Ruby Mills is a household name in Bundaberg. The jazz, blues and soul singer shot to fame in 2016 after making it to the top 13 on X-Factor. Several years before that she’d also made it into the top 50 on Australian Idol, but she’s much more than a reality television star.
The only thing that surpasses Ruby’s stunning voice and natural beauty is her gracious character and warm personality. She’s a gem, with a sparkling disposition and old soul. A well-grounded, breath of fresh air. And she loves being underestimated, particularly by those who snub talent show contestants.
“People I meet are surprised for two reasons. They’re surprised that I’m from a regional town and doing what I’m doing and having achieved what I have,” Ruby said.
“Secondly, I constantly get remarks about having such a big voice being only a little girl in a floral dress. It’s common conversation that my voice is not what anyone expects and I love that. It’s a gift and I’ve learnt to really use that as a strength.”
Ruby started out perfoming small gigs in a bluegrass band of local fishermen she’d known since she was five-years-old, called ‘Ruby and the Strolling Bones’. Today, at the age of 30, Ruby has found her niche sound and is vocally confident. She’ll be perfoming her first solo show at the Brisbane Jazz Club later this year. “I get a great big sound there. So although I’m a little bit jazz, I’m also slightly outside that box and that’s how I like to be.”
Ruby spent more than two years touring with Melborne Ska Orchestra, during which time they won two Aria Awards and performed at events like Byron Bay Blues and Roots Festival and Gympie Music Muster. The invitation to join the 32-piece big band came after Ruby joined the group’s leader, Nicky Bomba, on stage in Bundaberg for an unplanned jam session. Ruby has performed at Childers Festival, TedX, Women in Voice and TripleM’s Carols by the Dashboard Light. She sings the national anthem for Boxing Australia, and enjoys making special appearances at private functions.
But the success has not come without adversity. Ruby and her sister, Bonnie, have helped rebuild their parents’ seafood business, Red Shed (see page 54), twice after devastating floods and a serious accident in the family.
After losing numerous friends who suffered with their mental health, Ruby’s home in Bundaberg again, for now, planning an event in Wallaville to raise funds for Marcus Mission and help reduce the risk of suicide in young men. She’s studying to be a teachers’ aide to deliver art therapy, and working on two EP records of covers and original tracks. “The older I get, the more I appreciate the small town feeling. I’m so proud to be from Bundaberg and grateful for all the support my hometown has given me.”
OTHER LOCAL MUSICIANS WHO APPEARED ON REALITY TV
Country music singer Justin Standley finished tenth on XFactor in 2012. The 2017 Golden Guitar finalist entered the TV competition in a quest to find his children.
St Luke’s Anglican School string quartet, Quatro, appeared on a rebooted Young Talent Time in 2012. Amity Brand, Claudia Vogel, Vanessa Smith and Radha Skula also performed together at Tamworth Country Music Festival.