WIND LAKE — On a rainy Sunday afternoon, Megan Ruger belts out cover tunes at Fox’s Pub in Greenfield.
The Twin Lakes native and former contestant on NBC’s The Voice is back performing in front of live audiences again.
“Isn’t it ironic… don’t you think,” she sings the refrain from the Alanis Morissette hit. Seems fitting for the moment. The pandemic, which could have crushed her career, may actually help take it to the next level.
Ruger lasted a few weeks on the NBC singing contest back in 2014. Usher and country music star Blake Shelton turned their chairs. Ruger joined Team Blake, and though she lost her second battle round, the experience seven years ago still shapes her career.
“So, when you get off the show, depending on how well you do, it's pretty much up to you to hit the ground running and that's exactly what I did,” Ruger recalled. “I opened up for Foreigner. I opened up for Joan Jett. I opened up for Joe Nichols. I got in the studio. I recorded my first album in 2016 in Nashville. I worked with some of the best producers.”
Ruger also acknowledges that saying, “I was a contestant on The Voice,” still opens doors for her, but it’s really her friends and other connections she made on the show that are the key. Those friends brought her from Nashville to Las Vegas three years ago, and things were really starting to cook.
Ruger got regular work on a rock and roll review show called “Raiding the Rock Vault,” and there was more work where that came from.
“I was playing 4-5 nights a week and I was even doing shows,” Ruger recalled. “I'd go and play from that show, I'd play downtown for another show, and I was doing 2 shows a night and all of a sudden the pandemic hit and I went from 4-5 nights a week, 2 shows a night, sometimes to no shows.”
Like so many artists, Ruger counted on her fans tuning in to online performances to keep her afloat. Something she accepted but didn’t love.
“It’s a different world learning to do online concerts. You don’t see people’s faces. You get an emoji thumbs up and smiley face, and it’s weird… I was so excited to be back on stage.”
But the COVID shutdown also forced her to do something she’d let lapse. Ruger went back to writing music.
“With the pandemic, I was forced to be home and learn how to record and do all sorts of stuff that I never had time for and never learned how to do. So It’s been an interesting ride. I really look forward to putting out new music this time.”
It’s the difference. A gifted singer and performer, Ruger is still in search of that hit single, and is hopeful she’s found it this time. “It all comes down to one song. I’ve written songs, and I’ve been proud of the work that I’ve done in Nashville and in Vegas, but I finally think I’ve found my voice.”
Solo gigs and smaller bookings are coming back for Ruger now, and she has a spot in an all female AC/DC tribute show. A Wisconsin based boyfriend will keep her coming back home frequently, and she’d love a chance to play Summerfest. It’s some direction on the path with no predetermined destination. As she put it, “Finding Megan Ruger has been a journey over the last year.”