A multi-hyphenate artist, Ruby McKinnon creates melancholic folk music with a bedroom pop heart under the moniker Flower Face

Flower Face, a nickname given to Ruby McKinnon by her grandmother which just stuck, is a dreamy young artist with an almost ethereal bedroom sound reminiscent of the likes of Mazzy Star. However, she’s ready to move out of her bedroom and leave DIY production behind with the release of her first studio album, The Shark in your Water, out today. Building on the success of Baby Teeth, the album speaks to the struggles of grief, trauma and loss of identity, showcasing Mckinnon’s development into a fully-fledged artist, as the cover art, as well as much of the production and editing, was completed on her own. We caught up to discuss the events that shaped her formative years and sense of identity, her latest tour with SYML and to make a public plea for Mads Mikkelson to star in one of her music videos. 

First of all, how are you? What have you been up to today?

I’m good! Today I’ve been mostly trying to finish a bunch of small tasks I’ve been putting off forever. With the album release, there are so many little things to do. I also went to a bookstore and bought four new books despite telling myself I wouldn’t buy any since I bought eight new books last week. But oh well!

Your music was inspired by your ‘music obsessed parents’. Can you expand on this a little? In what way were they music obsessed and what effect did this have on you?

My dad was in bands when he was younger, and he’s always been a music lover. My mom too. They sort of bonded over music when they first met. My dad also worked as a radio producer for most of his life, so he was always introducing me to cool new music the moment it came out, taking me to see bands live, and basically shaping my entire taste in music from the time I was a kid. Both of my parents always encouraged me to pursue my career in music, which I’m very grateful for. Not a lot of parents would be like: ‘yeah, sure, go be a full-time artist’.

You’ve been playing piano since the age of five and writing your own music from 14. Was there ever a point where you didn’t see being a musician in your future?

I think I always knew it was something I’d do forever, but I didn’t see it as a serious career path until I was maybe 18 or 19? I thought it would just be something I did on the side while I pursued a “real” career. But music would have always been a huge part of my life, regardless of how that played out.

How else did your upbringing affect your music? The music scene where you grew up for example?

I grew up in Windsor, which has a small but cool music scene. Lots of bars that are super welcoming to musicians and so it was easy to book my own shows all the time. I started out playing open mics at bars, and then moved up to actual booked weekend nights… but all of that experience definitely helped in developing my ability to hold my own as a live artist.

You speak so beautifully about not wanting your cancer diagnosis at 17 to define your identity and that making your music is part of your journey to reclaim this. Can you expand on this?

 Yeah, for sure. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being open about things like that, especially when there’s the chance that my speaking on it could help somebody else. But that’s always been it, I want to be able to tell my own story and not have it told for me. 

Flower Face

When I was sick, I was still in high school, so I was the “cancer kid”. I was also an artist, a musician, a person beyond that, but when something so shocking happens it kind of just overshadows everything. All the teachers at my school had a meeting before the school year started, so they all knew and then they did fundraisers in my name, so everybody knew. But they all knew it as told through other people’s mouths, not my own.

I didn’t fully realise how it affected me until years later that when I was meeting new people, I just assumed they knew everything about me. I assumed I had no privacy and no secrets. It’s not a great feeling. Now that I have a growing platform of my own, I feel much more in control and able to tell it in my own words, and that’s an amazing feeling.

How did it feel to share your story with the world?

Scary at first, but worth it. I have definitely had to work on my tendency to worry about what people will think or say about me. I’ve gotten pretty good at not caring. I’ll be honest and true to myself and everyone can think what they think.

You list inspirations from the work of Mads Mikkelsen to Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events. What draws you to these seemingly disparate things?

Haha, I think that inspiration can be found in literally everything. As a musician, I try to find it in things other than music. Any time I’m too into a song or album and I let that guide me, I end up writing stuff that’s way too similar to the other artist. But I’m a huge reader, so books are a big one for me. Finding words and phrases that trigger lyrical ideas, even whole stories. Lemony Snicket’s books were my entire life as a kid. I loved that series and I think it had a massive impact on my future as a writer. I recently reread the entire series in December. They really hold up! Movies are also big for me, especially movies with Mads Mikkelsen in them… I’m still waiting for him to star in one of my music videos. 

Your work is very DIY, you even create your own cover art. Do you think this energy drives you to lean away from collaborations?

I’m not against collaborations at all, it’s just something that’s still very new for me. I’ve been doing this for a decade now, and I’m so used to doing everything myself. I’m still working on opening up to other artists and ideas. But when it has happened, it’s been a success! Working with videography teams on music videos has been so much fun and brought on some wonderful artistic growth and creative output.

So The Shark In Your Water is out today! How does this release vary from your previous work?

It’s crazy, I still can’t believe it! This album has been finished for two years now. It’s wild that now people will finally hear it. This is the first album I recorded in a real studio with a full team, and it definitely shows. It’s so much bigger and more elevated than anything I’ve done before. I’m finally achieving the huge, cinematic sound that I’ve dreamed of.

How would you describe your fanbase?

They are very sweet. I get so many messages on a daily basis where they tell me about their lives, about the way my music has affected them. It means a lot to me. I also rarely get anything weird or mean, which is pretty lucky since the internet can be very weird and mean. 

What other musicians are exciting you right now?

I just got back from a short tour with SYML, and listening to their set every night was such a privilege. I’ve always been a fan but even more so now. I can’t wait to hear what’s next.

What’s up next after this release?

Since it’s been so long since I finished making this record, I have almost a whole new one written. There’ll be some live shows of course, but I hope to get working on the next one really soon!


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