Singer-songwriter Molly Kummerle (aka Ruby Slippers) kicks off an over-the-rainbow career in Asheville.
by Joanne O’Sullivan . photos by Anthony Bellemare
There are singers, and then there are performers. Molly Kummerle is the latter. The voice, the moves, the clothes, the makeup and that certain je ne sais quoi that makes it all look easy—Kummerle has the total package, including the fabulous alter-ego and stage name Ruby Slippers. Working in a musical range that spans sultry electronic to smoky cabaret, she’s frequently on stage locally in clubs and festivals, and when she’s not, she’s probably in the recording studio. (Or, she’s coordinating coverage for major music festivals at her music-biz day job, festival marketing coordinator for Music Allies in Asheville.) And while she may someday entertain the idea of moving to a big city to be a rock star, at the moment she’s committed to kicking things off right here in Asheville.
Kummerle grew up on St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands, listening to steel drums, calypso and her parents’ jazz and R & B records. When Hurricane Hugo hit the island hard in 1989, the family chose an unlikely spot for relocation: an old farmhouse in Barnardsville, where her mother, fiber artist Marcia Kummerle started raising angora goats and making yarn under the label Good Fibrations.
An eclectic, bohemian upbringing to be sure, but as an English major at Brevard College, Kummerle didn’t envision herself becoming a performer. In fact, she wanted to be a nature writer. But then, a few months after graduating, she sang backup in a friend’s soul band, and truly, it was all over. Songs came to her as she walked, rhythm informing words, and she played around with singing and songwriting.
It wasn’t until Stephanie Morgan of Stephanie’s Id invited her to do a cabaret event at Tressa’s that she really came into her own. The cabaret character Ruby Slippers was born. “She’s sort of French and sweet, but also mischievious,” says Kummerle. “She’s my inner child.” She began performing regularly under that band name with Andy John and Robin Tolleson. Jazzy, but with an acid lounge twist, the group drew raves and Kummerle drew comparisons to singers from Fiona Apple to Natalie Merchant.
Ruby Slippers is one side of Kummerle’s musical personality, but there are others. Performing live with DJ Mingle (aka Isaac Gottfried) turned into what she describes as a “downtempo pop electronic project” called Paper Tiger. Along with drummer Dave Mathis, Paper Tiger has played at the Orange Peel, MoogFest, POP Asheville, LAFF and the Emerald Lounge. They recorded a CD, Me Have Fun, that was released in January, and they’re working on another this spring. While there’s a certain sultriness to Paper Tiger’s sound, there’s a stronger kinship to groups like Portishead or Thievery Corporation.
Of her musical evolution, Kummerle says, “I’m always challenging myself to make music that’s more and more ‘me’.” But she’s also invested in boosting the local music scene however she can. “I want to raise awareness about the electronic scene here—it’s so rich and diverse,” she says. “The higher we raise the bar, the better it will be for all of us.”
Ruby Slippers will perform at Tressa’s on May 6. Paper Tiger is slated to perform at Bele Chere in July. www.papertigermusic.com.