The headliners at this year’s FloydFest—including Alison Krauss & Union Station featuring Jerry Douglas, Ricky Skaggs, Brandi Carlile, and the Drive-By Truckers—were as amazing as you’d expect from internationally known and much-lauded musicians. But the real treat at the 11th Annual FloydFest, a four-day world music festival in Floyd, Virg., was arguably the array of up-and-coming artists certain to burst into prominence not too far into the future.
Amber Rubarth was clearly at the front of that line. Perhaps that’s not surprising when you consider she’s a fixture on New York’s indie scene and has won such accolades as the Grand Prize in NPR’s Mountain Stage New Song Contest. Her recent album A Common Case of Disappearing, which features duets with Jason Reeves and Jason Mraz, debuted at No. 13 on iTunes. Watching her spin her musical web of alt-country, folk tunes on various stages at FloydFest, one couldn’t help but be struck by her poise and warmth, which translated into her music.
“I was really shy growing up,” said Amberth when discussing her set. “Music gave me the outlet to be able to get out my feelings and get out things I wanted to say that were more personal, even if I couldn’t say it in a conversation. It’s really powerful for me. It’s a way of healing, releasing, really.”
Those feelings translated to the audience, too, when Rubarth joined the Ivy League Hillbillies set that had nine up-and-coming musicians on stage and when she played her own sets—including a brand new song “The Maiden and the Ram,” that got the audience dancing.
“That one is really fun,” said Rubarth of why she chose to perform the song on which she is accompanied by a cellist. “It’s just kind of a punchy song. It’s also about how we grew up and learn from experiences or are parents. I’m just so glad it went over really well. That might been one of my favorite songs.”
To listen to her music, you’d think that music was Rubarth’s earliest destiny. And perhaps it was because she so loved the folk music her mother played as a child. But she pushed her musical artistry to the side, instead pursuing a career as a chainsaw artist. When her teacher and mentor urged her to look at her path and fully commit to the art that she truly loved, she chose music.
Lucky for fans because it’s clear that Rubarth has that special talent that takes her vocal into the spiritual realm.
“I saw bands that really moved me,” said Rubarth of the time she spent at FloydFest soaking up the array of world music played on the multiple stages. “I found some of the music to be so raw and vulnerable and beautiful that it really got me thinking about how I make my music.”
Find out more about Rubarth, her music, and her upcoming shows—including opening spots for Emmylou Harris—on her official website.
Hear Rubarth talk about her music and watch her perform at the legendary Sun Studios in Memphis: