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Fredonia singer savors return to stage

Ruthie Collins will be performing Sunday in Cassadaga at 5 p.m. at the floating stage at the beach on Park Avenue. There is no cost to attend.

Like many musicians during the COVID-19 pandemic, Fredonia native Ruthie Collins’ schedule was put on hold, and she was forced to get creative with how she reached her audience. Now with restrictions loosening, Collins is working on getting back on tour and finally getting to perform her album she released right before the start of the pandemic.

When COVID-19 was first beginning, the country singer, like most of the population, thought the pandemic would only last a couple weeks. With that idea in mind, Collins came from Nashville back home to Fredonia to quarantine with her mom. That quarantine turned into a couple months in Western New York and a cancelled concert schedule. Collins had to drive back to Nashville to get her recording equipment and more clothes to stay, realizing that they were in this for a longer haul.

“I stayed for quite a few weeks before I went back to Nashville to get more stuff than a pair of yoga pants and a pair of shoes,” Collins said. “It became apparent quickly that there would be no live shows, so I had to get creative.

Collins’ newest album, Cold Comfort, released at an unfortunate time for the sake of promotion, but it was already too far down the line to delay it at all. So, the album was released as scheduled on April 6, 2020.

Collins had big plans for the album but had to re-think how she was going to handle the release.

“I was going to play at the Opry and go on a UK tour and a U.S. tour,” Collins said. “All of those things were canceled so I ended up doing a Facebook Live concert on my mother’s piano in Fredonia. It’s not exactly what I had planned but it was special in its own way.”

While that was a performance Collins enjoyed, the logistics of the show weren’t ideal. Collins continued to do the Facebook Live shows for the first few weeks but noticed a lot of individuals were going live at the same time, saturating the market with those kinds of performances.

“I was finding quickly that mom’s internet wasn’t going to cut it if that was all I had for shows,” Collins said. “And everyone and their mom was on Instagram Live. I decided I needed to learn different technologies to offer a product that was different from what other people were doing to keep the lights on. I don’t care if you’re Springsteen, standing in front of a screen playing guitar for an hour gets boring.”

So, Collins switched and started using OBS video production and the website called Crowdcast to hold her shows. With those two services, Collins could produce intro videos, intermissions, and other effects to liven up her broadcasts. Collins continued doing her shows once a week through these mediums but hit some interesting snags that she wouldn’t have with live shows.

“I had to give people something different to latch onto,” Collins said. “I had a loyal group of followers who stuck with me, but I can’t play the same show for the same people every week. Normally I’d be changing my locations but online I couldn’t do that. So, I did different theme nights, like 90s night and Disney Movie song night.”

One other thing that hurt Collins during the pandemic was lack of personal interaction and experience. Collins said she derives a lot of her songs from her own experiences, but deprived of those experiences, creative inspiration was somewhat tough for her to come by.

“I write from experience, and I’m present in the moment,” Collins said. “Something might happen, and I can go home and write a song about it that night. I felt like I needed to go on an adventure just to write a song. It was a little groundhog day for me with song writing. I need the influence of the world, nature, and meeting new people. That was a little tough.”

Collins is still doing these live streams and was doing them weekly from April 2020 to June 2021, as she tried to reach her audience that can’t make it to the cities she’s going to stop at. On top of that, there were some good things that happened as a result of the pandemic for Collins and her fans, who were able to bond in the chatrooms on her live streams. For Collins, BBC radio host Bob Harris picked up and played six of her singles, which opened a lot of doors for Collins.

“It was played so much in the UK that it completely changed my life,” Collins said. “We got phone calls from agents in the UK saying that literally never happens. He might play one single, but he played six.”

But things are getting back to normal for Collins now. She has in person shows scheduled in Texas and Florida as summer moves into fall, and will be performing in Cassadaga on Sunday at 5 p.m. Collins is just excited to hit stage and experience the energy of the crowd.

“The energy is totally different in person,” Collins said. “Online is somehow more draining. You can play three hours with an audience and feed off the crowd but online you have to provide your own energy.”

Collins is also looking to return to the United Kingdom this winter for a tour. She attempted to go earlier this year but arrived in Europe 36 hours before the country shut down again due to a second wave of COVID-19. With her grown popularity in the U.K. as well, Collins is also looking forward to that special crowd energy.

“I’m hoping things keep moving in the right direction,” Collins said. “I’m really anxious to get back over. UK country fans don’t seem to care what genre of country you do, whether it be pop country or more traditional. My music tends to do really well over there because it leans a little more 90s country.”

Collins also has new things coming in the fall as well. She’s expected to have a new single coming out in October and is also doing a re-released version of Cold Comfort. As Collins was and is still incredibly proud of the record, she wants it to get more of the love it deserves.

For more information about Collins, her tour, Cold Comfort, visit https://ruthiecollinsmusic.com/ and for information about her live shows, visit her Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/ruthiecollinsmusic/

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