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Ruby Leigh: Life with her new-found fame

Posted on Thursday, February 22, 2024 at 11:42 pm

THE VOICE — “Live Semi-Final Performances” Episode 2421A — Pictured: Ruby Leigh — (Photo by: Trae Patton/NBC)

In this fourth and final installment of “An Interview With Ruby Leigh, And Her Family,” we hear more from her family, including childhood stories of “toxic smores” and a homemade zip line that left Ruby—breathless. Ruby also talks about life with her new found fame and what she plans on doing with it.

Ruby’s entire family, including her father (Casey), mother (Terri) and sister (Sandra/Grumpy) joined her for the interview.

By Gregory Orear

Journal Publisher

Greg: I think I remember reading you’re looking to graduate this coming spring. Is that correct?

Ruby: Yeah, I’ve already finished a lot of subjects for this semester, which is supposed to end in April, so I’m on track to end in May. But I want to graduate while I’m 16, and my birthday is in May.

Greg: Now, are you looking at going to college after that then, or are you going to be focusing on your career?

Ruby: I mean, definitely focusing on my career. It really depends on where I’m at, at that point because I don’t know where I’ll be in a few months. I mean, I could be a huge sensation or I could be nobody. It just depends.

Casey (Dad): Or you could be working in a drive-thru.

Ruby: (laughs) Yeah, I don’t know where I’ll be.

Greg: I’m going to bet against that one.

Casey: We actually talked about that and talked about maybe having her volunteer to do that because it’s pretty obvious that she’s never going to do that in her life. Music is going to be a big part of it, no matter what. So we talked about that, and that would be a great thing. We talked about maybe doing it for a charity or something.

Terri (mom): St. Jude’s or something. Like if people would tip her through the drive through, don’t have to pay her, like, through the day, but if they just let her work her sister together, she’s always got to be with her at all times. So if they got to work in a drive through and people would tip her, she would donate all her tips to, like, St. Jude. Some charity, whatever.

Grumpy (sister): To get real world experience, I guess. Not that we’re above that, but you get the idea.

Greg: Now, you talked about an album coming out this year. You’re already working on that, I’m assuming. And you said some of its going to be covers from the show. “Cowboy Sweetheart” will probably make an appearance. But you also said original stuff as well.

Ruby: It’s going to be mostly original. I’ll probably have maybe up to four covers on it, and then the rest will probably be all originals, a full-length album. So that’s in the works right now. We’re not working on it as of right now because of the shows that I have. I just got to work on getting some of these shows down, and then once I get this big free area, then I can work on it. Recording is not cheap if you want it good, and it’s not in someone’s basement. So we have been really looking forward to that. We’re definitely going to try to get one out this year.

Greg: Where are you going to be recording it?

Grumpy: We’re just writing the songs, but probably Nashville.

Ruby: We are writing the songs? (laughing)

Grumpy: OK, she is. We all put in input. She asks, “What do you think of this?” And we all give input. That’s why.

Ruby: All right, never mind.

Grumpy: (laughing) You think I’m taking credit for songwriting now?

Greg: As you said, you’ve already started performing. I know you had a New Year’s Eve show. I know you’ve got a scheduled concert here in Troy that sold out in like seven minutes or something ridiculous. And I know there’s other shows listed on your website. Now, the one question every Lincoln County resident wants to know, though, (Terri nods) you know the question, (Terri shakes her head) and that’s the answer?

Ruby: We got a meeting with them in February.

Casey: But she won’t be there this year. Maybe next year.

Grumpy: You talking about the Lincoln County Fair? Yeah, it took me a minute.

Ruby: No, we got a meeting with them. Maybe next year.

Greg: Well, everyone can hope for next year then. Now, life after “The Voice.” Obviously, when all of you go out in public, it’s not the same. It’s been a few weeks now. Close to a month, actually. Is it starting to return to normal? I mean are you getting stopped just 10 times at Walmart instead of 50?

Ruby: Honestly, I’m probably getting stopped more. I definitely see people who know who I am, but I feel like they’re too shy to say hi.

Grumpy: You’ll see them. They’ll just be staring at you. Then they’ll just kind of walk past and you won’t see them again.

Ruby: But I love talking to anybody I can. It’s my favorite thing, especially when people recognize me. That just makes me feel great. We went to Walmart here a few days ago, this Walmart, and I walked in the door, and immediately I had, like, five people stop me, right there. And they were coming in, like, oh, my gosh.

Grumpy: And she was just dressed in a band shirt and jeans with normal, out-on-the-street wear.

