Jack River: the woman doing it all at once

Jack River has risen above those around her as the glittering star of Australian pop rock. And while it would seem like the woman behind the sparkle Holly Rankin couldn’t get any larger than life, she has expanded her empire to found independent festival Grow Your Own and the all-female Electric Lady.

With an album in the works and the first single Ballroom just released with a killer music video, she is moving at lightning pace and all we have to do is try and keep up.

Jack River by Rebecca Enya Lourey
Illustration by Rebecca Enya Lourey

A musician, a festival organiser and an example for women everywhere. Holly Rankin is proof you can do it all at once, and she’s shouting it from the rooftops.

Conversation opened on Ballroom and that spectacular clip. Jam packed with her signature lavish rock and roll glamour, you want to look everywhere. Filmed in an old basketball court, the clip for Ballroom was just as much about capturing the effervescence of Jack River as it was redefining her understanding of the music she loves.

“I had this dream to make this Killers, Bruce Springsteen feel. Something a bit more rocky which I feel like pop music is lacking at the moment”.

Working with renowned videographer and creative Matt Savill, Rankin laughed lightheartedly when she identified the most challenging element of the process.

“There wasn’t anything shit about making this one, usually there is something. We were working with Matt in Perth and trying to organise to shoot it in one day, we were in this basketball court that looked through to an indoor pool, trying to work all that into the shot was pretty interesting to navigate.”

So how did the young up-and-coming songwriter decide that music just wasn’t enough? You can’t speak with Rankin and not deviate from Jack River to her multiple side projects, when While Grow Your Own and Electric Lady pretty much speak for themselves.

I was interested to hear the fully story of Rankin’s transition from popstar to entrepreneur.

“I guess since I was really young I’ve been interested in so many different things and whatever I do, I know that there will be another thing… as I became more engaged and interesting in the music industry, there were things I wanted to use my contacts for and work with my friends on.”

“It happened really naturally, as a musician in the beginning you do have so much spare time and I started Grow Your Own as a distraction and a way to start my own business. And then with everything in the media about equality and women and lineups we started Electric Lady, and I had no idea the brand would connect like it did.”

Having been to an Electric Lady, and having read countless rave reviews about the camaraderie behind Grow Your Own, it would appear that almost without knowing it, Rankin is reshaping what it means to be a part of music in Australia.

Rankin is hardly the first to have taken this latest wave of feminism and run with it. Bands like Camp Cope and RACKETT have shouted from their stages, urging audiences to see the brilliant power of women in performance.

Meanwhile the likes of Alex Lahey, Bec Sandridge, Stella Donnelly and Ali Barter have all taken their craft and steered music towards a bigger conversation for female empowerment through storytelling and sometimes brutal honesty.

With this in mind, I asked Rankin what her catalyst was for Electric Lady, and embarking on such a bold female-minded mission.

“Seeing the women’s marches in 2016 on the television… seeing millions around the world and the pure side of all those people made me want to do something… and I thought what on earth can I do in my industry to contribute to this global movement? That awakening of ‘wow there are just so many people out there’, and ‘this is a moment in our generation where something is happening’, and I wanted to contribute to it.”

In the midst of all of this, we can’t forget that Rankin’s first project was Jack River and that balancing this many plates must be a less than easy task. I was curious to see where she put the most energy and of all the side projects she has taken on, which is the priority.

“They’re all really separate for me. My music comes from such a big weird personal place, it’s the diary that I write in late at night and on my own and has nothing to do with making a festival… but in in the beginning you have to kind of lean on your contacts to get it out there.”

“It is really hard and I still work 8am to 9pm at the moment. I really have to do some time management, and I always prioritise Jack River. It’s my first baby, before every day I look at what I have to do and make priorities and I have a really amazing team for each project. Those people help keep me on track.”

Jack River is one of those people who seems to radiate confidence and a self-assured wit that is difficult to come by, especially for such a passionate juggler of multiple projects.

Secure in her intent and empowered by her own sense of purpose, to say that Holly Rankin will not take Jack River, Electric Lady and Grow Your Own to extraordinary heights is laughable.

She is the embodiment of the idea that women can and will do anything they set their mind to, a fearless voice for those who stand beside her.