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Lara Ruggles plays downtown Nov. 21 

Lara RugglesSinger-songwriter Lara Ruggles of Denver, CO plays Steve Key’s Songwriters At Play series in downtown Paso Robles at Burbank Ranch Winery’s Tasting Room on Friday, Nov. 21 from 5-7 p.m.

When Ruggles toured the West Coast with her tour manager, photographer and boyfriend Art Heffron for the first time this February, their computers, camera gear, and all her clothing were stolen from their rental car in San Francisco mid-journey. But they kept going in spite of the setback, finishing out the tour and celebrating Art’s birthday – sans stolen birthday presents – in Los Angeles.

Things can only go up from there, so Ruggles is hitting the road again in November for her Give:Voice tour and playing up and down the coast of California following the release of a new video, recorded live with her band in a magical Denver backyard.

Ruggles is gearing up for the release of her debut full-length album, Cynics and Saints, on Immersive Records in early 2015. With the support of a strong Colorado community, she’s prepared to make waves in new places leading up to its launch.

“I don’t think I realized how much our community was there for us until our stuff got stolen,” she says. “It’s easy to get jaded when you’re just making enough to get you to the next show, and you’re like, is anyone really listening? Would anyone care if I just packed up and quit singing? But the way people responded [to the theft], that was my silver lining.”

Within a week of the theft, the artist’s community had raised over $4,000 in Paypal donations, and they were able to replace their computers when they returned home to Denver. The support of their community wasn’t the only positive outcome of the February tour – it also began a partnership with ridesharing app Lyft that resulted in Lara being featured on billboards and buses as part of their “More Than a Ride” campaign.

Ruggles started driving for Lyft in January to save money for a tour, and “I thought I’d have a little fun with it and take the pink mustache on tour with me.” She and Art sent the resulting photos to Lyft, who in turn helped out with the expenses of their West Coast tour. Then, when Lyft was looking for a musician to round out its campaign featuring Lyft “creatives”, they knew just who to call.

Still, the roller coaster has its ups and downs. Lara began 2014 opening for Nina Storey’s New Year’s Eve show in Denver, and went on to play a set at South by Southwest in March. This summer she was invited to open for Colbie Caillat and Head and the Heart’s Josiah Johnson with Carleigh Aikins, as well as added to the lineup of a new locals-only festival at Colorado’s famed outdoor amphitheater Mishawaka, but all three opportunities fell through last-minute. “I try to see those things as reasons why it’s worth it to keep doing this instead of the other way around,“ she says. “It’s an affirmation that there’s a positive response to the music, and there’s something there that people are connecting with.”

And even those disappointments have their upsides. Having led youth arts programs for years and seen firsthand the difference the arts can make, Lara has long held a vision of donating to organizations that bring the arts to youth. “I decided it was time to stop waiting to meet a certain threshold,” she says. So the “Give:Voice” tour will be the pilot of the “Give:Voice” initiative, through which Lara will donate 10% of her CD sales and tips to youth arts organizations in each city she visits. Details can be found on her website, www.lararuggles.com.

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About the author: Publisher Scott Brennan

Scott Brennan is the publisher of this newspaper and founder of Access Publishing. Follow him on , Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, or follow his blog.

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