If you’re looking for an upbeat song for the summer, Jack Rutter — aka Ritt Momney — is not your guy.
“I almost am incapable of writing a happy song,” the 19-year-old singer-songwriter from Salt Lake City said in a recent interview. “For whatever reason, I’m so much more able to write a song about something that’s really sad. ... Artistically, I have a major affinity for despair.”
In some songs on Ritt Momney’s debut album, “Her and All of My Friends” — which will be released on Friday, July 19, with concerts that day and the next at Salt Lake City’s Kilby Court — Rutter writes and sings about breaking up with a girlfriend. In others, he explores the emotions of breaking off from the religion in which he was raised, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“Writing the songs about my girlfriend, in the thick of the breakup, felt very much the same to writing about the church when I was in the thick of that whole situation,” Rutter said. “It’s really interesting to draw comparisons.”
The girlfriend is part of the origin story of Ritt Momney. That was the name Rutter and his friends at East High School gave to the band they formed their junior year. There wasn’t much of a thought process behind the name, a spoonerism of Utah’s junior senator and the czar of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
“We live in Utah,” Rutter said. “We thought, ‘That would be funny.’”
Rutter wrote the songs for the band, and his bandmates added to them. They put out a four-song EP, “Young Adult,” but Rutter wasn’t satisfied with the results.
“It wasn’t me producing the stuff,” he said. “We would go into a studio and pay a guy to record it and produce it. That wasn’t very appealing at all.”
After the EP was released, Rutter and his bandmates, and his girlfriend, graduated from high school. His girlfriend went to college, at Brigham Young University’s satellite campus in Hawaii. The guys — “pretty much my entire group of friends,” he said — went on missions as Latter-day Saints.
Most of the songs on “Her and All of My Friends” were written just after his friends and girlfriend left, Rutter said. He produced them himself, in a spare style alternately called “lo-fi” or “bedroom pop.” He kept the Ritt Momney label, because “it’s kind of fun to have a name that you sort of go by,” he said.
A typical take on his breakup is this verse from the song “Pollution — Disclaimer”:
“This started out with a vie for attention from an ex.
And I’m the most creative when I’m an emotional wreck.
Every happy song I’ve written ended up pretty bad.
And it’s hard to smile when they only cheer if you’re sad.”
“That breakup was really, really tough,” Rutter said, adding that it inspired “sort of everything I was writing about for a long time.”
Another song, the album’s first single, “On Love (An Alternative Response to Almitra’s Request),” was inspired by Kahlil Gibran’s famous 1923 collection of prose poems, “The Prophet.”
The song, Rutter said, “is sort of a general commentary on love, in the same way in Kahlil Gibran’s book, each chapter is a general commentary on something.”
The songs on the album are presented in roughly the same chronological order in which they were written, Rutter said. The earlier tracks tend to be shorter, “more small world, telling ’This is exactly what happens in my life,’” he said, adding that the later songs are longer and more fully formed, when Rutter was “able to organize my thoughts better,” he said.
Some of those songs — notably the second single, “(If) the Book Doesn’t Sell” — are about his questioning of his Latter-day Saint faith, something with which he’s been wrestling since he was a sophomore in high school.
“When I was a senior or something, it was still sort of a secret that I was hiding from my family,” Rutter said. “I was fully considering going on a mission, just so I didn’t have to tell anybody I didn’t believe in it.”
In “(If) the Book Doesn’t Sell,” Rutter imagines he’s having a conversation with God and the devil. “What I’m concerned about is the truth,” he said. “I ask God, ‘Are you lying?’ God’s response is, like, ‘Do you see all of the good that comes from it? All these people are hopeful. Why wouldn’t you want to see all of your loved ones when you die?’”
Depression is also a theme in Rutter’s songs, and writing those songs is “a form of therapy,” he said. “When you know what’s going on in your head, but you know it’s negative, it’s harder to feel at peace with that. But if I can write something, and explain that to myself, it gets a little easier.”
Ritt Momney in concert
Salt Lake City singer-songwriter Jack Rutter, who performs under the stage name Ritt Momney, will celebrate the Friday, July 19, release of his new album, “Her and All of My Friends,” before a five-date West Coast tour in August.
Where • Kilby Court, 741 S. Kilby Court (330 West), Salt Lake City
When • Friday and Saturday, July 19-20, at 7 p.m. each night
Opening acts • The Backseat Lovers and Kipper Snack open on Friday; Blue Rain Boots and The Sardines open Saturday.
Tickets • At Ticketfly.com. Friday’s show is sold out. Tickets for Saturday’s show are $10 in advance, $12 on the day of the show.