HOLLY Rankin can hardly believe her 2018. It’s fair to say many of her dreams were fulfilled.
She released her debut album, Sugar Mountain, as her alter ego Jack River to rave reviews from music critics, who were wooed by her emotional brand of pop-rock.
Then she toured the record nationally to further acclaim in front of packed audiences.
Anyone who witnessed her sold-out Cambridge Hotel show last September came away knowing River was a seriously accomplished performer and songwriter.
Amid the spotlight of her burgeoning career, Rankin was quietly planning in the background the third annual Grow Your Own music festival, scheduled for Saturday in her hometown of Forster-Tuncurry.
“I was definitely working around the clock last year,” Rankin says.
“I’ve never released an album and didn’t know the amount of work that goes into it, but it’s super rewarding and I saw it as a year where it was maximum work and hopefully it’ll come with reward.”
Those rewards are coming to fruition. Much like Jack River, Grow Your Own is also experiencing a boom period.
The festival is expected to attract more than 3000 punters to Tuncurry’s Harry Elliott Oval, a 50 per cent increase on last year.
This has been driven by an impressive line-up, featuring Sydney Britpop act DMA’s, surf punks Hockey Dad, indie mainstays The Preatures and Jack River herself.
“I try to stay really conscience of having a diverse line-up and coming from the country I do look for bands who have come from the country when booking Grow Your Own, because that’s part of our philosophy,” Rankin says.
“There’s a few more elements for me, but every promoter has their special interest area and their personal passion for booking.
“Being a musician I obviously know so many amazing people in the music industry, so I can try to call in favours, but when you’re working at this level it’s still quite strict.
“I try to add some magic in where I can.”
The signing of headline act DMA’s, arguably one of Australia’s biggest indie bands, was certainly where Rankin was able to “add some magic.”
READ MORE:DMA’s on earning British respect
Rankin’s friendship with DMA’s guitarists Johnny Took and Matt Mason dates back to her late teens when she organised the Sydney Young Folk Festival in 2011 and 2012 at Sydney University.
Took played solo on the bill and Mason performed with his former band Night Owl. The pair met backstage, became instant friends and pledged to write together.
Last month Took told Weekender he held Rankin “semi-responsible for me and Mason meeting and DMA’s starting up in that regard.”
Rankin laughs at hearing Took’s story.
“It’s so cool to have them back here six or seven years later after we’ve all put this time into our careers and gotten to somewhere kind of great,” she says.
Rankin’s interest in the music industry has always extended beyond simply writing, recording and performing. Besides the Sydney Young Folk Festival, she also curated Forster’s Farm Festival.
Rankin takes a hands-on approach in all aspects of her career with Jack River and believes all musicians should.
“The artist is really at the centre of the business and they always should have been, but now it’s very obvious,” she says.
“Everything has to run through the artist’s camp and their fingertips are the face of the business on Facebook and Instagram.
“So it definitely literally pays to know what’s going on and make those decisions for yourself because a lot is changing and you need to be aware of the changing rights and income streams.”
Jack River is set to continue her rise in 2019. There’s support shows for Florence + The Machine and Angus & Julia Stone over the next month, but they won’t compare to performing at Grow Your Own.
“The community here have been so supportive in the past couple of years and it’s so nice to be able to come home and play because I didn’t get to tour here on my national tour,” she says.
“I’m really looking forward to that. Playing in your hometown is a really emotional thing because you know these people have been there with you and they know you and how hard you’ve worked and for how long.
“Whereas in the city, it’s amazing, but you’re playing to a sea of strangers. Here, it’ll be amazing to look out and see my friends and family.”
Grow Your Own is on Saturday at Harry Elliott Oval in Forster-Tuncurry.