Ruby: Yeah. It’s funny because I was telling people, it makes me laugh, but when I go out, if I am not with anyone in my family, no one knows who I am. It’s really funny because I could wear the exact outfit I wore on the show. Like, I could wear my audition outfit and I’d walk in by myself. Nothing. By going with my Dad, and I look awful, like, just look awful. They’ll say, “Ruby Leigh, let’s take a picture! We saw your Dad’s overalls. We knew it was you.” Or it was her (motions to Grumpy.) She always has dyed hair.

Grumpy: And it’s a Mohawk.

Ruby: If I’m with my mom. Like, that’s your mom? And they always recognize me when I look awful, too. But it’s just really funny how they only recognize me with my family, every time. Every, single, time.

Greg: It’s funny you should mention that. I think it was right after the finals. My daughter and my wife were at Schnucks down in Wentzville. My daughter saw you and said hi to you, and then she tells my wife, “I just said hi to Ruby Leigh!” And my wife didn’t recognize you but she did recognize your sister.

Ruby: She waved at me. I remember that. Yeah, I remember. Your wife? Yeah, she didn’t look at me.

Greg: Yeah, my daughter tagged you right away. Now, I will also mention my daughter has accounted for about 282,000 of those 18 million YouTube views of your blind audition.

Grumpy: Thank you for the help.

Casey: She has inspired so many young kids. I didn’t even show you this.

Ruby: Oh, keeping secrets. OK. There you go. Bringing it out here at the Lincoln County Journal. OK.

(Casey plays a video on his phone of a little girl singing, “I Want to Be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart”)

Casey: I raced with her Dad a long time ago, he sent it to me.

Greg: It sounds like you’re pretty comfortable with that attention, though.

Ruby: Yeah, I love it. It’s what I wanted.

Greg: Can you see it getting annoying?

Ruby: No. It’s literally my favorite thing. Even when I look like a disaster, I’m just like, that was me.

Greg: So, Grumpy. How in the world did you get that name?

Casey: There was not a man that ever walked the planet who wanted children more than me. We waited to have kids until we knew that we were ready. We got married, you know. Then, the first day after she was born that we got to have her in our room by ourselves I was feeding her and she started choking and … I panic. So I go running down the hall screaming, help! We got a lot of help.

Greg: I bet you did.

Casey: We went back in the room and my wife is holding her. She’s not choking any more. She’s drinking from her bottle and these people all look at me like you’re a psychopath. And I’m like, she was choking. And they say, “She seems to be OK. I think she’s going to be all right.”

So the next time … two nurses and three orderlies come in and they say, “Mr. Pearson, we have to give her a PKU shot in the foot. She is going to scream bloody murder. She is gonna throw a fit, but she’s gonna be OK.” And tell them “I’m not that guy. I’m not gonna flip out and attack somebody.” But they’re like, “No, listen, she’s gonna be fine.” But I told them I’m OK. I promise you.

Anyway, three of them turned around, facing me, you know, like a football huddle. I guess one of the nurses was holding her. The other one was giving her the shot in the foot. She still was asleep. They stick her in the foot and give her the shot. And she goes (grunt). And they said, she didn’t even wake up. And they go, what a little grump. So then everybody starts calling her baby grump on the ward. And we were there for four days or whatever. And she became known as a baby grump.

And that carried on home. And growing up … everybody’s calling her baby grump. And then she goes into school and tells her teachers she wants to be called grumpy. And so, you know, it’s just got with her. The baby grump went away and just started going grumpy. And that’s her nickname. If you were in a crowd and you said Sandra, Sandra, chances are she’s not gonna turn around.

Grumpy: Yeah, It’ll take me a second. Like my brain is literally trying … and I’ll be like. “Oh hi, sorry.” It looks like I’m like being rude to people, but if you’re like, “Hey grumpy,” I’ll immediately say, “Oh what’s up?” It’s more like my name than a nickname, honestly.

Greg: Well, there’s not a lot of Grumpies out there. How much older are you than Ruby?

Grumpy: Six years. Well, five years and some months, technically, but closer to six years.

Greg: And how was your relationship growing up?

Casey: Oh, they fought like cats and dogs. Honestly, when Ruby started singing that was the point they really came together and kind of bonded. And she believed in her all before we did.

Greg: So Grumpy, what’s your perspective on your childhood relationship with your sister?

Grumpy: There’s certain things we got along on back in the day. We talked about this the other day. It’s the funniest thing to me now. We burned our papers and trash or whatever. So, we were burning one day and we wanted to make s’mores really bad and our Dad wouldn’t let us. We had thrown some bottles or plastic or whatever in the burn barrel. I know you know where this is going.

