ZT’s Geoff Birchenall saddles up and gets emotionally charged with Emma Ruth Rundle.

On Dark Horses is Emma Ruth Rundle’s third album since her 2014 debut and feels like her most complete album to date. “Thanks for your kind words. I would say On Dark Horses is pulling, sonically, from all my past work in a way that has become more cohesive. The addition of rehearsing and touring with a band has definitely emboldened the sound and process too,” says the singer/songwriter. There are some fascinating song-titles on the album, but perhaps one that struck me as particularly intriguing is ‘Apathy On The Indiana Border’, which – given current affairs and immigration themes in the States – struck a political chord with me. Intentional? “This song was the most frustrating to write,” Emma Ruth admits. “Its title is very specifically about struggling in the time of the apathetic depression in Louisville, Kentucky, on the border of Indiana. This is not a political album. I didn’t elect the president. He isn’t my president. My hopes for our future are dim.” As for the significance of the album title then? “It has a few intended meanings,” Emma Ruth offers. “To write ‘on’ a subject. To ride ‘on’ a horse. The dark horse is the outlier who, despite the odds, is able to win a race. A dark horse is also just as it appears on the cover, a black porcelain statue. It’s meant to be playful – having so many interpretations.”

‘Fever Dreams’, an album highlight for this listener, seems to explore Emma Ruth’s own concept of fear and the struggles she faces in confronting her demons; what is her greatest fear going forward? “I’m not sure,” she ponders. “I’ve been writing about my feelings and experiences on all my solo albums. It’s what is natural for me. My greatest fear right now is my tour schedule in fall and winter. Touring is very hard on my mind and body.” On the same track previous album Marked For Death felt like an immense outpouring of anguish and a lifting of a weight off the singer’s shoulders, but in a way On Dark Horses is still incredibly heavy. “Marked For Death was as you say,” Emma offers, thinking before continuing, “On Dark Horses is still heavy but different. I’m not sure that writing emotionally heavy music will be necessary forever but I can’t really say.” It’s clear that the writing process, as well as the prospect of a lengthy tour has exhausted Emma Ruth and her anxiety weighs heavily; she is after all an artist whose entire spirit goes into her craft.

On Dark Horses is out now on Sargent House |

This feature was intended for publication in ZT issue 086, but due to lack of space it’s landed here for you to enjoy online instead. Subscriptions and single copies available here:

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