NME Radar: Breakout

Ritt Momney: Salt Lake City’s lo-fi indie hero channels lockdown misery into spirited pop cover

The Utah indie project's cover of Corine Bailey Rae’s ‘Put Your Records On’ was recorded to put a smile on Jack Rutter's face – and following the song's viral blow-up, the world is grinning ear-to-ear with him

Each week in Breakout, we talk to the emerging stars blowing up right now – whether it be a huge viral moment, killer new track or an eye-popping video – these are the rising artists certain to dominate the near future

In April Jack Rutter cut loose from his usual introspective indie with a, er, cover of Corine Bailey Rae’s, ‘Put Your Records On’. It was a move born out of the bleak misery of lockdown, meant simply to offer an uplifting escape for himself and listeners, but it also became career defining moment for the Salt Lake City artist.

This particular viral surge came about when a user put the track over a makeup video on a TikTok, with a hastily done ten second makeup job transitioning into works of art that have had hours put into them. The trend rapidly spread and his version now boasts a whopping fifty million listeners on Spotify.

Pre-viral fame, Ritt Momney was a modest Salt Lake City based indie project taking their name from a tongue-in-cheek spoonerism on Utah’s Republican Senator and former Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, a moniker which stuck after a throwaway suggestion from an old bandmate. Now though, Rutter operates as a solo outlet after his past members left on Mormon missions and he drifted away from the religion, something which has been a driving force in the emotionally dense indie-pop.

2019’s debut album ‘Her And All My Friends’ tackles some of those feelings from that turbulent period head on, including his girlfriend moving to college and emotions of loss and struggle. The sparse and pensive lo-fi record brings together heartworn vocals and pensive keys with brutal fragility. Quite the contrast to the soulful cover that brought the artist to the fore. NME caught up with Rutter to discuss his wild break and this juxtaposition.

What inspired you to cover ‘Put Your Records On’ in the first place?

“I decided to cover it right after the pandemic really started shutting everything down in America. I was supposed to be on tour, we did two shows and then the rest got cancelled. Then I was just back at home thinking, there’s nothing to do. Everybody was depressed and dreary and I remembered that song because my mum always used to play it in the car when I was a kid, if someone asked ‘what’s the most positive and helpful song you could think of right now?’, I felt it would always be that song. It reminds me of the simpler time of riding in your mums car and going to soccer practice or whatever. It’s definitely always stuck with me.”

So it was about uplifting you as much as anyone else?

“Yeah, it was really nice working on it. A lot of my other music is pretty heavy for me and it’s really personal and darker. I felt like I just couldn’t do that at that time because everything was already so dark. It was pretty therapeutic to work on it and to really revisit that song. I think that song can really mean a lot to someone who feels pretty down, I guess. That’s probably part of the point of the song in the first place back when they wrote it. So I was trying to release something that helped me and could maybe help other people feel a little bit better about everything.”

What was the moment like when you realised it was blowing up?

“It was super crazy and random. I really didn’t have any high expectations for it. But I guess it’s become this career-defining thing so it’s been really cool and awesome. I saw on TikTok it was doing well and then within a couple nights it really shot up. A few days before, I was looking through all the videos people have made and I saw a few of what ended up being the actual trend. I was like, ‘oh that’s cool, there’s a trend going’, there’s these different people doing the same thing to it. The stars just have to totally align for something like this to happen.”

What are your thoughts on music going viral through TikTok?

“It’s kind of a romantic thing, I think TikTok has been cool for music in a lot of ways in that it’s just really disrupted the industry. I feel like before the industry could pick and choose which songs were going to be big more than they can now. As random as it is I think it puts some more power back into the artist’s and listeners hands, which is really interesting. I’ve found a lot of songs that I really like on TikTok, I think the nature of it just calls for a really interesting and weird stand-outish song.”

You started out as an indie garage outfit before moving into more bedroom produced territory, how was it coming through the scene in Salt Lake City?

“There is a cool indie scene in Salt Lake but it’s just not very big. I’ve met and listened to some really cool artists from Salt Lake like The Backseat Lovers and a project called Kipper Snack. There’s a venue called Kilby Court that I played my first six shows at or whatever, that’s like a legendary venue here so that was awesome to be able to do. There’s a pretty decent live scene here though, obviously not as much right now.”

What inspired the themes on your debut album ‘Her and all of My Friends’?

“The couple of years after high school were the most turbulent years of my life. I was living the same life from elementary school through to high school with the same friends and same religion. Then I pretty much separated from all of those things in the same year. It was crazy and it was really therapeutic to write about all of it. I don’t keep a journal or anything and that was my journal I guess. I liked the music aspect too because you can totally put all of your emotions down. I think getting all of it down into songs really helped me organise all of my feelings about it. Sometimes I forget how crazy that is, it happens to most kids that they graduate from high school and everything about their life changes. In my case 90% of my friends went on Mormon missions, but I don’t really consider that a tonne different from most kids’ stories where they go off to college.”

You drifted away from your Mormon upbringing, what led to that decision?

“When I was fourteen or fifteen I started thinking, ‘OK, maybe this isn’t totally the truth?’ I think that moment was when one of my church teachers said there was no evidence of one species turning into another species like talking about evolution. I was like ‘no, there totally is’, then I started looking into everything and reading up. I knew that Joseph Smith the founder of the Mormon church did some really messed up things, and I found it really interesting that nobody mentioned any of this widely known stuff. Then I started thinking about the LGBTQ world and how if I was gay going to church as a kid that would really really suck. Just the way I was always taught about stuff like that. I stopped believing and I didn’t tell anyone for a really long time because I was scared of how everyone would react. I told my parents when I was eighteen and they were really cool and supportive but it was pretty scary that process.”

In contrast, the track that broke you through is almost a spur of the moment thing, does this play into how you might develop your sound and keep momentum?

“I see my future stuff sounding more like my first album rather than the cover. It is hard to stay true to yourself, if this song is doing so well, there’s a part of me that’s like, do another pop cover and keep building off of that. I wouldn’t be super happy doing stuff for the streams or whatever, even if I did try to do that, I don’t think it would necessarily work very well because if you’re trying then it comes across less genuine. I’ve been working on the next album for a while, almost like a year. Right now I just have a bunch of starts and half-songs that I’m working on finishing. I do hear about momentum a lot, there’s a lot of capitalise and we’ve got to make sure we make the most of this moment and stuff. I can see the importance of that from a streaming standpoint, I think I’ll probably just put stuff out when I want to put it out.”

Want more NME?

Subscribe to our mailing list here to be kept up to date on all things music and pop culture.