Singer Ruthie Foster was surrounded by music as a child and made her debut as a soloist in a choir at age 14 in her hometown of Gause, Texas.
So after graduating from college and fronting a blues band throughout school - a band that played bars and clubs all over the Lone Star State - Foster took the next logical step.
She joined the Navy.
Singer Ruthie Foster has experienced a career upswing since releasing her Grammy-nominated album “The Truth According to Ruthie Foster” in 2009.
"I went into the Navy to get out of music," Foster said in a recent phone interview from her home in Austin, Texas. "I had just graduated music school and I found myself sort of inundated by music. I went into the Navy to do something else."
In her biography on her official website, she gets even more specific: "It got to the point that I wanted to find out if I could even hold a conversation about anything else [other than music]."
She worked in a helicopter squadron in San Diego for a year - until music found her once again. Foster spent her last three years in the military as a singer in a Navy band in Charleston, S.C.
If you go
Who: Ruthie Foster, with Pure Cane Sugar
When: 8 p.m. Jan. 27
Where: The State Theatre, State College
Tickets: $24, available online at www.statetheatre. org, by calling 272-0606 or at the theater box office
She got out of the military and went into music at full speed. Her sixth album, an eclectic mix of blues and roots music titled "The Truth According to Ruthie Foster," was released in 2009 and was the biggest success of her career. The record was nominated in 2010 for a Best Contemporary Blues Album Grammy Award and in May 2010 she won Contemporary Blues Female Artist of the Year at the Blues Music Awards.
Foster has just begun a year-long tour that will bring her to The State Theatre in State College for a show at 8 p.m. Jan. 27. It's a venue that the singer, who doesn't reveal her age, knows quite well.
"This is her third time here," said Kristy Cyone, marketing and membership director of The State Theatre. "We absolutely love her - she's fantastic. [And] she has a growing fanbase."
It's a fanbase that seems to be embracing a new voice, but Foster sighs at the idea that she's just starting out.
"I've been at this a long time I recorded my first album in 1996, which might surprise some people," she said.
"Every album is different, but definitely the last few CDs I've put out have been getting more attention."
And her four-year stint in the U.S. Navy has been an asset in the nearly 15 years since she recorded her first album.
"I see more of an influence on my work ethic than anything," Foster said. "That's something the military definitely dug into me. It really did help with learning how to, when I put myself into something, to finish; and if something isn't working, to leave it behind with no regrets.
"[And the ideas of] respect and service, that's just sort of part of my life. It's the walk I walk."
The State Theatre staff is grateful that her "walk" has brought her to their stage so often, Cyone said.
Few artists have played the theater as often as Foster since the venue was renovated and reopened in 2006, she said.
But that doesn't mean local concertgoers will get bored with the upcoming show.
"There's not too many artists that have been here as many times as she has," Cyone said. "She does something different every time, so she keeps it exciting."
In the future, that excitement might come with some help. Foster teamed up with the legendary gospel group The Blind Boys of Alabama for a tour in 2009 and worked with some of the best musicians in blues for "The Truth According to Ruthie Foster." She listed India.Arie as a singer she'd like to collaborate with, but said a more surprising group of artists might be on tap, as well.
"A lot of the people I'd like to work with aren't even in my genre," she said. "I'd even work with some of the country artists that are out right now. Sawyer Brown, Sugarland - I love what they're doing.
"I kinda grew up listening to country music, so I definitely respect what they're doing with their [music]. You'll hear a little country with what I'm doing right now."
Two years out from "The Truth," Foster is preparing to get back into the studio soon.
"I'm definitely writing," she said. "I plan to put something out later this year or early next year. I think ... I know, for sure it'll stay in the same kinda vein, sorta the blues [and] R&B.
"[But] it's trying to find good songs, I'm not really paying attention to genre or anything."
Foster's opening act for The State Theatre concert will be Pure Cane Sugar, a State College-based trio of female singers.
Mirror Staff Writer Keith Frederick is at 946-7466.