Exclusive: Nate Ruess on Going Solo and the Future of fun.
“You get a little selfish about the songs that you write, and it’s really hard to do that in a group setting, where there are two other people, and you have to think about everybody else’s feelings,” Ruess says. “I’m writing and singing these songs about myself. When you work with producers versus bandmates, that line becomes a lot less blurry.”
Of course, there was the matter of informing those bandmates that there would be no new fun. album. Ruess admits that the news wasn’t received well when he told them late last summer. “I handled things poorly. It was a sloppy, long, kind of ‘Guys, I’ve got something that I really want to do, and I need the opportunity to do that,'” he says, in between diplomatic pauses. “The emotional me got in there, but I was gonna be a lot happier making this album by myself.
“Sometimes when you act, you just act like a fool,” he continues. “You just hope that you learn from it.”
Sitting in producer Emile Haynie’s studio in New York, Ruess definitely seems like he’s learned a few things. For starters, he’s stopped making sweeping generalizations: When asked if fun. are truly finished, he answers, “No, that would be speaking in definitives, and we don’t do that.”
And based on the new songs he played for Rolling Stone, he’s realized that ambition isn’t a bad thing. His still-untitled solo album (tentatively due out this summer) is brimming both with stadium-sized anthems – “Nothing Without Love,” which he says will be the first single, is a worthy successor to “We Are Young’s” stomp and scope, and “Great Big Storm” follows the same ELO-illuminated path as Some Nights‘ “Why Am I the One” – and quiet ruminations like “Take It Back,” a somber ballad punctuated by a guitar solo courtesy of Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy.
“Getting that from him was the biggest gift of my life,” Ruess laughs. “Emile and Jeff both kind of fell to the floor after they heard it.”
But mostly, Ruess has learned how to be happy, both professionally and personally. There are plentiful mentions of it on the album: “I’m ready to free/this grand romantic in me,” he sings on the opening track, “Ah Ha,” and “Take It Back” has him declaring, “Every single black eye has some blue.” And his new relationship has brought with it a new outlook on life. While the future of fun. may be murky, for the first time, Ruess isn’t worried about what happens next. Instead, he’s content to enjoy the now.
“For so long I had this chip on my shoulder, but when everything’s going great, the chip kind of disappears,” he says. “I want everything to work out with this album, because I love it, but at the end of the night, I end up in bed with one person, and that’s what puts me to sleep.”