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Life & Work with Alyssa Ruffin

Today we’d like to introduce you to Alyssa Ruffin. 

Hi Alyssa, so excited to have you on the platform. So, before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?
YOUTH: I was born in Mason City, Iowa, where Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and Big Bopper’s plane crashed. More commonly known as “The Day Music Died”. It all started with a singing competition that my mom participated in. She made it to the televised finals at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee. When she returned home, she shared her photos and played the showcase back. I had always been into music and was inspired watching my mom singing and playing guitar but this was different. There was a little girl in the competition and seeing her up on stage in the same showcase as my mom inspired me even more. Most five-year-olds want baby dolls and twirly dresses. I just wanted to sing. I competed in my first competition shortly after, the Bill Riley Talent Contest at the North Iowa State Fair in Mason City, Iowa. 

I moved to Denver with my family when I was five years old. We moved all over the US and Canada but I primarily spent my childhood growing up between Iowa and Colorado. The first thing we did when we arrived in Denver, was drive to Red Rocks Amphitheater. My mom and I stood on that stage and sang in a-cappella harmony. It echoed through the rock canyon. My mom turned to my dad and said “Roger, she’s got the bug”. He replied “oh no, there’s two of them!” It has been my dream to play Red Rocks ever since! I’ve attended so many concerts there and it is magical listening to the music underneath the Colorado stars. I even wrote about it in one of my upcoming songs. I sang all over the 303 with my mom. I pretty much grew up in live music venues. In the early days, my mom would dress me up in fancy dresses, ruffle socks, and pretty shoes. They’d stand me up on a chair, or bar top so everyone could see me sing. Park Centre Lounge in Thornton was one of the very first places I remember singing when I was five. Some other places I sang as a young girl include the Flight Deck, The Extra Point, Steins Tavern, Tequila Sunrise (now Armeda’s), Porky’s Steakhouse, the Rear End Lounge, and No Excuses. I also sang at bowling alleys like Sonesta Lanes in Thornton, Brunswick Lanes in Wheat Ridge, and Bowlero and Holiday Bowl in Lakewood. By age 8, I was singing in church, performed on the televised Tom Slick Show in Denver, performed with my mom for the Legendary Buddy Holly’s wife – Maria Holly in Clear Lake, Iowa at the age of 9, and auditioned for Star Search by age 10. 

TEENS: I performed on the original Music Row in Nashville with my mom. We lived in Nashville twice. Nearly every day, we would set up and sing in front of the Country Music Hall of Fame Souvenir & Gift Shop. I also sang at the Santa Fe Steakhouse off Murfreesboro Road. I performed all over Windsor, Ontario, Canada. I remember singing at Little Memphis, The Highway Tavern, Purples, and Bronsons, which was a Country and Western dance hall down by the river. I was 14 and at this stage in my life, I was very much a cowgirl, minus the country-style living. I would go dressed in my cowgirl gear. I had a black cowgirl hat, cowgirl boots, western-style blouses with the tips on the collar, bolo tie, and all. I also performed in the International Freedom Festival Singing competition in Windsor, Ontario, and the Essex Singing and Fiddle Competition in Essex, Ontario Canada. Across the river in Detroit, I sang at Emilio’s Restaurant and Lounge in Roseville, Vito’s Italian Restaurant, and the Alibi Bar. 

As a teenager in Denver, I sang at The Grizzly Rose and spent many of my Sundays there line dancing. I wore those big double Xs on my hands proudly. I still love line dancing. I recently choreographed a line dance to one of my upcoming singles “Party Down A Dirt Road”. Some places I performed in the Denver Metro as a teen include Lil’s, both Colorado Sports Cafe locations, Thirsty’s, Silver Bullet Saloon, Castaways, Top Hat, Mr. K’s, the old Buckin’ Harley’s/Hiccups, Twin Towers, Lake Avenue Inn, Village Pub, Pitcher’s, In-Cahoots, Eagle Grill in Longmont, etc. These are just some of my favorites. I attended Bennett High School in Bennett, Colorado. Though my time there was short-lived, I made the very best of it. I joined the Drama Club, Honor Choir, BHS Singers, I joined the JV basketball team briefly before finally joining the Varsity Cheerleading Squad. Somewhere out there are videos of me flipping around at Pep Rally’s and singing the National Anthem in my cheerleader uniform (GO TIGERS). 

ADULTHOOD: The past 6 years while my husband was stationed in Colorado, I performed all over Denver, Castle Rock, Colorado Springs Manitou Springs, Woodland Park, and more. Some of those venues include The Venue in Denver, Brewski’s in Northglenn, Trailside in Thornton, Antero Hall at Ecks Saloon in Lakewood, Sunshine Studios Live, The Whiskey Baron Dance Hall, The Gold Room, Good Company, The Cow (now The Single Barrel), Rocks, Peak 31 at Union Station, Triple Nickel Tavern, Back East Bar & Grill in Monument & Colorado Springs, The Ancient Mariner in Historic Manitou Springs, Historic Ute Inn and the Crystola Roadhouse in Woodland Park, I guest performed with Scott Wilson of Saving Abel at Hermans Hideaway in Denver, and so much more! 

