An Interview with Alyssa Ruffin

While we all know how PCSing and not getting to choose where we live can put a damper on our careers, having an art that depends on local support requires a whole extra level of determination and hard work. Singer / Space Force spouse Alyssa Ruffin shares how she’s managed to keep the music playing.

MilspoFAN: Tell us a little about yourself, your journey as a military spouse, and
where you are today.

Alissa: I am a multi-award-winning recording artist, singer-songwriter, and the co-founder and
CEO of Highway 83 Records, which I own with my husband. I was born in Mason City, Iowa,
known as the historical location where Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and Big Bopper’s plane
crashed, “The Day Music Died.” I moved to Denver, Colorado at the age of five. I’m a proud
Military wife. My husband Chuck Ruffin (aka Space Force Chuck) has been serving for almost
18 years. He served 15 years in the Air Force, has done three overseas tours, and has been
serving in the Space Force since 2020. We met while he was stationed at Minot Air Force Base
in Minot, North Dakota. We have three children together, and I have two teenagers that live out-
of-state. We’ve lived all over the U.S. including North Dakota, Illinois, Virginia, Washington DC,
Colorado Springs, Denver, California, and we’re currently in Alabama. I’m working on music in
Nashville, and we’re getting ready to PCS back to Colorado this summer. My husband and I are
both advocates for veteran suicide. I’m an advocate for suicide, mental health, PTSD, domestic
violence, sexual violence, child abuse, homelessness, education, diversity, leadership, the
creative arts, and equality/female empowerment. 

As a military spouse, I try to help my brothers and sisters in arms by doing things to help
make a difference. Military life isn’t easy. I don’t get to be involved as much as I’d like due to my
demanding career and life as a mother, however, I do what I can when I’m able. While we were
stationed at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, I wanted to do something for the troops,
something special to let our servicemen and women deployed overseas know that strangers
thousands of miles away are thinking of them and appreciate their sacrifice. First, I reached
out to my social media following, and then I reached out to a couple of military groups that
I’m a member of, looking for folks who were deployed overseas, who needed or wanted a
care package. I ended up with a total of 37 names of folks who needed care packages. With
the help of my husband, a fellow musician in central California, the Military Parents Operation Support, and more than 65 students at Crestview Elementary in Lompoc, California, we were able to send care packages and Christmas letters/drawings to all 37 names on my list! It may not seem like much to all of us, but these kinds of things mean the world to those serving overseas. 

Additionally, I’ve performed the National Anthem for the 2022 United States Air Force Weapons
School 22 Bravo Graduation at Bally’s Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, the United States
Space Force Headquarters Space Delta 13 – Activation and Assumption of Command
Ceremony at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama, and the Headquarters Air
Mobility Command (AMC) Intelligence Headquarters at Scott Air Force Base in Belleville,
Illinois. I am a Mission 22 Ambassador which aids in veteran suicide prevention, awareness,
and treatment programs for military veterans and their families, and I am currently doing a
fundraiser with the Stop Soldier Suicide organization.

