Jack Rua is an Irish based singer-songwriter who synthesizes elements of electropop, glam rock, disco and house into his own swaggering, signature sound. In other words, his music is very G-A-Y, which makes him the perfect to be part of our series of queer underground features for Pride month!
Jack made an impact earlier this spring with his solo debut single, “Scarlet A.” Part cabaret-style pop romp, part Scissor Sisters-inspired dark disco delight, the song made a huge splash and even topped the iTunes charts in his native Ireland. Jack’s music is impressive for several reasons. His recordings are slick and polished and ready for mass consumption. Jack has also done his homework and seems steeped in the musical knowledge of pop’s history and knows what he’d want to do with it. Rather than chasing trends, he’s composing solid tunes that sound informed by a host of queer pop predecessors, resulting in a sort of modern classic style that transcends the current moment and aims instead for a timeless sound.
Case in point, his forthcoming single, “Ego,” is a gorgeous, classic pop house banger with fellow Dubliner LOGUOS. This is a very hot record, steeped in drama and attitude, with Jack’s effortlessly soulful vocals transport the listener to dancefloor heaven. “I know there’s space in this bed for my ego, baby/so why don’t you make it for me?” he demands over a sublime piano riff and galloping kick drums. “Ego” will be released July 5 (MARK YOUR CALENDARS!) and proves that “Scarlet A” was no fluke, and that Mr. Rua’s star is undoubtedly one to watch as he ascends the ranks of the underground pop scene.
POP NOTES: You are based in Dublin, Ireland, right? Can you tell me about where you are from, and how that has influenced your sound (if at all)?
JACK RUA: Yes, I’m from Dublin, and I’ve lived here for the vast majority of my life. Even though Dublin is the biggest and most populated city in Ireland it is still pretty small and insular, everyone pretty much knows everyone! I would say that the biggest thing that it has influenced me about Dublin is the feeling that I don’t really fit in here. There are so many talented artists, and fantastic musicians, and a lot of them are great friends of mine; however, I’ve always felt like a bit of an outsider. Maybe this is negative or silly, but it’s true to how I felt. There came the point where I had to decide: did I want to give up trying to fit into a space that I didn’t necessarily feel at one in, or do I carve my own space and no longer give a fuck what people think? I eventually chose the latter and decided to pave my own way. So thank you Dublin for that! I’m the man I am today because I once never truly felt like I could be the man I am today.
POP NOTES: Scarlet A definitely has a glitter/glam rock vibe! Can you tell me about your earliest musical influences?
JACK RUA: Yes, it definitely does have that energy, even if it’s not quite as apparent because it’s electronic! It actually used to be a glam rock song with live drums and more driven guitar lines. It’s funny cos some of my biggest influences now are the musicians that my dad would play in the car or around the house, but at the time I didn’t care for them. Artists like the Beatles, Bowie, Springsteen, Joni Mitchell, and Paul Simon would always be playing, but when I was really young I was OBSESSED, and I mean obsessed, with the Spice Girls (particularly Ginger Spice) and then Britney Spears. As I got older, I got really into musical theatre and Disney soundtracks. I developed a love for Amy Winehouse’s music, but when I first heard the song “The Fear” by Lily Allen, something in me clicked. I remember listening to that song for the first time and thinking that maybe I could write songs. And it’s funny because my love for Lily Allen’s music opened the floodgates and made me do a full 180 and like all of the musicians that I was originally exposed to, like Bowie and the Beatles!
POP NOTES: You are a music student, right? What is your training/background?
JACK RUA: I was! I graduated from a college in Dublin called BIMM, which is a course that offers a BA in Commercial Modern Music. Basically, it teaches you all about the modern music industry, and at times it can be like the rocker version of the Glee club or something. There I learned about business; publishing; production; performance and of course songwriting and singing! I met some of my best friends in that place, and it really taught me so much about music, and how to be a better performer and artist. Before that, most of my background came from music theatre and church choir singing, apart from my brief stint in a pop-punk band! I performed as Seymour in Little Shop of Horrors, the Artful Dodger in Oliver!, Teen Angel in Grease and one of the Bad Idea Bears in Avenue Q! I also received classical vocal training (although I’ve forgotten a lot of my technique!), and I learned how to play piano and guitar which I now use to write my songs!
