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Helen Hamilton finds inspiration in Whistler

Musician wins second place at music search
dynamic duo Helen Hamilton and Ethan Henderson, who perform as Ruby & Hale, are set to play regularly around Whistler this month. PHOTO submitted

Helen Hamilton has a quintessential Whistler story.

The U.K. resident visited friends who were living in the resort a handful of times before she decided to come back for an extended three-month vacation.

That was 11 months ago.

"London is a great place, but I felt like I was ... in this spinning wheel," she says. "I feel like I jumped out of that."

Unlike most new arrivals, however, Hamilton left behind a full-time career as a musician in a party band called Ruby & The Rhythms. They were booked nearly every weekend and performed for clients like Google and Macallan Whiskey.

"That was really hard to leave," she says. "The band was a little upset because they thought I was coming for a couple of months ... I found a really good replacement to step in for me."

Now settled in Whistler, Hamilton is making inroads in the local music scene. Last month she won second place in the Whistler Music Search at The Crystal Lounge, which has since led to other opportunities at local bars.

"A friend tagged me in one of the posts and I thought it'd be quite fun," she says. "The jam nights (at The Crystal) are where I started here. It's always a nice vibe and the crowd is engaged."

Shortly after her move she connected with Ethan Henderson, an Ontario transplant who was looking for an opportunity to step out from behind his drum kit and try out guitar.

"He was drumming at The Crystal jam night and I was like, 'There's something about this guy. I don't know what it is,'" Hamilton recalls. "I approached him afterwards."

Recently the pair—who perform under the name Ruby & Hale—have secured a Saturday night residency at the Firerock Lounge starting on Nov. 24 and running until Christmas.

They also hope to record an EP with help from another collaborator, Aidan O'Heany, in the new year. "It's been the right move, totally," Hamilton says. "There's a lot more I want to do here."

Where her solo material paired her soaring vocals with dark electro-pop (think The xx or Florence and the Machine-meets-Grimes), she's taken a different approach for Whistler crowds.

"The stuff we're doing together is old soul, R&B, current pop tunes. We try to change it up a little bit so it sounds original," she adds. "A lot of the bars want two or three hours. I can't fill that with original music ... (Bar crowds) need to know the music. I think for my own stuff I want to go darker and more abstract. It'd be trying to get support shows with other artists in Vancouver."

While she might be delving into covers, Hamilton says her new mountain surroundings have also helped her write more original music as well. "I was in a band with my ex-husband. I've had a long writing hiatus," she says. "But now I'm able to face some emotions. They've been suppressed from breaking-up-with-your-husband kind of thing. Coming here, I've been able to release (and be) more true to myself because I'm more relaxed and able to reflect."

Hear more at The Crystal Lounge on Friday, Nov. 17, Black's on Nov. 30 and the Firerock Lounge every Saturday starting Nov. 24 through December.

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