MilspoFAN: How did you become a musician?
Alyssa: I was raised on stage. My mom is also a singer/songwriter and recording artist. She took
me along to all of her gigs, band practices, karaoke, and anything she could. She was in a
singing competition when I was five and made it to the finals held at the legendary Ryman
Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee. When she came home, we watched the competition
recording back. There was a little girl who was about my age that also competed. I was always
inspired by my mom growing up, but there was something different about seeing another little
girl do it. Once I told my mom that I wanted to sing, she entered me into every singing
competition, talent show, fair, and festival she could find. She also took me with her to most of
her karaoke shows, band practices, and gigs. She always got me up to sing. Most of the venues
in Colorado and Iowa would let me in. She would stick me on a chair, so they could see me
when I sang. I’d sing solos, duets with my mom, and duets with other people, too. It’s funny to
think about it now, a grown adult asking a five-year-old to sing a duet with them, but they did!
The first place I ever sang in Colorado was Park Center Lounge in Thornton. I was in
kindergarten, and they were the very first venue to open their doors for me. 
When I was nine, my mom took me to my first concert to see Wynonna Judd. My mom
concocted a plan for me to get on stage and give Wynonna her demo tape. She distracted
security, and I jumped on stage. We’re talking about a huge sold-out coliseum. I got up there,
and Wynonna put her hand on her hip. She got on the microphone and said, “What can I do for
you, honey?” I said, “Let me sing.” I don’t think she took me seriously, but she said to the
audience, “What do y’all think?” They went wild! The sound of that roar stuck with me my entire
life. She didn’t let me sing, but she did give me an autographed 8×10 and backstage pass for
the meet and greet after the concert. I remember standing in line for quite some time to meet
her. When it was my turn, she put her hand on her hip again and said, “Not you again.” That whole experience was life-changing and played a big part in my music journey. Shortly after, I
performed alongside my mother for legendary Buddy Holly’s wife, Maria Holly, at the Buddy
Holly Anniversary Memorial Event in Clear Lake, Iowa. 
As a teen, we lived in Nashville twice. My mom was always chasing her dream, so we moved
back and forth a couple of times. We performed on the original Music Row a lot before it was
destroyed by the tornado. We used to set up in front of the Country Music Hall of Fame
Souvenir and Gift Shop and sing for three to four hours. People would just gather out front of the
store and listen. It was a lot of fun. We also sang in front of the Hot Doggit, and at the Santa Fe
SteakHouse. As an adult, I auditioned for American Idol, The Voice, worked as a DJ and
Karaoke host for more than a decade, and fronted cover bands for years prior to pursuing my
solo music career. I’ve worked really hard and sacrificed a lot to get to where I am, all while
somehow balancing being a full-time mother and a Military wife.

Alyssa: I opened for country music group Sawyer Brown (“Race Is On”) performing for 30,000+
patrons, country music group Confederate Railroad (“Queen of Memphis”) performing for
10,000+ at the ABATE of Iowa Freedom Rally (Motorcycle Rally), Billboard Chart-topping rock
band Hinder (“Lips of An Angel”), Ascap Award-winner J.R. Richards of Dishwalla (“Counting Blue Cars”), legendary hip-hop Artist Coolio (“Gangsta’s Paradise”), AMA Award-winning rock
band Firehouse (“Love of a Lifetime”), and performed with legendary musician and the former
lead guitarist of Wilson Pickett (“Mustang Sally”) – David Panzer. I performed in the Global
Green “Music For The Planet” benefit concert via the iconic Troubadour in West Hollywood,
California, along with Grammy Award-winner Lisa Loeb (“Stay, I Missed You”), Paula Cole (“I
Don’t Want To Wait”), Taylor Dayne (“Tell It To My Heart”), Jody Watley (“Looking For A New
Love”), Melody Thornton of the Pussycat Dolls (“Buttons”), and Vanessa Bell-Armstrong
(“Nobody But Jesus”). I’ve been blessed to experience and be a part of some incredible
moments and musical events. 

MilspoFAN: Describe for us your creative work and the type of music that speaks
the most to you. 

Alyssa: Creatively I have no boundaries. I grew up singing a variety of music and found
inspiration in many artists across several different genres. That reflects not only in my singing
style, but also in my songwriting. I started writing pop songs around age 14. Now I write rock,
blues, R&B, Americana, folk, country, and recently started writing faith-based songs as well. All
styles of music speak to me. I don’t put myself in a box. I listen to so much music. I can be
jamming to worship music one minute, and flip the channel to hard rock or hip-hop the next.
Creatively, I get inspired by anything. I will be driving down the road and hear a noise that will
inspire a melody. I’ll grab my phone and make a sound recording humming whatever melody or
lyric I just came up with. Growing up with an eclectic taste in music and performing so many
different styles and genres, my music and singing style reflects all of that. I blend everything to
create my own unique sound and style. 

