Dilesh Solanki - Ruby Wood 5.jpg

Course Studied: BA Jazz Studies

Year of Graduation: 2008

Top Career Highlights:

  • Playing at The Royal Albert Hall last year with Submotion Orchestra. That was pretty special. 
  • Every time we tour and we sell out shows I am so grateful. Performing is my favourite thing about making music - so touring and gigging is always a pleasure not a chore!

Formed in Leeds in 2009, genre bending seven piece Submotion Orchestra derive influence from dub, soul, jazz and electronic music. Described by Giles Peterson as ‘Cinematic Orchestra meets dubstep’, the group have released four full-length albums and performed internationally at festivals including The Big Chill, Latitude, Outlook, Bestival and Wonderfruit.

A graduate of our Jazz degree, Huddersfield-born Ruby Wood is well-known for her soulful vocals which feature as part of Submotion Orchestra’s critically acclaimed output. Here, we caught up with Ruby to discover more about her solo work, major festival performances, sold-out tours and life on the road with one of the most interesting and exciting bands in UK music today.

How did you begin working with groups such as Submotion Orchestra and Bonobo?

Both via Facebook actually! Tommy Evans (from Submotion) sent me a message asking if I wanted to join a dubstep project he was setting up and the offer to join Bonobo and his band for a tour came via their drummer Jack Baker. Social media ain’t all bad I guess!

Your musical projects display a range of different influences above and beyond jazz (e.g. dubstep, electronica and soul), what is it you love about these particular styles?

I listen to a lot of different music and so it’s nice to be able to blend genres and incorporate the different influences into my writing and delivery. I love music in general - if it makes me feel good, I think it’s good! 

How does studying as a jazz vocalist prepare you for working across such a wide range of styles?

I think it gives you an understanding of freedom within music, and the confidence to improvise and collaborate with people. It’s definitely helped me to feel comfortable in different situations, both when writing and performing. I think learning jazz is a great place to start, as it’s the greatest teacher and a good platform in which to begin your own musical journey. 

Submotion Orchestra have established a reputation as a quintessential festival band – do you have any favourite festival moments?

Ohh - so many lovely and memorable moments! Hard to put them all down here, but there was one time we played at The Big Chill Festival before Bonobo and the sun was setting and the crowd were incredible and I just remember really loving that gig so much!

I think Submotion’s music definitely works with the sunset slot, promoters and festival organisers must think this too as we often get placed there.

On the recent Submotion Colour Theory album, you collaborated with a range of different vocalists – did you enjoy this process and did it bring anything new to your own artistry? 

It was so great having other voices on the Colour Theory album. I’m sure after a while my voice can probably get a bit samey so it added some variety to the sound which I think the fans really enjoyed. I loved doing the duet with Ed Thomas on ‘Empty Love’ and singing in harmonies with him. Working with other people is always great as you can pick up so many ideas and learn different ways of doing things.

Lots of your musical projects involve plenty of other Leeds Conservatoire alumni. Is there a real sense of community amongst jazz graduates, long after you leave a place of study?

I think so, yes. There’s a shared experience which works as a glue. In my experience, there’s a lot of support, encouragement and mutual respect from people I met during my time at Leeds, and vice versa. I feel very lucky to have met such amazing, talented people and to be able to call them friends/colleagues.

How did studying at Leeds Conservatoire prepare you for your career as a professional musician?

I guess it introduced me to many of the people who are still in my world of work today. It obviously provided me with a wealth of knowledge through studying jazz, and it prepared me for the real world in terms of how to survive as a working musician.

What attracted you to studying in Leeds and what do you think of the music community here?

I’m a Northern lass originally (from Huddersfield) so it was amazing to have such a prestigious music college on my doorstep. I’m so glad I came to Leeds. Leeds has a great music scene, which is very diverse and creative. I went to and did so many different types of gigs whist I was there - it definitely it gave me the opportunity to experiment with my sound and hone my craft.

What’s coming up next for you? Are you looking forward to getting back on the road next year for the next Submotion tour?

Submotion Orchestra has a new album out next year called ‘Kites’. It’s going to be our 5th studio album - I can’t believe it! And yes we are going to be on tour in March/April 2018 so we are really looking forward to that! 

I’m working on my own music too. I’ve been working with another Leeds Conservatoire alumni Aron Kyne who plays in Thabo and The Real Deal. I’m going to hopefully finish off some more songs we’ve started together. I wrote ‘Unconditional’ with Aron which I released recently. 

Oh, and being mum to a little diva. My daughter Amber is 2 next year so I’m sure that will come with its own set of challenges and joys!


To visit Submotion Orchestra’s website, follow this link.

To listen to a Spotify playlist, featuring the music that’s inspired and influenced Submotion Orchestra in the making of their latest album Kites – click here.

Learn more about our BA (Hons) Music (Jazz) – here.

Find out more about what our successful graduates have been up to in our Alumni Profiles

Are you a Leeds Conservatoire graduate? Reconnect with us here

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