POP NOTES: This incarnation of your solo project is being described as a reinvention–can you talk a little about what came before?
JACK RUA: I used to perform with a band, under the name Jackal. We were what I like to call a “fusion pop” band with influences stemming from rock, dance, funk, soul, and theatre. It started with my classmates from college, and I released a sort of successful song called Groundhog Day under that name, which was an alt-pop song with rock and cabaret influences. However, there came the point in 2016, where I kinda lost my passion for that project. I wasn’t really able to express myself as well, and I didn’t feel connected to it. So I did what any unsatisfied artist would do: I moved to New York City and lived there for a year. That’s where I started to shape as a person, and this, in turn, affected how I saw myself as an artist and my approach to my art.
POP NOTES: How did you come to work with tenderhook? What about Michael Heffernan?
JACK RUA: Well, tenderhook and I went to college together! He’s a really really talented dance producer and musician. We would spend days in his house working on music, which was a really fun project. We recorded a version of Scarlet A, and although it was very good, I felt like it needed another input that would take it to the next level. I was aware of Michael because of his production work with artists like Gavin James and Dermot Kennedy, and he brought the track to life.
POP NOTES: Who would you love to collab with?
JACK RUA: I am obsessed with Leland’s music and his songwriting. He’s written for some of my favourite acts, like Troye Sivan and Allie X. I think that would be absolutely sickening to write with him, I think we have pretty similar styles and I just really love his melodies. John Congleton is one of my favourite producers, he did a lot of St Vincent’s self-titled record, and I’d love to see how he works and see what he’d do with my music. In terms of the whole romantic idea of sitting in a room with candles lit and a grand piano, writing a classic song, it’d have to be Lorde because I’d love to get to know just a fragment of that amazing brain. Also Slayyyter, just cos she’s a fucking legend.
POP NOTES: Are there any non-musical influences that shape your work?
JACK RUA: The poetry of Silvia Plath influences my lyricism. I’ve always been influenced by theatre too, not just musical theatre. I love plays by John Patrick Shanley, Martin McDonagh, and Henrik Ibsen. The way dramatic plays unfold fascinates me, and I love picking apart scripts and discovering symbols and motifs. Also maybe this is a really basic answer, but my parents are two of my favourite people in the world and if I can one day be as fantastic as they both are then I will be a happy man.
POP NOTES: What are you working on next?
JACK RUA: I have songs dropping left right and centre! I’ve been working on a song with my good friend LOGUOS, which is an absolute banger and kinda starts off the themes that I’m going to be exploring in my music, mainly “identity.” That may or may not be coming out in the next month or so. I’ve also been working with Porridge, an insanely talented dance producer who I went to college with. We have several songs together, and this is where you’ll really start to hear the Jack Rua sound. I’m so excited for the coming months; there’s going to be lots of new music.
POP NOTES: Where can we find you online?
JACK RUA: My socials are all under the name jackruamusic (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram). My website is www.jackrua.com. Scarlet A is out on Spotify, Soundcloud, Apple Music, Tidal etc etc. and the music video will be on YouTube. Follow me on everything, it’s free (unless you wanna buy my music wink) and I have so many exciting things coming!
Pop Notes is written + reported by @bunnymorgana_
POP NOTES is a series exploring the emerging universe of underground electronic pop music. Rather than try to name this musical ecosystem or define what it means in terms of genre or substance, Pop Notes will be profiling the many art stars that make up the vanguard of this exciting new wave of pop, in order to render a picture of this digital movement in its own terms. Like punk, rave, electroclash, and bloghouse before them, this is a scene bursting at the seams with a reality-warping diy energy that is undeniable, addictive, and seemingly poised for world dominance(??). Stay tuned for more profiles of exciting artists emanating from the online pop scene!