Alyssa: The first single I released has a very special story behind it. It’s called “Collateral
Damage.” It’s a song inspired by a poem written by a female veteran as well as my own
personal story and childhood trauma. It is an inspirational power anthem that I dedicated to all
sexual assault survivors. It was produced by Grammy Regional Chapter Director/voting
member, the first female contributor to Pro-Tools Expert, producer, and engineer – Audrey
Martinovich. This single was recorded at Audio for The Arts in Madison, Wisconsin. “Collateral
Damage” was born from my partnership with Dan Hudson (D.T. Hudson Writing Company /
Operation Check Six) to write a song for a female Military Veteran. In an effort to highlight
women in the music industry, I hired an all-female musician and production cast on this
inspirational power anthem. As a thank you, Dan Hudson at Operation Check Six built me a
custom guitar. It was inspired by Dean Guitars and modeled after Dimebag Darrel’s guitar from
Pantera. It is a direct reflection of my personality, complete with glittery pink paint, all gold
hardware, dual humbucker pickups, mahogany body, and maple neck, with custom engraved
work that he dedicated to me. The guitar was also on display in a Museum Exhibit for Operation
Check Six for nearly 7 months at the Hjemkomst Center in Moorehead, Minnesota. I also had a
lyric video made as well as a Behind the Scenes “Making Of” and an in-studio music video,
which can all be found on my Linktree.

I have an upcoming single called “The Sacrifice” that is based on my life as a military spouse.
This one is going to sit heavy with anyone who has experienced their spouse being on TDY or
serving overseas. I have a song I wrote about domestic violence called “Enough” that will be
released on my upcoming EP album. Most of my songs are about my own personal life
experiences, and I think most of them are relatable to the listener. I have some fun “let’s have a
good time” songs too, but I love to make music that matters, anything that’ll help me make a
little bit of difference in the world. 

MilspoFAN: Congratulations on being nominated in 5 categories and taking home
the Songwriter Achievement Award for your song “Enough” at the 8th Annual
Josie Music Awards at the Grand Ole Opry! Can you tell us a little about the
creation of the song and what it’s like to walk the red carpet?

Alyssa: Thank you so much! It was an honor to be part of the 1.8% to be nominated out of more
than 52,000 submissions. That is a win in itself! The Songwriter Achievement Award is special
to me because I’m being recognized not just for my voice, but for my creative words, for my
songwriting skills. I personally feel like this is a more prestigious award. “Enough” is a heavy
song. It’s about domestic violence, being done with all of the abuse, and getting out of a toxic
relationship. It was inspired from things I endured in previous relationships and things I
witnessed while I was growing up. I wanted to write an anthem for those who have been
manipulated, gaslighted, and all forms of abuse. I am so proud of this award and I can’t wait to
release the song! 
Walking the red carpet is a magical experience. It is a truly special feeling and so exciting! I love
the red carpet interviews, photographs, and of course it’s a lot of fun getting dressed up. It makes me feel accomplished, like all of my hard work is finally starting to pay off. I was
nominated for Artist of the Year, Rising Star of the Year, Single of the Year (Party Down A Dirt
Road), Songwriter Achievement (Enough), and Stage Fashion Trailblazer. 

I also won “Country Voice of the Year” at the 2022 International Fair Play Country Music – Red
Carpet Awards in Holland. I was nominated for Country Voice of the Year, Best Song of the
Year (“Collateral Damage”), Modern Country Female, and Pop Female. Additionally, I won
Vocalist of the Year Award in the Modern Country category at the Josie Music Awards in 2021,
and the Global Music Awards “Honors” Bronze Award-winner. I’m a 3x Nominee and Top 10
Finalist in the World Songwriting Awards, a 5-star rated semi-finalist in the International UK
Songwriter Contest in 2022, and 5-star rated honorable mention semi-finalist in the International
UK Songwriter Contest in 2021. Furthermore, I am an official Nominee at the 2023 Fair Play
Country Music Awards in Holland. I received 7 nominations including Country Voice of the Year,

Country Song of the Year, Country Rock Original, Modern Country Original, Country Pop
Original, Songwriter of the Year, and Most Appreciated Artist.

MilspoFAN: How has your role as a military spouse impacted your work as an
artist- creatively, logistically, or otherwise?