Additionally, I’ve performed at A Taste of Colorado, Highlands Street Fair, Poplar Street Dance in Poplar, Montana, Williston State Fair, and the North Dakota State Fair. I’ve performed all over Minot, North Dakota to include the Original, Dae Udder Place, the Rockin’ Horse Saloon, Sports On Tap, The Blind Duck, and more. I’ve competed in numerous singing competitions all across the US and Canada. I auditioned for the original Fox American Idol in four cities, and for The Voice in three cities. I have chased this dream of mine far and wide. I am a full-time mom and proud Military wife. My husband Charles Ruffin is Active Duty Military in the United States Space Force, he is prior Air Force, prior-enlisted, and has been serving our beautiful country for 16 years. We are both Mission 22 Ambassadors, which aids in Veteran Suicide Prevention, Awareness, support, and treatment programs for vets and their families, and are both advocates of Mental Health Awareness. I have gotten to where I am by believing in myself, by having incredible support from my family, hard work and dedication, determination, drive, perseverance and by the grace of God. As I always say, “I don’t know where I’m going, but I’m on my way.” 

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
If there was a smooth road, I certainly didn’t take it. I took the bumpy, scenic, life experience, trial and error path that made me grateful for everything I have. It has been very hard. You have to have a thick skin in this industry. It takes more than talent and passion to succeed. You need serious drive, dedication, devotion, and perseverance. You need a support system to lift you up when you feel like you’ve fallen flat on your bottom, hit a speed bump, or have overworked, overwhelmed, and over-exhausted yourself. Being motivated isn’t enough and everything you do requires action. You have to have a business sense and treat it like a business if you’re going to achieve any amount of success. It is a never-ending ladder to climb. I have worked extremely hard to get to where I am. A lot of blood sweat and so many tears. The more I accomplish, the harder it becomes. 

Everything I have done musically, I worked for. I have never had any kind of management team, booking agency, social media manager, promoter, or sponsorship. I have worked long and hard for everything and eventually found myself an incredible husband who not only supports my endeavors but helps whenever he can. I’ve spent endless hours, days, months, and years building business relationships, networking, supporting other musicians out there whether they are lifetime career musicians or weekend hobbyists. All while building my brand, being a full-time mom and Military wife, which also sometimes means doing all of this while being a single parent because my husband is deployed overseas, on a month-long TDY out of state, teaching classes somewhere, spending a year away attending Officer Training School in Alabama, Tech School in California, followed by three years of working overnight shifts and being on complete opposite schedules, only seeing each other in passing. That means playing a gig until 2 am, getting home around 4 am and waking up at 6 am to get your kids to school, followed by relocating 3x in 2 years and another demanding role at your husband’s new job at the new duty station. 

Being a military wife means that I have to start over completely, every one to three years because we have to PCS (move) to a new duty station. Band members can’t drop their lives and relocate with you across the country every time you have to move, so each relocation means starting from ground zero. It means rebuilding my brand in every single city we move to and sometimes, those cities are rural or low populated areas, with little to no music community. Which also means helping your kids catch up on their education because the new place is further along academically than their previous school, which also means after school tutor sessions and auditioning new band members and rehearsals on your only day off, which also happens to be on the weekend, and is the only time you have to spend with your kids. I work very hard, I sacrifice a lot and I am proud of everything I have accomplished, while still managing to keep my family happy and together. We have a strict no phones, iPads or any electronics at the dinner table policy and I plan family days with the kids, as well as individual mommy time with each child, and date nights with the hubby to ensure quality bonding time. 

Like many musicians, the pandemic has been especially challenging. Being a full-time musician solely dependent on income from gigs and being non-essential hit hard. We are still trying to recover financially from being a two-income family to being only a one-income family and because I’m a musician, no unemployment benefits for me. Music venues are starting to pick back up but many musicians went back to working 9 to 5’s to make ends meet, leading to a musician shortage. I never thought I’d see the day but here we are. All of my current band members which took me almost the entire year of searching for players to put a group together, will all be traveling 2 to 3 hours one way for rehearsals. Eighteen months ago, you couldn’t get folks to drive more than 20 or 30 minutes and times are so challenging, myself and others are willing to travel six hours round trip across different states, so long as we have dedicated folks to play with. I can’t speak for others but I refuse to throw away a lifetime of hard work and achievements to go back to a day job with little to no benefits and poor pay. I’d rather keep doing what I love and helping others along the way. 

