May speaker profile: Ruth O’Brien

This month, we’re hosting a special event in partnership with Ainslie and Gorman Arts CentresMyth-busting women in music. We’ll be hearing from three amazing Canberra musicians, who will be sharing their experiences as women in music, and chatting about some of the gender barriers that mean that women remain underrepresented in areas of the music industry.

To help you get to know our speakers, we’re featuring profiles with them over the next few weeks. Last week we spoke to Kate Gardner. Next up, meet Ruth O’Brien. Ruth is a singer whose writing style infuses the sounds of blues, jazz and cabaret with pop, electronic sounds and looping. She has performed at a wide variety of events including Floriade, The You Are Here festival, Art Not Apart, The Multicultural Fringe Festival and The Australian of the Year Awards.

When did you first start playing music?
I first started playing music in grade 5.  My mum bought me a harmonica, I taught myself  some Christmas carols and went busking – I made some decent money that year!  I started singing in high school though and took a vocals class in grade 9, mainly to swap out of PE.  However, I realised how much I loved singing the very first time I performed solo.  From there I did music all the way through college, took voice lessons whenever I could and then studied music for a few years at CIT.
What has been a highlight of your time as a musician/in the music industry? 
A highlight of my time as a musician was when I was awarded a grant from the Australia Council to record and release my first professional EP.  As part of this grant, I have also been mentored by the wonderful Katie Noonan who has always been my musical hero.  So it’s pretty much been a dream come true.
Who is your favourite female musician, and why? 
So yeah, Katie Noonan.  Always has been and probably always will be.  Not only because of her musical capabilities and that incredible voice, but also because of what she stands for.  She’s constantly getting behind causes she believes in and doing things that are a bit left-of-field.
Name one barrier you see to women’s participation in music? 
A barrier I see is the stereotypical culture of the music industry.  Much of the time is it’s a bit of a boys’ club, not only when playing music but also in audio engineering and music production.  This culture of women simply being outnumbered in most areas of the music world can be intimidating and many women might believe, either consciously or unconsciously, that they’re unable to achieve some of the same skill that men can in music simply because of their sex.  If young girls with dreams of entering the music industry continue to see this, the gender imbalance will be perpetuated.
What have you got planned music-wise this year/what are you looking forward to?
Music-wise I have a few things planned.  I’m releasing an EP due out on Friday 24th June!! I’m very proud of the songs I’ve written and what I’ve achieved with this in the last few years.  There’ll be a launch at the Abbey on this date as well which is in combination with a fundraiser for 2 local girls heading to Antarctica in December.  It’ll be a great night, all about encouraging women in leadership roles and achieving their dreams!  After that I want to get back into writing and gigging regularly.
Where can people hear your stuff or find out more?
My web address is I have a soundcloud page which is and you can also find me on Facebook at
Myth-busting women in music will be held at Gorman Arts Centre Main Hall on Thursday 19 May, at 7pm. For more, head to our Facebook event page
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