Irish pop star Jack Rua opens up about new music and intimacy in isolation

As the pop star's new single 'Isolation' prepares to drop, he fills us in on being creative during a pandemic.

A stylish young man wrapped in Christmas lights in front of plastic sheeting

With the world on stand-still, many are feeling lonely, isolated, and frustrated. Jack Rua has channelled this energy into his music with new song, ‘Isolation.’

A staple of the Irish pop music scene, Jack Rua began his musical journey at the age of 15, first for a rock band, and then as a soloist. He performs with a subdued flamboyance, his stage presence typified by visually striking outfits, silky pop melodies, and themes of monogamy, desire, loneliness, and empowerment.

So it’s all very different to chat to him on Zoom as he takes sips of tea from a “big, smelly red mug.” “Can you pretend it was an actual tea cup?” he asks. “Say it was something pretentious as well, like jasmine. Jasmine and ginger.”

Although he attempts to side-step honesty in relation to his drinking habits, the same cannot be said for his work on the new single: ‘Isolation’ is a brutally candid exploration of the effect lockdown has had on his life. Singing through pounding pop rhythms and glittering electronics, he describes the entanglement of frustration and loneliness he has felt.

The second verse, for example, leads with, “I try / Thinking about you / Let my hands go where they want to / Close my eyes and picture it.” In the chorus, Rua sings “Isolation / Is taking a toll on me / I’m going crazy for your touch, baby.”

A young man lying on the ground in front of plastic sheeting

The visuals depict the singer moving through an apartment, clasping plastic sheeting that covers furniture, his bed, his face. Laced throughout are shots of him caressing his bare skin. There is a clear desire for physical and emotional intimacy throughout the track and ensuing video, and frustration at being unable to attain it all.

“I showed my mother and she was gasping at the lyrics,” he laughs. “I wasn’t like, ‘I want to sing about sex.’ It was more just, it was literally present in my head,” he says. “I had just got into a relationship, and we were in the honeymoon stage of our relationship. It was the first two months where you can’t wait to see each other, and you should be enjoying the bliss of that, enjoying those feelings. Then all of a sudden, we couldn’t see each other for two and a half months.

“I really missed sex. I mean, the song is not entirely sexual … Even when I tried to get distraction from sexual gratification from masturbation, it would remind me how I’m still missing human interaction. I was talking generally about how I miss this other person or these other people.”

The video is directed by artist Eleanor Rogers. The pair decided to work together in mid-July.

“We were doing Zoom calls and we were just fleshing out ideas,” says Rua. Stylistically, black and white clothes, and slicked-back hair give the impression that the singer is “dead or going to a funeral.”

“But I can’t,” he continues. “You need to go somewhere, but you can’t. But you’re still going to get dressed up for it and give yourself some form of normality.”

The video ends with Rua ripping through the plastic. On the other end, however, is still an isolated world of plastic-covered furniture. It is the constant struggle for normality we have all been experiencing in recent months. “We all thought that life would be normal in May, but it’s not. Even when I break through, I am still stuck,” he says.

A young man lying on the ground in front of plastic sheeting

Thankfully, lockdown has not inhibited Rua’s productivity. His music is made remotely. “I mostly collaborate with people who are in different countries,” he says. “Isolation was produced by a duo over in LA called BTWN. It’s almost like business as usual.” His live performances have suffered though. “I was meant to be doing this gig in the Button Factory. We started rehearsing for it, and then the next thing is the restrictions come back in, and we can’t rehearse, but you also don’t know if the gig is going to go ahead because it’s probably going to get fucking cancelled again because of another lockdown.

“I can adapt to the recording situation, but everything else is, you know, ‘how am I going to adapt to having to go to a radio station to do an interview?’ or ‘how am I going to adapt to doing concerts or rehearsing with people?’”

Rua collaborates with other creatives in his work. As well as Rogers, he works closely with multimedia visual artist Luke Faulkner, aka PureGrand, who has helped him with photography. Independent musicians in Ireland often rely on each other to produce work. “There’s just not the resources there for us to have a PR person, unless you want to spend over a thousand euro and all that sort of stuff, so I do delegate a lot of things,” he says.

“I’m lucky I have creative friends I can collaborate with, like Luke. Not to say that I don’t pay Luke! We have a friendship where that we can work together without it being insanely expensive.”

Independent musicians also multi-task as producers, directors, and stylists. Is it a difficult juggling act? “It can be really rewarding. I’m really proud of the mini-album, Narcissus, that came out. I was the executive producer, I wrote all the lyrics on the album, I wrote most of the music on the album. I co-produced a lot of it. Me and Luke came up with the ideas for each video. So, having that out in the universe gives me pride.

“But sometimes if something comes out and it doesn’t do as well as you want it to, then it’s that whole sinking feeling of being like, ‘oh what’s even the point of putting out all this work and investing so much money if it’s not going to connect with people?’”

Rua, however, is working towards a point where he no longer feels hopeless if a project fails. “It’s very rare that the first thing you ever do is going to succeed. You have to continuously fail in order to learn how to succeed.”

If this new music were to succeed, what does Jack Rua hope people will take from it?! “That I am a pop star,” he says. “But no, I hope people can connect with it. I hope people will get some release from it.”

Isolation’ is set for release October 16, with the video to follow on October 22. Keep up to date with new music from Jack Rua here.

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