Greg: I have a guess.

Grumpy: Yeah. And so we got like two sticks off the ground and made this what I call now, Toxic S’mores, you know, black smoke burning plastic and we ate them. You know, we got along with our mutual agreement of stupidity, basically.

Casey: Yeah, it looked like something from the tailpipe of a truck. I’m like, you idiots. What are you doing?

Grumpy: We got along on stuff like that, or whenever she was a test monkey for one of my genius inventions. I make whatever it is and then I tell her to get up there and try it. And she’s like, nah, why don’t you try it. I’d say, “I just built it. You’re gonna get up there and test it so I can see where I need to improve on it. One time, we took two dog cables and tied them to a pair of trees and took a stick and made a zip line. Yeah, the stick broke but Dad actually thought it was a good idea and made us a pulley.

Casey: We stuck it up and I made a little pulley with a handle on it and Ruby said, “I think those tree limbs probably need to be cut off there” and I’m like Ruby, that tree limb is fine, when you get to the middle, the cable’s gonna drop down fine.

Grumpy: And it should have.

Casey: So, she climbs up on his tree and she goes down and it worked great. We got to that tree limb, one little sprig of it sticking out and it went right underneath that pulley, locked that thing up and WHAP!

Grumpy: She had the wind knocked out of her. It was funny because right after, she’s laying on the ground, she’s like, “ugh!” Dad walks over and he’s like, “Oh sweetheart, you’re right, we do need to cut that down.” She was not happy (laughing).

Casey: There’s no way that that could happen. It would never happen again if they did it a million times.

Grumpy: Yeah, so there was that. But other than that we always argue over minimal stuff like you can be wearing my clothes or take some of her, you know, kid stuff.

Greg: Obviously, a different relationship today.

Grumpy: Yeah, we still argue a little bit, but not as bad as it was.

Greg: So, Ruby, getting back to the attention you’re getting now, everywhere you go. I gotta ask this question. What is the weirdest, bizarre thing that, you know, your attention has brought you.

Ruby: I already know. Someone posted our address online, and we had people, like, whenever we were traveling, they were outside our house, saying “We’re making sure there’s no weirdoes here” and we’re like, “You’re the weirdo!” When I got back home at the airport, actually, I signed a lady’s baby—right across the forehead. No, nothing really super bizarre.

Greg: Except for the people camped out at your house.

Ruby: (Laughing) Other than people coming to my house, that was the weirdest.

Grumpy: There was the time in Walmart with the police.

Ruby: Yeah, that one was fun. That was more fun than weird. We had all of the police.

Grumpy: Well, the sergeant.

Casey: Not all of them.

Terri: No, but the three of them.

Grumpy: The sergeant and the C squad is what they said.

Ruby: Yeah, the sergeant and C squad from the police department. They came to Walmart just because it got out that I was there.

Casey: And they came to Target. Somebody called as soon as you walked in. We parked, they walked in, and three cruisers come wheeling in, pulled right up front and parked. And then my wife goes, “You realize you’re parked in their parking spot?” I’m like, “What are you talking about?” She said, “There’s a blue light there. That’s for them.” And I just looked out and there’s a sign there also. “That’s a great time to tell me now.”

Grumpy: There’s like a pre-story to this. (Showing a picture of the police with Ruby at Walmart in the encounter referenced above.) So, this was them at Walmart and then, (pointing) this is Sgt. Mayfield and the C squad. (Pointing to a different officer) This officer pulled us over because we had a headlight out while they were still in California. And we had to vote for Ruby Leigh to try and get as many followers and voters as we could while we’re traveling. And he was said, “Oh, you guys fans of Ruby Leigh?” My mom was like, “It’s actually my daughter.” He’s saying, “No, it’s not, you’re kidding.”

Terri: I pulled over a celebrity’s mom.

Grumpy: Yeah, he was super cool. But he was like, “No it’s not. There’s no way.” And so I Facetimed them and they were getting ready for bed and we’re like, “We got pulled over. And he doesn’t believe. I think he genuinely didn’t believe it’s actually Ruby Leigh. So Ruby gets on there, you know, bedhead, you know, getting ready for bed. (Imitating Ruby’s voice) “How you doing? Like, hi.”

Ruby: (Laughing) Yeah, you can give me my mom a ticket.”

Grumpy: (Laughing, Imitating Ruby’s Voice Again) “Like, please, please don’t give her a ticket. Let her go.”

Greg: (Laughing) Now, that’s irony. Mom calling the daughter to get her out of trouble.

