Everyone’s life needs some sparkle in it. At least that’s what you realise has been missing from your own upon listening to Sugar Mountain, the radiantly magical debut record from Australia’s glittery pop-star, Jack River. When we last spoke nine months ago, Jack River’s offstage alter ego, Holly Rankin was a mix of emotions as the release of her debut was fast approaching. Now almost one year since its release, a few ARIA nominations and sold out tours later and the singer/songwriter is as humbled as ever by all of the opportunities that have come her way. One of which will see her in New Zealand in a matter of days.
“The response to the album was overwhelmingly beautiful,” Rankin sincerely admits. “I got so many beautifully personal responses and to meet so many amazing people on my tours has been a very freeing process. I was putting out some pretty personal ideas, feelings and concepts with this record and I’m really happy I did that because it has been an amazing mass healing experience.”
“I’ve always found it quite hard to connect to the online media and online reception of things,” she confesses, “there’s just something so rewarding about meeting people in real life and hearing their stories. When you play a headline show you know that those people have listened to your music and they’re there for a reason and seeing how important it is to them and understanding the impact it has made is very special. It really helps you realise that all of those years you put into it were worth it.”
Alongside selling out her own Jack River headline shows, Rankin has more recently completed a stint of supporting British superstar Florence & The Machine throughout Australia, before heading to New Zealand shores for the Harvest Moon Concert Series this month alongside Angus & Julia Stone and Bic Runga. “As a support act you’re very aware that these people are there to see the headliner who they really love, but when you’re also a legitimate fan, you’re on the same level as the audience. So, for those shows with Florence and my upcoming shows in New Zealand with Angus & Julia Stone, I’m absolutely on the same level as everybody else, I’m a massive fan and it’s my job to just show them a little bit of Jack River first and see if they like it.”
“I haven’t played with Angus & Julia as a group, but I did tour with Dope Lemon, Angus’ project about three years ago,” Rankin reveals. “They’re both really good friends of mine who I have known for about ten years since the beginning of my career. I always run into them at very special times, so I feel like playing with them in such beautiful places will be very magic. The band and I are very excited to come to your beautiful country, we wish we could stay there forever!”
More excitement bubbles around the mention of her upcoming debut headline show in Auckland this weekend (Saturday 30 March). “We’re definitely always trying to make it sound bigger and better,” she says of her live show. “My dream from the beginning has been to create this big sparkly-pop sphere at my shows and now that we’re starting to play bigger venues we’re able to do that without blowing the speakers!” she chuckles.
“It’s very freeing to have to be there in the moment and not sway away from it,” Rankin explains, as we discuss performing. “It’s cool brain training to have to be so present and aware of everything that your voice is doing, especially for me everyday when my brain is off in other places and running at a million miles per hour. It sounds weird, but I also love looking at people and wondering what space they’re in at that time, it’s really interesting to watch people watching you.”
When it comes to Rankin’s busy schedule, it’s not just the life of writing, recording and touring as Jack River that takes up her precious time.. She’s also the wonder-woman behind Electric Lady Festival and Forster’s Grow Your Own Festival, which earlier this year hosted an incredible line up of Australian talent including Mallrat, Hockey Dad and DMA’s.
“Some days, like today, just feel like a big mess!” Rankin laughs when asked how she keeps up with it all. Putting it all down to an “evolving way of working,” it’s clear that she’s a very hard worker. “I’ve got an amazing team here who understand everything that I’m doing, but it’s definitely challenging as everything gets busier. I really love the balance of creativity, from touring as Jack River, which never gets boring, and then being able to keep learning about business and the backend structure of the music industry. They do go hand in hand and I guess it’s just about giving everything a bit more time and to continue having great people around who keep supporting and understanding my crazy ways.”
“When I go to a festival as Jack River it’s cool to look at the backend in terms of how it is being organised and always have a poised interest beyond the potential eery stuff that can take over your brain when you rock up at a festival. I think in a way, it also keeps me grounded,” she adds.
“I don’t write too much when I’m touring, I just kind of let songs come to me when they need. As life gets busier I definitely spend less time writing, but the quality of songs doesn’t change, because the best ideas will always find their way to you. It probably sounds crazy to the rest of the world,” she laughs, “but I also find it hard in a nature sense and a home sense. I love swimming in the ocean everyday, being at home and having that space, so not having that can be challenging when on the road, but it’s for a good reason and a very good cause.”
One strong idea that did breakthrough was her sugary 90’s pop collaboration (aptly titled SUGAR) with Australian electronic duo, Peking Duk, who she spent some time touring with last year. “Peking Duk are so much fun! They’re really lovely and energetic guys,” Rankin gushes. “It has always been on my list to step outside of what I’m creating as Jack River, even just for one or two songs and create something even weirder with the whole vision of candy and sugar-pops, so it was really fun. I’m definitely open to doing more of that with other artists too, although at the moment I’m back to focusing on the next Jack River phase.”
“I’ve been in the studio for the past few weeks working on something fun that we’re going to announce later in the year and I’m also working on a huge Electric Lady event which you will hear about soon. When we get back from New Zealand we’ll be heading to Groovin’ The Moo in Australia and then I’ve got my Australian headline tour in May/June which will be big, fun and scary. I hope to get over to the States and the UK later in the year, but I’m kind of enjoying doing things well down here first, so we’ll see how it rolls.”
She’ll also be back on New Zealand shores again in October for the final show of the Harvest Moon Concert Series. “New Zealand is a place where I feel like you need to spend a good week or two to absorb it and go a little bit wild instead of just rushing in and out. I’ve been to Queenstown on a skiing trip a couple of years ago and then I tripped around the North Island in a camper van, so I am definitely a member of the club and keen to renew my membership!”
In the meantime however, for those sitting on the fence about coming to Jack River’s headline show this weekend, in her own words; “You’re in for a big sparkly musical show and it will be as special as possible because it’s my one headline show in New Zealand and I can’t wait to meet you all!”
And in our words? You’d be a fool to miss it.