Written by: Jocelyn Van Saun | Photo(s) by: Courtesy of Ritt Momney
Artist Spotlight: Ritt Momney
Name: Jack Rutter
Hometown: Salt Lake City, UT
Fun Fact: “I went to the high school where High School Musical was filmed, East High School. I missed the filming, but I have friends whose older siblings were extras. There were always people coming through for tours. Sharpay’s pink locker is still there.”
How’d the stage name Ritt Momney come to be?
“It was the name of the band I played with, mainly senior year of high school. All my friends went on LDS missions after we graduated in 2017, so it was early 2018 that I started releasing solo music. The name came from my friend’s basement when we were brainstorming, I guess. It was kind of meant to be somewhat subversive and it stuck.”
Who are your biggest musical inspirations?
“James Blake will always be a name that I need to say for that. When I really first started falling in love with music, listening and starting to write and produce a little bit, his first self-titled album was my favorite thing ever and it’s definitely still in my top three. Feist is also a huge inspiration for me. She’s one of those artists that my mom really liked and passed on to me. Her album Pleasure is one of my favorites, for sure.”
When did you start playing music?
“My older brother was one of those really naturally talented musicians. He was playing the piano and singing “Apologize” by One Republic for the sixth-grade talent show and I was super jealous. They brought a piano out to the center of the stage and got him to wear some sort of top hat and sunglasses and I was like, ‘Man, I really want to be like that someday. This is the apex of popularity.’ So, I started teaching myself to play piano. I definitely wasn’t good at singing right off the bat, but I still just loved to mess around and play the piano and sing.”
You were brought up in the LDS Church, but later left. What was that like?
“It was one of those things where I didn’t realize how much of my childhood was kind of weird until I was out of it. Even today there will still be moments where I think, ‘Wow, I really used to do that, or I really used to think like that?’ I’ve also come to accept it a little more. I think a lot of people that have that sort of religious falling out would agree that there’s a period where you think, ‘There are no redeeming qualities of this,’ but more recently I’ve started to see it more for what it is.
My family has always been amazing, I couldn’t have been raised in a better way. The toxicity and exclusivity of the church was very weird and hard to grow out of and it was uncomfortable to leave, so I wish that was less of an issue, but I had an amazing support system growing up. My whole family is still really in it, but I’ve been really surprised by how cool they are with my leaving. There was a long time where I was really just planning on pretending for the rest of my life, but everything has worked out super well, way better than it does for some people.”
What previous albums and releases do you currently have out?
Sunny Boy – 2021
“Put Your Records On” – 2020
Her and All of My Friends – 2019
Sunny Boy – Ritt Momney
What’s the story behind your cover art?
“My manager had been following this Japanese artist, Kentaro Okawara, and told me I had to check out his paintings and I loved it. So, I hopped on a Zoom call with him and we eventually were able to collaborate. I couldn’t be happier with all the art he’s done.”
Recently you posted a cell phone number to reach you at on Instagram. Where’d that idea come from and how’s it going?
“It’s through an app that I just open and respond to messages directly. I’m just trying to dedicate an hour or two every day to responding. It’s been really fun just seeing people’s messages saying something like, ‘Hey, I really connect with this song for this reason. Thanks for making it.’ It’s just a cool way to connect with fans and it’s been a reminder of why I love making music.”
The last two years were a difficult time for musicians everywhere, with tours and live shows being put on hold. What was it like having your career sort of take off during that time? How did you stay motivated?
“It was wild. I was going to open for Dayglow on tour. I drove from Los Angeles to Salt Lake City, drove from there to Nashville to pick up the drummer I was going to play with. Then we drove from Nashville to Chicago, played two shows there and then it all got cancelled because of COVID.
At first I really thought it’d be an opportune time to be a solo musician, so I worked on and released “Put Your Records On,” but then just could not work on anything else. That was when I realized I needed to interact with people in order to get inspiration to write. It ended up being a lot harder for my process than I thought it was going to be. But all-in-all I was very fortunate and in any other circumstance, I don’t know if “Put Your Records On” would’ve taken off the way it did.”
