Ritt Momney reflects on 2020, that viral cover and why pop music gets a bad rap

Ritt Momney reflects on 2020, that viral cover and why pop music gets a bad rap

Words by August Billy

2020 has been the worst year ever, right? But what if that hasn’t been your experience of it? What if this was the year that all of your dreams came true?

That’s more or less how it’s felt for 21-year-old songwriter Jack Rutter, who releases music as Ritt Momney.

Born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah, Rutter formed Ritt Momney a few years ago. It was initially an indie-rock band that included a bunch of Rutter’s high school friends. However, it gradually morphed into a solo project, which was the case by the time of Ritt’s debut LP, 2019’s Her and All of My Friends.

It’s an album of melodic and loquacious indie-pop that’s largely unrestrained by genre barriers. The record introduces Rutter as a natural melodist who’s also unafraid to make swift transitions from buoyant, piano-led sing-alongs to sequences of ambient slide guitar and who’ll place rootsy guitar numbers next to hip hop influenced ballads.

But Her and All of My Friends isn’t responsible for making 2020 Rutter’s best year on record. Back in March, during the first wave of coronavirus lockdowns, Rutter returned to his parents’ place in Salt Lake after all of his upcoming tour dates were cancelled. With time to kill, he recorded a cover of Corinne Bailey Rae’s 2006 hit ‘Put Your Records On’.

Fast forward to December and ‘Put Your Records On’ has soundtracked a viral TikTok craze, reached the top ten in Australia and New Zealand and seen Ritt Momney ink a deal with Disruptor/Columbia Records/Sony Music Entertainment Australia, which means Rutter is now label mates with The Chainsmokers.

“It’s pretty weird,” says Rutter. “I definitely wasn’t trying to do anything more than just put out a fun, uplifting little cover and it turned into kind of a career-defining moment.

“It’s interesting because this cover is so different from what I usually make and from what I plan on making in the future. So I’m really interested to see what the ‘Put Your Records On’ fans think of my new music. I’m excited to have this many people giving it a chance though.”

None of Ritt Momney’s previous releases come close to matching the streaming figures of ‘Put Your Records On’. The cover has gained more than 170 million Spotify streams, while the next in line (‘Something, In General’ from Her and All of My Friends) has seen just shy of five million streams.

But while Rutter’s been unexpectedly thrown into the pop sphere, his take on ‘Put Your Records On’ not only captures the essence of the original, but provides an apt introduction to the music of Ritt Momney.

“I really didn’t want to overthink it, because I had been dealing with some writer’s block stuff and production has always been such a fun part of the process for me,” Rutter says. “So just being able to have this song that was already written and I could just have fun with the production, it really felt like I was doing what I wanted to do with the production and I just let my instincts take over a little bit.

“It’s definitely a pop song, like the root of it is a pop song, but I considered it an indie cover in a lot of ways. But it’s interesting, if something gets picked up by the mainstream, it becomes known as pop, no matter what.”

Rutter was just six years old when Bailey Rae’s original came out in 2006, but it made a big impression on him, largely due to how often his mum would play it.

“My mum would always have music playing in the car and it was like The Beatles and Ingrid Michaelson and like a lot of pop-leaning stuff. If you listen to my music that I have written, the melodies and the structures of the songs are usually really pop-leaning and I think that’s because I have ingrained in my head from my childhood, ‘Well these poppier melodies are good melodies’.

“When I really think about it, I do really notice that the music my mum would play in my childhood really influenced me.”

Despite this recognition, Rutter has tended to shy away from mainstream pop music in recent years.

“Coming out of high school, I found myself in this pretentious indie kid mindset,” he says. “Like, ‘Oh, that song’s on the radio? That means it’s bad’.”

Since familiarising himself with ‘Put Your Records On’, however, Rutter has started to change his tune. “I was listening back to that song because I remembered it and thought it could be a cool song to do a cover of and I was like, ‘This is an objectively good song’,” he says.

Rutter’s happy to let go of his pretentious indie kid phase, but that doesn’t mean he’s about to make a complete artistic overhaul. The success of ‘Put Your Records On’ has won him a whole new audience, eager to observe Ritt Momney’s next move. But even if his upcoming releases aren’t as directly accessible as Bailey Rae’s original, Rutter’s outlook is clearer.

“Now I think it’s the stupidest thing ever [to be] like, ‘I don’t like this because so many people like this’. This whole experience has helped me get past that and recognise good music for the music and not for the way it’s received.”

Ritt Momney’s cover of ‘Put Your Records On’ is out now. Listen to it here.

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