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On a recent evening on the deck of The Standard Hotel, singer-songwriter Sol Ruiz wears a sophisticated black-and-white polka-dot dress and slowly nurses a vodka and cranberry. Her conversation is laced with self-reflective commentary. It's a big change in aesthetics and attitude from two summers ago, when New Times last interviewed her. At that meeting, she slurped down a couple of margaritas and swore sassily from underneath a pink-and-green baseball cap tilted sideways on her head before joining stepfather Juan DeLuque and then-boyfriend, Cuban pianist Michel Fragoso, on the Tapas y Tintos stage.
"I've been doing a lot of soul searching," says the now-24-year-old artist, who has recently returned from two years of traveling the Southeast on a songwriting odyssey into what she calls her own Cuban and American folk fusion. The sound coming off her new self-produced album, Ten Unprofessionals, is part Jewel, part Ani DiFranco, a little bit reggaeton, pop, and Cuban folklore. Some of the 10 tracks could easily rock the ties off music industry execs looking for a hit on commercial airwaves, while other songs could just as easily work their way around the more pensive college radio circuit. The album vacillates much the way Sol has done herself, since EMI told her it was time to quit writing so much for pop stars such as Mexico's Belinda and Kalimba and begin developing her own material.
She parted ways with Fragoso, packed her bags, and headed for a farmhouse outside Orlando. Then she did some writing in Tampa, and finally picked some street corners in New Orleans to test her tunes and take inspiration from passersby. "The bohemian in me came out on the streets," Sol says. "To really understand where you are as an artist, sometimes you have to be among regular people. At the clubs, you don't encounter old people or the working class."
And she's glad she's now projecting her newly found voice all over Miami — at White Room, Tobacco Road, and Churchill's, to name a few. "I came back and it was a totally new Miami," Sol notes of the burgeoning cultural scene. "The depression really brings out the best in people. We get closer together as a community and we start realizing it's not about making money; it's about making art."
For more information about Sol's new album and upcoming shows, visit myspace.com/solruiz.