherwise. Hard to whittle down to a few highlights but definitely they’d include opening for Emmylou Harris who I just absolutely admire so much and being Jason Mraz’s special guest at his sold-out Carnegie Hall show…
I just finished a new project I recorded, performed, and produced completely alone at my house in the woods of New York – it’s called “Cover Crop” and is 15 reinterpreted cover songs woven into a larger narrative around the disconnection and remembrance of nature. I love this project, it’s all environmentally based, exploring our relationship to nature and sustainability. Coming soon, March 24th!
If you had to think of a mantra or guiding principle for the first Rancho La Puerta Folk Festival, what would it be? Is it the same for yourself and guests who will experience the festival?
Ah what a beautiful question! How about we let a couple of the folk greats speak to this one: Elizabeth Cotten: “Oh babe, it ain’t no lie / You know this life I’m living is mighty high.” And Malvina Reynolds: “Love is something, if you give it away, you end up having more.”
Learn more about the Rancho La Puerta Folk Festival, June 17-24, 2023.