Below, Rutter talks about why he wanted to cover Rae's song in particular, his recent record deal with Disruptor/Columbia and what he wants to discuss with the project's namesake, Sen. Mitt Romney.
Though it's now your solo project, Ritt Momney used to be a larger recording band. Would you ever want to return to that?
I’ve thought about that a lot and there are definitely pluses — I’m not great at guitar or drums. But with most of the songs being super personal to me, it has always been really important that it sounds like me. I think [a full band] might be something to save for when I know what I want to do more. Because it’s just a ton of experimentation right now. I’m still just a kid messing around in Logic in a lot of ways.
You released “Put Your Records On” in late April. How did it come together?
I was set to open on tour for Dayglow — we actually played two shows in Chicago and then the rest got canceled [due to the pandemic]. I came back to my parents’ house [in Salt Lake City], and I wanted to be productive, but working on something heavier just seemed like too much sadness at the time. So, I was like, let’s switch it up and do something super happy because it felt like that could be therapeutic for me. And it totally was. It was like how I used to put out music: work on something, finish it and then just throw it up on the internet. I was working on it over a couple of weeks, and I finished it at the beginning of April.
What is it about “Put Your Records On” that made you want to cover it?
You know the songs that you just have memorized your whole life? It was totally one of those songs for me. My mom really loves that song — around when it came out, she’d play it all the time. It reminded me of writing in the back of my mom’s minivan and a much simpler time. It has always been the epitome of a joyful, hopeful song for me.
It’s also just such a good song, obviously. I went through a pretty intense pretentious indie kid phase, where I had zero appreciation for pop music. But working on that song, I was like, “This is a really well-written song, objectively.” That part of me wanted to remind people about it. I wasn’t at all expecting anything that happened from it to happen. I was seeing it as a fun side thing that I could put out in between albums. But thank God for TikTok.
How does your process for recording a cover compare to creating original music?
Working on my own music is definitely edifying and therapeutic, but it’s intense. It’s hard for me to have a lot of fun working on music these days because there is all the pressure of [thinking that] these words that I’m going to sing right now are going to be there forever. The majority of the people in the world that know anything about me are going to only know these lyrics about me, and that’s just really heavy. It was really nice to just have fun producing something. I’ve always really loved production.
Why is it important to you that fans are listening to Rae’s original version, too?
Songwriting will always be the main driving force behind how much anybody likes a song. I think people give me way too much credit for doing cool production because it’s not the production that gets people dancing to it or makes people really like it. It’s the fact that it’s just a really good song.
You signed a record deal with Disruptor/Columbia in September. What was that process like? Why is this the right home for you?
It was a crazy few days. The TikTok stuff started happening and then the streaming numbers started going up a lot. And then my manager was like, “Hey man, we’ve got five calls today, five calls tomorrow and six calls the next day.” It was pretty intense. But we’ve actually been talking to Disruptor for over a year now. It just felt right. When they said, “We don’t just care about this song, we really like what you’re doing with the project,” that was the one group of people that I could fully trust on that.
For Columbia, my manager and I were really impressed with the people there. They’re really music-minded people, and the deals they offer are super artist-friendly. I don’t think I want to do the whole, sign to a major label, go super pop with everything [route], and they made it seem like that’s not something they’re going to pressure me to do. They’re going to help me if I need help with stuff and with the songs I’m working on — and if I don’t want their help, then they’re going to stay out of my way. They’ve done a great job of that so far.
You mentioned earlier your former lack of appreciation for pop music. Has that shifted at all since you’ve achieved a Hot 100 entry with a song rooted in pop?
That’s definitely something I’m grappling with. I’m just trying to look ahead to new music — ideally, this isn’t the only thing that people will know me by, but if the stuff in the future isn’t as accessible, and not in that same realm of the pop charts, I’ll be totally fine with that.
As you’ve noted, “Put Your Records On” is noticeably different — both lyrically and sonically — from your 2019 album Her And All of My Friends. Is there a concerted effort on your part to direct your new fanbase to that album now?
I haven’t really been pushing that on [the new fans]. I’m really all about the idea of artists changing. People hear an artist’s music and they’re like, “Oh, that’s who that person is.” And then, that came out three years ago, and the artist is now a totally different person. I’m going through a crazy period in my life and stuff is changing, obviously. So, I think that the new stuff I’m working on will be more representative of who I am right now then that will be. But obviously it’s cool for people to listen to that and to know my story.
Can we expect new music from you soon?
I’m in the early stages of working on an album. It should definitely come out at some point next year. I think it’ll be more in the sonic and lyrical realm of the Her And All of My Friends, as opposed to “Put Your Records On.” But it’s such a cool opportunity to know the “Put Your Records On” cover has opened the door up to so many more people that’ll listen to it, even if it’s just once. I’m excited about it.
Lastly, have you interacted at all either with Corinne Bailey Rae or Mitt Romney now that you’ve got some buzz?
My manager is talking to Corinne Bailey Rae’s manager in some capacity. I don’t want to get my hopes up too much, but I think that we might do an interview at some point. That would be awesome. As far as Mitt Romney, no. I’m sure he has grandkids that have heard the song and let him know about it, but I don’t know. Maybe I’ll set up a meeting some time and go talk abortion rights.
A version of this article originally appeared in the Nov. 7, 2020, issue of Billboard.