Grumpy: We got it fixed and I joked with them there, I’m like, “Just let you boys know we did get that fixed,” and they all laughed.

Greg: Hardest part of that story to believe is the fact he ever doubted you two (motions to Ruby and her mom) are mother daughter. The resemblance is pretty striking.

Grumpy: When they’re together you see it, when they’re like separate it’s just kind of like, OK. But if you like put pictures together or when they’re together it’s just like oh, yeah, that’s obvious.”

Greg: Now, this question is for the parents. You’ve got a daughter who’s naturally gravitating towards the entertainment industry. Now, as parents, especially Dad, our first instinct is protect our kids, and maybe even more so, our daughters.

Casey: Oh yeah.

Greg: And now, the entertainment industry, I’m not sure there’s an environment with more pitfalls and dangers.

Terri: Yeah, that’s right.

Greg: So how do you guys manage that as a parent? You want to protect your daughter, but yet you want to help her reach her goals and achieve her dreams at the same time.

Casey: I’ll field this one I guess. One of the things that we deal with Ruby from almost the very beginning and when I say almost the very beginning is a point when we realize that she was really serious about this even you know at 9, 10, 11 years old.

And I guess she was probably still 9 or so, it was very early on. We sat down at the table after she just learned more and more songs and I said, “Ruby, I don’t know anything about music there’s no way I can help you musically at all. I said the only thing that I could do to help you is one thing and I will do that for you. But you have to promise me one thing.” She said, “What?” I said “you have to promise anything I tell you only goes to your head and not to your heart and what I mean is if I tell you something is bad you just have to trust with your heart I’m right.”

I said, “But most importantly over anything, is you have to trust everything me and your mom tell you, because we’re not gonna ever do anything to steer you wrong, to get you hurt, get you into anything that’s gonna be detrimental to you. And we’re behind you as long as you wanna do this. And if there comes a time that you say, ‘Hey, I don’t wanna do this no more,’ if it becomes a work, if it feels like work, if it ever feels like that, we can wash our hands of it and just walk away. “And there’s not gonna be anybody with hurt feelings, everything that we do, every penny that we spend, it’s all gonna be OK. There’s nobody that’s gonna be upset with that.”

And obviously, she never looked away from doing this, but the thing that’s protected her the most is just our honesty and telling her when things are bad. Even things she thought at that time would be a great thing that it’s just, maybe not the right time or the right situation or maybe it’s just not good for her in general. And she’s been one of my better students in the music industry. (Laughing) I’ve done pretty well with it.

Grumpy: The other thing is it’s hard to be in the music industry as a woman, especially because they want you to do so much, do this or that, change your look, or do this or that, you know?

Casey: In the music industry, what they like to do is they like to try to sell a lot of other things.

Grumpy: That’s what I was going after. You know that’s why she dresses the way she does in long sleeves. She’s covered up or has tights on her dress.

Casey: That’s why, I don’t know if you noticed, Ruby’s sets until towards the end, were all very just low-key and there was a reason for that and that was because Ruby said, “I don’t want all of that. It’s not about all that it’s about my voice. I want people to focus on me and on my voice and on my singing, not all the other stuff.” And then when she got to the finals, you know, they’re like …

Grumpy: You kind of have to pull it out.

Greg: But even then, the sets were fairly subdued, compared to the other contestants.

Grumpy: When she did the Elvis Presley song, she just kind of walked down the staircase … to some trumpets and saxophones.

Casey: That was pretty elaborate as they had her name in lights and stuff. They sold her on that because they said that she’s gonna be the first one with their name in lights on the show.

Greg: I was wondering if you had how much control you had on your songs. And if looking back, you wondered if you should have changed them up.

Casey: Ruby can sing rock, she can sing blues, she can sing pop, she can sing gospel, she can sing bluegrass and those people all knew it at the show. All those people knew it. Not all those people that were contestants can do that.

So, Ruby wanted to do a rock song, “Crete,” which everybody requested at all of the shows, but they didn’t want to show the versatility that she had because that widened out her lane. Now she’s not this country artist, this girl that you know. So they didn’t want to open that up, they were very select on the songs that they chose for her, they were very nice, they knew which lane they wanted her in.

Grumpy: They knew what picture they wanted to paint.

Ruby: I wanted to stay myself throughout the show. I had so many comments that were like, maybe if you change your hair, you might win. I’m like, oh, my hair’s gonna mess with you. Yeah, literally. I thought it would be so funny to respond back and it would be like, maybe he was right.

Grumpy: (laughing) Maybe you should have got a mullet.