People often say, “oh what an incredible life you live”. I’m sure it looks glamorous on the outside looking in but the life I’m experiencing now comes from all of the hard work I’ve done and the life my husband provides for our family. I don’t come from a pretty picture-perfect background. In fact, my life was extremely chaotic growing up. I grew up poor, we’ve been homeless, both of my parents were adopted, so we didn’t have a family to help. I never really knew my dad’s adopted family and my mom’s adopted family all parted ways after my grandma died in 1994. I’ve never had the kind of family-like you see in the movies. I attended on average two schools per year from all of the moving around. I didn’t have a proper education and missed out on 7th-12th grade completely, aside from the short time I spent at Bennett High School when I enrolled myself at age 18. To add to the challenges, I attended an online high school in 2009, did a bunch of testing, and used my transcripts from BHS to receive a high school diploma. I attended two cosmetology schools and racked up nearly $30,000 in debt only to find out five months before graduation and eight years later, the “high school” was not accredited and not an actual high school at all. It was what the attorneys called a “diploma mill”. Two years’ worth of school and thousands of dollars down the drain. Murphy’s Law who? 

Furthermore, I am a survivor of mental, emotional, and physical/domestic abuse, childhood sexual abuse, and sexual assault as a young adult. I struggled with anxiety and severe depression for years. Started with a traumatic childhood, slid right into toxic and abusive relationships and everything that goes with it, which led to attempting suicide in 2006 and again in 2007. I can only explain walking away from both of those situations by telling you that I had a guardian angel looking out for me. God gave me two-second chances to live. So, I keep going. I keep pushing, I keep fighting. I have reached the lowest of lows many times in my life and I have also picked myself up, risen to the top, and created a better life for myself, and for my children. I am still striving for more because I am a warrior and I am capable. I am a walking victory, everything else is a bonus from all of my hard work. My point is this, it doesn’t matter where you come from. what your upbringing was, if you don’t have money, if you’ve had a proper education, what difficulties you’ve faced in life, if you struggle with mental health, you can do absolutely anything you set your mind to, as long as you’re willing to work for it. 

My favorite quote “If you believe in yourself like I believe in you, nothing is impossible.” 

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
I am an award-winning Singer-songwriter, Independent Recording Artist. 

What am I most proud of? 

I won the 2021 JMA for Modern Country Female Vocalist of the Year, at the 7th Annual Josie Music Awards. The Josie Music Awards are the largest independent full production music awards show in the world. Out of 38,997 submissions, that’s nearly double the Grammy yearly submission average, I was nominated in four categories; Modern Country Female Vocalist of the Year, Modern Country Song of the Year for “Collateral Damage”, Stage Fashion Trailblazer, and Songwriter Achievement for “First Touch” with Anthony Black. It was an incredible honor to be nominated amongst so many artists and winning was completely unexpected! What Josie Passantino-Boone and Tinamarie Passantino do for the independent music industry is above and beyond! I am so grateful to have found this incredible music family and I’m looking forward to watching the Josie Networks continued success. The Josie Music Awards were held at the Country Tonite Theatre in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee on September 17th & 18th, 2021. You can view the official winner’s list here https://www.josiemusicawards.com/2021-official-winner-list.html

I am also a Global Music Awards Honors – Bronze Medalist for “Collateral Damage”, World Songwriting Awards Top 10 Finalist for “Best Pop Song”, and have additional nominations for the International Songwriters Awards, Hollywood Music in Media Awards, and I’m a participant in the International Songwriting Competition (ISC). 

I performed in the Global Green “Music For The Planet” benefit concert along with Grammy Award-winner Lisa Loeb, Paula Cole, Taylor Dayne, Jody Watley, Melody Thornton of the Pussycat Dolls, Vanessa Bell Armstrong, and many more! I opened for Country Music Group Confederate Railroad at the A.B.A.T.E. of Iowa Freedom Rally, Billboard Chart-topping Rock band Hinder, 2x ASCAP Award winner J.R. Richards of Dishwalla, Hip-Hop Artist Coolio, AMA Award-winning Rock band Firehouse, and Multi Award-winning Country Music Group Sawyer Brown, performing for 30,000 in a sold-out arena concert. I performed with my mom for legendary Buddy Holly’s wife Maria Holly, and performed with Legendary Musician and lead guitarist of Wilson Pickett, David Panzer. 