Right, with over 400 million plays on Spotify, your cover of Corinne Bailey Rae’s “Put Your Records On” is your most listened to track. How did you decide to cover that song?
“I wanted to cover a happy, pop song. My fans knew my stuff tended to be sad and more introspective, so I thought it’d be sort of ironic. Part of that decision was also thinking, ‘Nobody, including me, can handle another sad song right now,’ but I also didn’t think I could write a happy song. “Put Your Records On” was a pretty obvious choice. It brings back a lot of really positive memories from my childhood.”
“Put Your Records On” – Ritt Momney
When did you notice it really taking off and how did that feel?
“It was pretty insane. My girlfriend would watch TikToks and saw multiple videos of this makeup trend done to my cover, so I started watching them. It was meteoric, the way the trends happen on TikTok. It was like three days of intensity and a ton of videos being posted. Within that week we started seeing streams going way up and were talking to major labels.
The biggest takeaway I’ve had from all of it was that this success in the numbers and money isn’t going to make me happy. When it was taking off, it put me in a worse mindset. I was immediately thinking things like, ‘Oh no, it got less streams than yesterday. That’s the worst thing in the entire world’… I’m really fortunate that it happened of course and now I’m able to comfortably make whatever music I want to. I can take a breath and really know that that isn’t something I need to be chasing. I don’t need to really cater to anybody because I’ll be okay, at least financially, for a while now.”
Have you ever interacted with Mitt Romney or Corinne Bailey Rae?
“I had a Zoom call with Corinne Bailey Rae and that was awesome. It was at the height of the viral TikTok videos and I was feeling really overwhelmed by the worries of the falloff of it. She told me a similar thing happened to her with her original release of “Put Your Records On,” but said you just have to keep making the music you want to make. She basically was telling me that the extreme, sudden attention won’t make you happy in the long run. It doesn’t really work like that. She was so nice and helpful to me; it was a really awesome conversation.
I haven’t talked to Mitt Romney ever and I don’t think I ever will.”
What current projects and new releases are in the works?
“Right now, I’m mainly just getting ready to go on tour in February. That’s going to be so fun.”
Where can we see you play?
“I’ll be performing a double header to my hometown fans in February. I’ll be at Kilby Court on February 25th and The Complex on February 26th. At Kilby, I’m planning on just getting a piano on stage and playing through the album on piano. It will be an intimate, softer kind of thing. So, if people want to see the full-on show with a band and everything, you’d want to get a ticket to The Complex as well.”
What’s been your favorite past show?
“I played two shows at Kilby Court in 2019. That was the last time I played live in Salt Lake City and those were really cool shows. That’s also where I played my first eight or so shows ever, so I’m super excited to be back there. I want to be going to Kilby Court for the rest of my life.”
Where is a dream venue you’d love to play at one day?
“I’m not a huge concert-goer myself. My preference is a smaller, more intimate venue. I’ve
played at The Roxy Theatre, and of course, back to Kilby Court. I’ve played at a lot of venues that would be contenders for a dream venue. I don’t know how I feel about singing to a sea of people where not even a face is visible.”
With 2021 coming to a close, what are some of your hopes and goals for 2022?
“Professionally, I want to settle in more to the music. I still sort of feel like I don’t know exactly what my sound is, maybe that’s an eternal search that will never end. I’d like to listen to my instincts more and kind of let them make more decisions rather than trying to think my way into a good song. Just feel it more.
Personally, it’s kind of that same concept. Just trust myself more instead of trying to build myself into this person that I think I’m supposed to be, just try to settle into the person that I already am and be more okay with that.”
What do you want fans to feel when they listen to your music?
“I just want them to feel something as strongly as they can, no matter what that emotion is. With this new messaging thing, I’ve gotten a lot of texts saying, ‘Oh this song made me feel like this,’ and even if that wasn’t my intention in writing it, it’s cool that music can make different people feel different things. I just want my music to provoke emotion.”
Tickets to Ritt Momney’s show at Kilby Court on February 25th are currently sold-out, but you can join the waitlist here. Tickets to his show at The Complex on February 26th can be found here. For more information, visit his website.