Ruby: (laughing) But you know, all those comments, I’d respond back “I’m not gonna change who I am.” There’s like people saying, “Sing some newer songs maybe you’ll win.” I’m not gonna change who I am to win a TV show. That’s not me as an artist I don’t want to be someone new and I want to sing what I want to sing.

Grumpy: Come out there with Alice Cooper to tie it all together. Bring it full circle.

Ruby: So, I send in a list of songs that you want to sing. Reba looks at them, the band director, everybody looks at it. And Reba can look at it and be like “Nah I want you to sing this song.” Not even on your list. It’s gonna be a song you don’t know. It’s just a random song and you have to sing it.

Casey: Kind of like “You Lie.”

Ruby: Kind of like “You Lie.” Yeah, that was not on my list. So, those songs like you can send any suggestions and most of the time they were songs that you know I wanted to sing like “Blue” and “Cowboys Sweetheart.” “Jolene” was not one so it really depends. I mean you have at least a say in it.

Terri: But they have the final say.

Grumpy: It’s more like a kid like asking its parents, “Can we do this?” and it’s just like, “Maybe, maybe not we’ll figure it out.”

Greg: I think this is my last question and it’s is for all of you. Ruby’s experience on “The Voice.” You came in here and when we first started talking, you said you were a team. That’s very apparent. And talking to you for the last couple hours, that notion has only been reinforced. How has Ruby’s experience on “The Voice” changed you as a family? Or has it at all?

Terri: I don’t think so. I think we’re still the same.

Ruby: They’re like, you know, asking for Mercedes and stuff (laughing).

Casey: Probably the honest answer to that is, it’s given us all another shot of adrenaline. More excitement. She’s doing bigger, bigger shows. She’s playing to much larger crowds. And the funny thing of it is, I mentioned this at her last show to someone and they were talking about how different it is since Ruby’s come back. These same people that had seen her before show up, and it’s like a listening room, just dead silence. We’re playing these shows to 300, 400, 500 people, and it’s the same thing. It’s just dead silence until she finishes and it erupts. And these are all people that saw her before this.

And before “The Voice,” she’ll be at a restaurant or wherever, and they’re chit chatting back and forth, back and forth.

Grumpy: They’re watching the football game, they’re cheering for their team.

Casey: Yeah, and somebody asked me, “Why, what changed?” And I think the difference is now they know that they are witnessing star quality entertainment. And they know after everything they heard on the show and everything they witnessed that she is well beyond just talented. You know, as the vocal coaches said there, I don’t know if I shared this with you or not, not Reba and all them, but the vocal coaches themselves, they talked about her audition song and they said for Ruby to yodel and do it properly because you heard Gwen and you heard Reba. Their yodeling was nothing compared to Ruby.

Greg: No it wasn’t.

Casey: Well they said most people, yodels exactly what Gwen and Reba do and they sing the yodel. They don’t break their voice and what you hear Ruby do when she yodels is she’s breaking her voice and they said just to do that is incredibly difficult for any vocalist and most can’t do it. But they said for the way that Ruby is able to break her voice and go from low and skip that mid and go right into the high and do it with the power that she does behind it and do it with the speed that she does behind it and be able to land pitch perfect on each of these notes going back and forth.

They said she is literally like one of a handful of people that’s ever walked the planet with that kind of vocal control. That is stunning. I mean that literally just left me breathless. I was speechless and I’m like, we knew she was talented going out there. She won an international competition at 11 years old and brought back a world title to be the youngest overall world champion. So, we knew she was talented at that point. Not sure at what level. And when we get out there, and these vocal coaches said that and plenty more, I said I have no idea what kind of talent she has.

Grumpy: It’s reaching new levels of figuring out like how talented she is because you know she won the world title against the 64 countries.

Casey: And that’s in all ages.

Grumpy: And it’s like, OK that’s cool and now they’re saying she’s one of one. It’s just like that’s new, OK, so what’s next?

Casey: But they also said, and this is in a group, you know, with everyone, they said, “Ruby does things with her voice and we can never begin to teach you. We can’t do them. There’s no way we could try to explain to you how to do these. That’s what a God-given gift looks like.” They said, that’s what she had. So yeah, that’s remarkable.

Casey: But we did learn something, a fan reached out to us and asked Ruby a question, which was the craziest question in the world.

Ruby: They asked, “Do you ever get the hiccups when you’re singing?” I had the hiccups and I started singing and it took them away because you’re breathing and you don’t let that air get in so you can hiccup.

Grumpy: See, you can put that in the paper.

Greg: So there you go. Ruby Leigh cannot only sing, but she’s got a cure for hiccups.