Alyssa: It is extremely challenging. You’re uprooting your entire family and relocating every one
to three years, and starting over completely. It is especially challenging for us full-time
entertainers. We don’t get to send a resume and set up employment ahead of time, or go on
regular job interviews and get hired once we arrive. Instead, we have to place ads to audition
new band members every single time we move and hope that you find the right fit for your
sound and image, in addition to someone who is equally skilled and doesn’t abuse drugs or
alcohol. Once you have your band together, it takes months for the band to learn one to four
hours of material. Then you have to build a network by physically going out to meet venue
owners all over the new city, county, and region. It can take the majority of a year before you
ever play out to make any kind of income. As a full-time musician, this can be especially difficult.
We have to build brand new relationships with those venue owners in order to get a gig. 
If you want to work festivals, fairs, casinos, zoos, or higher-paying work, you need a promoter or
booking agent. They are even harder to get on board, especially if you aren’t local and don’t
have a local following. I do music full time, so it’s harder for me to make new friends because I
don’t work a normal day job where I can invite my co-workers. I wasn’t born and raised there, so
my family and childhood friends aren’t going to be in the audience to support me. My days
consist of spending countless hours sending hundreds of emails, while simultaneously building
press kits and driving around to drop them off, often begging for someone to give you an
opportunity. If you’re working virtually, you’re spending endless hours building your electronic
press kits, creating marketing materials, social media content, and making hundreds of follow-up
phone calls in addition to the hundreds of emails you sent because many places don’t respond
to emails due to the amount of artists inquiring every day. I recently received a response to an
email I sent to a venue three years ago. They just got to it. In addition, sometimes the venues
won’t hire you if you don’t have a local following, but you can’t build a local following if they don’t
hire you to perform. It’s a catch-22. Then when they do finally hire you, venues don’t always
have a built-in crowd. Sometimes you’re only playing for the 3 people that work there. It’s hard
to build a new following to come support you when there’s no one in the audience. This is why it
is so important for people to support live music! Save money, skip the concert, and go check out
your local venues and bands. Buy a t-shirt, download their music, get an autographed 8×10,
take a selfie during the meet & greet and tag their artist page on social media, order some food
and enjoy your local community!

Living in Alabama has been extra challenging. We’ve lived here for two years, and I never did
find a band. We PCS’d here amidst the pandemic, and folks are either not wanting to venture
out post-pandemic, they’ve all moved to Nashville, or they’re already in a band and not able or
willing to commit to another project. The music scene here is barely in existence. In order to
tour, I had to put together a group in each city/state I booked shows in, have them learn the
material without ever meeting or practicing and pray to God they showed up on the day of the
gig. In California, we lived in a sort of rural area. It was a very small town, adjacent to another
small town, and the closest thriving music scene was 3.5 hours south in Los Angeles, or 2.5
hours east in the desert. I made the commute to LA, but it was hard performing until 1:30am and
then driving 3.5 hours home, just in time for the sun to come up. I was lucky to catch a nap
before my kids got up for the day. During the week, that meant getting them ready for school,
and on the weekend, it meant taking them to the park or on a bike ride etc. At the time, I was homeschooling my preschooler as well. One hour of sleep just isn’t enough to function as a
human being, especially not as a parent. My husband was working shift, so a lot of times I was
by myself with the kids, and/or by myself in LA. Luckily my brother lives with us. He works days,
but he would help out to watch the girls when he was home in the evenings, so I could do music
while my husband was working overnights. 
Charlie would work 12-hour shifts overnight for seven days and then be off for four. He’d spend
the first two days trying to get on a somewhat normal schedule and by the time he did, he’d
have to go back to work. We barely saw him. 
In fact, he worked a similar schedule from 2016 to 2020. It wasn’t until we moved to Alabama
that we were able to spend any time with him. That “normal schedule” was also very short-lived.
In 2022 he went on a month-long TDY, came home for 4 days, and left for 6 months to attend
weapons school. Finding the time to pursue my own career is like a short-circuiting roller
coaster. It goes in spurts. I’ll play a leg of shows back-to-back when he’s home and working a
normal schedule, and then it’ll come to a screeching halt because duty calls, he’s gotta leave,
and I need to step into what I call “single parent mode” to focus on being a Mommy and holding
down the fort while he’s away. I went on a short Midwest/Southeast tour while he was away at
weapons school. My in-laws live 6 hours away in Kentucky, so they came down and watched
my girls for a month while I went on tour. They have always offered, and this was the very first
time I accepted, only because I had already booked all of the shows before we knew my
husband was leaving. The girls seemed fine with everything and were excited to see their Oma
and Opa, but as a mother, I felt an overwhelming amount of guilt about leaving them without both
parents. It definitely takes a special kind of person to live this lifestyle, and it certainly isn’t for
the faint of heart. 

