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Jack River Talks The Upsides Of Having An Alter Ego & Achieving Her Dream Of Playing Splendour In The Grass

Written by Sarah Bellamy on July 3, 2018

Jack River is the pseudonym of Holly Rankin, a singer-songwriter and producer originally hailing from the small, coastal town of Forster, NSW. Now based out of Sydney, River is set to release her much-anticipated debut album Sugar Mountain this month. The success of her 2016 EP Highway Songs No. 2 gained her national attention, with Rolling Stone praising it as “dirty pop doused in glitter with whispers of a Mexican sunset”, and the breakout success of single ‘Fool’s Gold’, which has over four million plays on Spotify alone.

The multi-instrumentalist has also branched into the events management side of the music industry, with her company Hopeless Utopian responsible for the all-woman Electric Lady tours and the annual Grow Your Own festival in Forster. Speaking of festivals, did we mention she’s playing Splendour this year? Damn, hectic!

We caught up with Jack River to talk about her reasons for performing under an alter ego, her favourite track from Sugar Mountain, and her dreams for the future.

Music Feeds: Have you been busy this morning?

Jack River: Yeah, it’s the first big press day for the album, so just chatting away!

MF: What do you have planned for the rest of the day?

JR: Tonight I’ve got a Spotify listening party on! We’re actually doing a really big event at an ice-skating rink, so I’m very much looking forward to that.

MF: That sounds so cool! Are you going to be ice skating as well?

JR: I am, yeah! Everyone will be ice skating to the album, so I’m pretty keen.

MF: That’s such a good idea! How’d you think of it?

JR: I just made a list of dreams, like, the album is about kind of creating some other teenage youth and an ice skating party was on my list of dreams, so we made it happen and Spotify loved the idea! It sounds pretty exciting and I’m pretty keen to get there!

MF: Do you have a favourite track on Sugar Mountain?

JR: Yeah, I guess ‘Constellation Ball’ – that song just took so long to write, it was written over three years or so. I had this secret mission to write a song not about love, but about the planets, which is my dorky other passion. That song took so long to write and put together, and it’s amazing to have it on there, completely mixed and mixed by Spike Stent, who is one of my favourite mixers on the planet.

MF: The themes behind Sugar Mountain seem very emotional and close to your heart. What was the process like for writing an album like that?

JR: I wrote it very naturally, somewhat unconsciously. I wrote it to heal my brain and looking back I’ve realised how important it was throughout the past eight years. I guess I just did it, and then realise now how powerful it has been.

MF: You’ve mentioned you take inspiration from influences such as Joni Mitchell and Neil Young. What elements of those artists do you try to incorporate into your own creations?

JR: With Neil Young I really find his music and lyrics just to be so personal. Like so many artists that I love, he doesn’t need to explain things, like the lyrics are quite nuanced and secret, in a way, they’re not super literal. I love that way of writing and think that it’s pretty lost from pop music, you know, that kind of quiet honesty. For Joni Mitchell, probably just her lyrical tenacity. She would never write a shit lyric, and that’s something that I hopefully never want to do [laughs]. I really have quite a passion for words and making sure each lyric is something original in the world.

MF: Why did you choose to perform under an alter-ego?

JR: I chose it when I was a lot younger, and I’m happy that I chose it. I guess it just gives you an opportunity to step into another world and not worry where you’re going or how far you’re going in your imagination or like, your passion. You can be so OCD and detailed and not worry that you’re going crazy or something. For me it’s like, it’s a really nice way to have no boundaries in whatever I’m working on. It makes or a kind of limitless process, I’m not scared to do anything and I’m not restricted by who I am as Holly the person.

MF: How’d you feel when you found out you were playing Splendour In The Grass this year?

JR: It was definitely like a career highlight! I think it was probably the first time I’ve taken my music extremely seriously, ‘cause it really is a dream of mine, like a childhood dream – to play Splendour. So when I found out I was playing it was like ‘wow..’, you know? Ten years on from going to my first Splendour it’s pretty incredible to be playing it and being one of the people that someone out there’s keen to come and see.

MF: Who are you keen to see on the lineup?

JR: Lorde and MGMT! They’re like some of my favourite artists ever, so I’m very keen to watch them.

MF: What artists or albums are you listening to a lot of lately?

JR: The first thing that comes to mind is Angel Olsen. When I’m really busy or going through a lot I find her albums really grounding and like, meditative. They bring me back to Earth wherever I am, and I love her a lot. So, Angel’s probably my go-to at the moment.

MF: Do you have any tours in the works for the rest of 2018?

JR: Yeah, I do! I’m touring in September, doing my album tour and coming around the country. That’ll be really exciting – playing some the of venues that I’ve also seen my favourite artists play over the years, so it’s pretty surreal.

MF: You’ve mentioned a few times having dreams that you’ve been aiming for that you’re now achieving. What are some other dreams that you wish to achieve?

JR: Oh, so many, very many! I can’t wait to tour the US and the UK, or like the world, properly. I guess just getting the music out there to as many people as possible. I’m also working on lots of stuff with Electric Lady, like growing that in the US and the UK, so that’s a pretty big dream of mine right now, it’s something that I’m working on alongside Jack River.

MF: What got you into doing the events and bookings side of things, like Electric Lady?

JR: I created Electric Lady and Grow Your Own from scratch, and direct those. I just kind of made them because I had spare time in music, and wanted to create a festival in my hometown, and then eventually wanted to inspire women to have zero boundaries in our music industry. I just love making things and organising things and it’s just like an album really, except an event.

MF: What’s been your favourite moment from creating an event?

JR: It’s definitely like, standing back towards the end of an event and knowing that you’ve done it and seeing people enjoy it, and just being completely in the moment. As the organiser it’s quite hard to like, experience the magic, but the other people experiencing the magic of an event that started as just a little idea in your diary is pretty cool!

Jack River’s debut album Sugar Mountain is out now! Catch her performing live at Splendour In The Grass 2018 and Yours & Owls 2018 as well as her own headlining dates across the country this September (below).

Jack River – Sugar Mountain 2018 Tour Dates

Tickets on sale now

Thursday, 13th September
Adelaide Uni Bar, Adelaide SA (Lic. All Ages)
Tickets: Official Website

Friday, 14th September
Corner Hotel, Melbourne VIC (18+)
Tickets: Official Website

Friday, 21st September
Rosemount, Perth WA (18+)
Tickets: Official Website

Wednesday, 26th September
The Cambridge, Newcastle NSW (18+)
Tickets: Official Website

Friday, 28th September
The Metro, Sydney NSW (Lic. All Ages)
Tickets: Official Website

Saturday, 29th September
The Triffid, Brisbane QLD (18+)
Tickets: Official Website

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