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He came third in the third series of The X Factor. Second in Cleo’s Bachelor of the Year Awards. And first in the most recent season of Dancing With The Stars. He’s the ex-concreter from Balcatta, WA, whose hung up his hard-hat to fulfil his dream of becoming a singer. Cream chats with Johnny Ruffo about life in the limelight, tongue-in-cheek lyrics, and the tribulations of nicking down to the local deli in his trackie daks for a simple pint of milk.
Interview by Antonino Tati.
So how did it feel performing to your Perth audience at Westfield recently?
To see the amount of support I get from Perth is great. And Perth is my home town so I love getting back there as often as I can.
Now you’ve come a long way since coming third in the third season of The X Factor. How different are things for you personally now compared to back before then?
Very different. I can’t even walk down the street now without getting noticed. Which is a great thing, I guess… it means I’m doing something right! It really is such a great feeling to get so much support.
So do you get stopped at the shops by screaming girls?
Yeah, I don’t really go shopping now. Most of time if I try to go shopping, I get stopped and end up taking photos all day so I hardly get any shopping done. So I end up doing a lot of shopping over the internet.
You might need a personal assistant soon. So you’re saying you can’t even go down to the corner store in your trackie daks to buy a carton of milk and feel alright about doing that?
Well luckily, where I’m living currently, there’s a deli downstairs so I sometimes sneak down in my trackies and singlet to grab a quick carton of milk or something.
Until the fans discover that address and you’ve got to move, right?
Did you ever imagine as a teenager that you would get this far so soon?
I always dreamed about it but I never imagined that it would happen so it’s kind of a dream come true but it’s definitely different to what I imagined. Mind you, you get used to it after a while.
And what about as a kid, did you always dream of becoming a singer, including holding a hairbrush in front of a mirror or getting into SingStar on PlayStation?
Well there was no SingStar when I was younger [laughs] and I feel old saying that! But I definitely always dreamt of becoming a singer. I’ve been performing since I was 12 so the dream’s been there for a very long time.
What do your family think of it all?
My family’s very supportive. Now I’ve just got to keep working hard and hopefully keep making good music.
We’ll talk about the current single soon, but you had some attention a little while back on Dancing With The Stars. What if you had to pick one art form as a career: singing or dancing, would the decision be an obvious one?
I’d definitely pick singer.
Would you still like to be in control of choreography; perhaps go down that Michael Jackson route of keeping a strong focus on both singing and dancing?
Well I love both singing and dancing so I definitely want to try and keep incorporating both into my performances, and hopefully just get better and better at them.
You’re working on your debut album; what’s it shaping up like?
It’s sounding really good. There’s some very fun tracks on it. Some upbeat, cool songs to dance to; some good, anthem-like songs for people to sing along to; and some slower songs for people to listen to when they just want to chill out and relax.
And you’re working with a variety of song writers?
A lot of different song writers, and hopefully I can get some more co-writing happening, maybe even a duet. I’d like to co-write on all the tracks if I can but if a good song comes up that someone else has totally written themselves, I’d be happy to sing it.
Who would be your ideal person to do a duet with?
I’d love to do a duet with either Justin Timberlake or even Justin Bieber.
You might even give either of them a run for their money if you appeared in a video together what with your slick dance moves.
I believe you’ve been working in studios both in Perth and in New York?
Yep, I’ve been working in studios in both cities, and hopefully will be working in a studio in LA soon, too.
Did you get so see much of New York while you were there?
I did. I was there for New Year’s and was at a private function in Times Square so that was fun. Now I want to keep working harder and hopefully get so see more of the world.
I find most young artists, as they’re seeing different parts of the world, they’re being inspired by their travels and some of that inspiration even goes into their songwriting and production. Do you think this might end up being the case with your future work?
I think travel really does help inspire you to write some good music.
When you’re writing or co-writing a song, what comes first usually, the lyrics or the melodies?
Both arrive at the same time, usually. I like to write everything together; bit of music here, bit of melody there, and then change things around in production later.
Have any of the songs you’ve worked on ended up drastically different to how they started? Something like a ballad ending up far more uptempo?
Certainly. You’ve got to be really open-minded when you’re writing a song because sometimes it ends up sounding totally different to how it began. I think you’ve just got to let the song take its course. If it needs to go into one direction and then another, then let it.
Ah, you just mentioned two key words there: ‘one direction’. What was it like supporting those guys on tour?
It was so much fun supporting them. They’re actually a cool bunch of guys, and I learnt a lot from them along the way.
Did they offer you some tips of how to cope when things with fans get really crazy?
Not really. But I kind of saw how it was for them so kind of gathered for myself what it’s like when it does get too out of hand. But those guys deal under the pressure really well.
With your current single On Top, the video is set in a day spa. Whose idea was that?
Mostly my idea. I wanted to come across as not arrogant and to just have a lot of fun with it.
It’s a clever concept where you play a bell-boy at the beginning but end up running the whole show including getting spoilt with a massage by the spa guests.
Aha, and that massage was the best part. Definitely my idea, that one!
Now there’s a line in the song where you sing , “I’ll be on top of the world when I’m top of you girl”. Aren’t you going to squash her?
[Laughs lots] Not at all. It’s just me being cheeky. But I definitely wouldn’t squash her!
Probably a silly question, this one, but do you think you’d ever go back into the concreting trade?
Hopefully I won’t have to. Fingers crossed I’ll be able to maintain the music career.
Would you agree that a good part of your charm is that you have come from a trade and become this national pop pinup?
Yeah, I think it helps. I think it shows that I’m a hard worker and pretty down-to-earth.
Finally, what do you see happening in 2013 and beyond?
Well I’ll be bringing out the first album; hopefully do a tour; then a second album; maybe even branch out internationally.
On Top is currently available on CD and on iTunes.
Johnny Ruffo’s debut album is slated for release later in the year.
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