Jack River is the founder of a brand new show Electric Lady, featuring Australian artists alongside Australian astrophysicists, actresses and aeronautical engineers. And they are all women.
Jack River is a songwriter/producer/artist from NSW's mid north coast who came onto the scene last year with her debut EP Highway Songs No. 2. Audiences have instantly fallen in love with her music which Rolling Stone described as "dirty pop doused in glitter with whispers of a Mexican sunset." With songs like Talk Like That and Palo Alto, Jack River in undoubtedly one to listen to, especially if retro rock/folk/electro pop with a multidimensional voice that can sound like both Gwen Stefani and Courtney Love is your thing. If her music wasn't impressive enough, Jack River - whose real name is Holly Rankin - has dreamt up a brand new show that is coming to Melbourne and Sydney in just weeks. Electric Lady is an all-female stage show headlined by Bec Sandridge, Ali Barter (read our interview with Ali Barter here), Gretta Ray (read her Music Love interview here), Alex Lahey, Jack River herself, and supported by girl groups Body Type and Rackett. It's a dreamy line up. But, again, that's not quite the whole story. Holly has also decided if this is the moment for Australian women, and indeed women around the world, she wanted her fellow musicians to share the spotlight with extraordinary women doing very cool things. In the lead up to the event, Holly has curated a list of Australian women of note, including astrophysicist Dr Katherine Mack, surfer Tyler Wright, actress Isabel Lucas and aeronautical engineer Belinda Pavlovic. Holly took some time to tell Music Love all about Electric Lady, her long list of favourite Australian women in music, and how supportive the Australian music industry can be.
What does music mean to you?
Woah, big question. Music is everything to me. It has "grown me up", it has been my parent, my friend, and my lover. When I was a kid I wanted to be the prime minister or a lawyer. I wanted to change lives and the way people thought (that old world peace thing), but as I grew up and obtained my own personal gods in the likes of Joni Mitchell, The Doors, Jewel, Neil Young, and Bob Dylan, I realised that music really is a universal language, and whenever hard things have happened in my life, I turned to music. It's this invisible world that we can all understand - the mix of emotion, space, time, neuroscience, science, sound waves - it overwhelms and encapsulates me.
On a fan level, I still get psyched like a thirteen year old about Lorde releasing a new song, I still listen to songs on repeat (right now its Aldous Harding’s Horizon), I turn my car radio to the Arabic station and drive for hours to Arabic music, I don’t go to the airport without thinking of what song I will play when the plane is taking off and landing, and I am constantly over dramatising reality to the soundtrack in my headphones.
How did the idea for Electric Lady come about?
I am constantly dreaming up ideas in the back of my diary, and they usually revolve around a revolutionary feeling in the air and how it could be packaged up and shared, to make it bigger. Electric Lady had been in my diary for a while, but I thought I would need more of a ‘name’ to get it together. Last year however, with Trumpitis affecting the western world, and the incredible rise of the Women's March movement, my girlfriends in music and I began wondering how we could contribute. I think I probably mentioned it to Lisa Mitchell first, who loved the idea, and then I talked further to Ali Barter, Gretta Ray, and gals like Montaigne and the I Know Leopard crew. I called up The Factory Theatre to ask about rates and dates and two girls got back to me and wanted to meet ASAP to make Electric Lady happen (Carol Bowditch and Geneva Valek). At the same time, I had a cool conversation with [Australian surfer] Tyler Wright about women in music and surfing, and how cool it would be to all speak to each other more, and to connect. Noticing the huge amount of energy around the idea, I took all these conversations to my team who run [the music festival] Grow Your Own, and we decided to act on it!
How did you get the incredible line up for Electric Lady together?
I wrote out my dream line up and went after it! All of the artists were really into the vision, so I persisted to find the perfect date, and eventually settled [on 30 June and 1 July]. We approached a few other artists too, but I think things always work out how they are meant to, and the other artists who couldn’t be on this bill, will hopefully jump on another Electric Lady bill in the future. The agents behind Electric Lady have also been SUPER into Electric Lady from the beginning (and are mostly girls too) - so that has been a blessing, and very encouraging as a newfound promoter!
Tell us about your decision to include non-musical Australian women like Isabel Lucas, Katie Mack, Tyler Wright and Belinda Pavolvic?
The feeling of Electric Lady, from the beginning, was as much about culture and ideas as well as music. I had conversations with Isabel and Tyler that were of similar note to the conversations I had with the girls on the line up - we all felt the zeitgeist/buzz in the air, and we wanted to express that, and try to cross-pollinate that feeling through our industries. I read about Belinda Pavlovic in the Australian Financial Review, and she was feeling the same thing in her world too. Same with Molly Taylor. So, the Electric Lady team and I devised a plan to involve them as best we could at the level we are at. Laura Polson from Electric Lady and I are hugely into the idea of cross pollinating industries. I feel like collaboration and communal thinking is definitely the way of the future!
What is something you have learned about the Australian music industry in your own experience?
I have learned that the industry is a super small place full of incredible people who are mostly, totally willing to jump on board an idea or vision. Though, in saying this, I have also learned you have to push through a lot of doubt and fear of failure to make something new happen. I am coming to enjoy the feeling of failure though, 'cause I’m figuring out that it truly is the space where you learn the most.
When did you decide a career in music was for you?
I don’t know if I qualify as having a complete career yet, but I have just kept writing songs, and wanting to share them with people since I was seventeen. I don’t stop writing, and I feel like it would all be wasted if it stayed in my diary. Creating worlds and sonic experiences and poetry to make life clearer, better, or more fun for people is a pretty fun dream, so I will be sticking to it for a good while I think.
Who are your favourite Australian women in music?
There are SO many great women in music right now. My team at Mushroom is girl heavy: Ella Cochrane in publicity, Blaise Sherrie in label management, and Sarah Donelly, Siobhan Kranz and Linda Bosidis. These women have become music business confidants and heroes to me. Monique Rothstein at Positive Feedback is an amazing force, and a woman who takes on A LOT and nails it. In the outer industry, Claire Collins and Cathy Oates are inspiring women who do things their own way, and, then there are super incredible managers like Rachael Tulloch (Vance Joy, Amy Shark) and Jodie Regan (Tame Impala) and Mel Cheng who are the poster girls for hard work paying off.
What is your favourite place in Australia?
Would have to be my home town, Forster. Its beauty/wilderness never gets old to me.
When you wake up after the inaugural Electric Lady events are all over, what do you want to feel you have achieved?
I want to know that over 700 people came to the Electric Lady shows and felt metaphorically electrified and at peace that there is a huge future for women in Australian music. I want to wake up and feel like it's just the beginning and feel bloody stoked to have fifteen new best friends who I will forever know as the first ever Electric Ladies.
Electric Lady comes to Sydney's Metro Theatre on Friday, 30 June 30. Tickets: $65.70. Buy here
Electric Lady comes to Melbourne's Corner Hotel on Saturday, 1 July. Tickets for $65.70. Buy here