In March 2021 I released my very first single “Collateral Damage”, which was produced by Grammy Voting member, producer, and engineer Audrey Martinovich. I met Audrey through Produced By A Girl. Audrey became the first female contributor to Pro Tools Expert, she has worked with Comedy Central, TDS Telecom, Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra and more. This song was a collaboration with Dan Hudson through the Veteran Affairs, for their Warriors In The North program. Dan was looking for musicians to write songs for Military Veterans to tell their stories. It was inspired by a female military veteran, her story, her poem and my own personal trauma. “Collateral Damage” is an inspirational power anthem about surviving trauma/abuse. In an effort to highlight and empower women in the music industry, I hired all female musicians. Guitar, bass, cello, keyboard, drums, music production, and lyric video were all done by incredible women in the industry. The official music video produced by M.O.D. Media Productions was released through VEVO here https://youtu.be/3TWWdCKOGWc and the lyric video produced by BSquared Mgmt can be found by visiting my YouTube channel at https://youtube.com/alyssaruffin 

I am in the beginning stages of working on a project with multi-award-winning songwriter and music producer Morgan Matthews. Morgan has written and produced music that has reached and stayed #1 on the Billboard Charts on multiple occasions. His production “Show Me Love” with Alicia Keys & Miguel was nominated for an NAACP award in 2020 and has worked with major brands such as The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Jimmy Kimmel Live! The Latin Grammys, MTV, MTV2, CBS, and more! I have known Morgan for a few years now. We have talked about collaborating a couple different times over the years. I am so excited to finally be working together on my upcoming single “Daddy Don’t Go” and I can’t wait to share it with you all! 

I am working on an EP with music producer, and bassist for Saving Abel, Scott Wilson. We have completed two tracks off the album “Enough” and “Where I Need You Now” at Sunshine Studios Live in Colorado Springs. Both of these tracks were recorded at Sunshine Recording Studios in Colorado Springs and feature Scott Willson on bass, Kent Slucher (drummer for Luke Bryan) on drums, and Nashville pro-Steve Hinson on banjo, mandolin, and steel guitar. Steve has worked with everyone in Nashville from Dolly Parton, Chris LeDoux, and Kenny Chesney, to Ty Herndon, Josh Turner, and Carrie Underwood. I’m hoping to release the EP album sometime in 2022. 

I am working on a co-write/duet with Colorado Springs-based Recording Artist Chadwick McIntire (guitarist for The Endless Line), I am featured on “Futurebright” by Ozonic. Futurebright was produced by Music, TV & Film producer, engineer, and owner of North Park Studios, Jarrod Headley in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Additionally, I am featured on “The Love That We Know” by Ed McGee. The Love That We Know was produced by multi-award-winning producer, engineer, and owner of Royal Recording, Bill Douglass in Colorado Springs, Colorado. I also did some background vocals with another artist for Ed on his single “Alexander III”. 

I recently performed the National Anthem for the United States Space Force, Space Delta 13 – Activation and Assumption of Command Ceremony at Maxwell, AFB in Montgomery, Alabama. Additionally, I’ve performed the National Anthem for the Santa Barbara Polo and Racquet Club in Santa Barbara, California, the Rocky Mountain Summer Music Festival in Colorado Springs, Colorado, the United States Air Force A2A Christmas Party at Scott AFB in Belleville, Illinois, on various occasions for Semi-professional Basketball team the Minot Skyrockets in Minot, North Dakota, various sports games at Bennett High School in Colorado and much more. 

What’s sets me apart from others? I am authentic. I’m relatable. I write about real life. The good, the bad, and the ugly. Style-wise, I like to think of myself as a cocktail. Christina Aguilera, and Pink, meets Trisha Yearwood, Miranda Lambert, and Shania Twain with a little bit of Joss Stone and Etta James, a splash of Elle King, Paramore, and No Doubt. Think Pop and R&B meets Rock & Roll, blended into Modern Country music with a little bit of soul. 

Can you talk to us about how you think about risk?
I have always been a risk-taker. There is no reward without risk. My entire career in music is a risk that I choose to take every single day. Great achievements involve great risk. If you don’t take the risk, then you lose the opportunity. The risk you’re afraid to take could be the one that changes your entire life forever and/or someone else’s. 

I would say the biggest risk I have made in my career, was speaking out about my personal struggles with Childhood Sexual Abuse, Sexual Assault, Suicide, and Domestic Violence. You never know how it’s going to be received. They aren’t the most favorite topics and our parents coming from a hush hush, don’t let anyone know about the skeletons in your closet society, I was unsure how it would go. It’s scary, stripping down your walls and putting it all out there for everyone to see and judge. However, I received so much love for speaking out, touched so many lives, and inspired folks along the way. That alone was worth it. Not only did I heal from sharing, I helped others. That’s what it’s all about. This entire year has been so liberating and absolutely amazing. 

Don’t be afraid to take a risk. Instead, believe! Risk is the key to success, no matter what you are applying it to. School, work, relationships. Go for it, whatever it is! 

Contact Info:


Image Credits:

James Swan Photography
Roger D. Peterson

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