MilspoFAN: How do you cultivate your creativity?

Alyssa: I try to educate myself on as many things as possible when it comes to music. There is
so much to learn and always room for improvement, especially when it comes to the business
and marketing side of things. As far as how the creative process for songwriting goes, it’s never
the same. Songs come to me at the most random times. I have been woken up out of a dead
sleep at 3am and written a song, just to roll over and go right back to sleep 5 minutes later. Most
often than not, songs come to me at the most inconvenient times. It’ll happen while I’m hiking at
the top of a mountain, while I’m driving across the country, or while sitting at my daughter’s
gymnastics class with kids yelling in the background and no notepad in sight. I usually just make
a quick voice memo for the lyrics or melody, and then I’ll carve out time when I’m able to go
back and develop the idea later.  

MilspoFAN: How do you meet other artists or plug into the local arts scene when
you PCS?

Alyssa: As a musician, you really have to attend live music events, open mic nights, songwriter
rounds, jam sessions, etc. You have to build relationships within the new music community.
Sometimes there isn’t a music scene near you. Those areas are always fun. Then you’re
commuting 3-4 hours one way to the nearest city that has a music scene. I will usually look up
venues and check out all of the local bands across several genres because I love supporting
others and because I’ll lose my mind if I don’t find like-minded individuals to socialize with. I
believe wholeheartedly that only a musician understands other musicians. Jams and open mics
are great to network and connect. You just have to be a little extroverted, get involved and be
seen often, and then you’ll make friends in the local music scene. Musicians are usually very
friendly folks, so it’s just a matter of getting out there. Social media is helpful, but I’m an
extrovert. I need those in-person social interactions. 

MilspoFAN: What’s next for you?
Alyssa: I am preparing for the release of my debut EP. I’ve been working with Platinum and
Gold Award-winning producer & engineer Bill Douglass, and Grammy award-winning and 5x
Billboard Award-winning music producer and Composer Kitt Wakeley. I’m also working with
Grammy Nominated producer Richard Easterling, and Scott Wilson (bassist for Platinum-selling
rock band Saving Abel) on my upcoming singles “Enough” and a country version of my
upcoming single “Where I Need You Now.” Both tracks feature Kent Slucher (Luke Bryan) on
drums, Scott Wilson (Saving Abel) on bass, Richard Easterling (Train, Muse, Fuel) on guitar,
and Nashville pro-Steve Hinson (Dolly Parton, Carrie Underwood, Kenny Chesney) on steel
guitar, banjo, and mandolin. Additionally, I’m working on the rest of my full-length album amidst
the PCS. Thankfully Colorado is home for me and God willing, I’ll get reacquainted and back in
the groove fairly quickly.

MilspoFAN: What is the most practical piece of advice that you would give to
other artists?

Alyssa: Work hard, master your craft, educate yourself on everything you possibly can. Most
importantly, believe in yourself. Passion, perseverance, dedication, persistence, and
determination is key. Don’t give up! The only way to fail is to quit.
Stay humble, always be kind, and don’t forget to help others. Someone once asked me what I’ll
do when I get to the top. The same thing I’ve been doing all along, I’ll turn around and help the
person behind me. 

Find Alyssa online at:
Instagram @alyssaruffinmusic
Facebook @AlyssaRuffinMusic   

TR Photography
Seafoam Photography
Jack Lue
M.O.D. Media Productions
Chuck Ruffin
Operation Check Six

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