Nathaniel Joseph "Nate" Ruess (born February 26, 1982) is an American singer and songwriter. He is the lead vocalist of indie pop band Fun. and previously of The Format. As of 2015, he also performs as a solo musician.
Ruess was born on February 26, 1982, in Iowa City, Iowa to Larry Ruess and Bess Zinger. He is the younger of two children, having one sister named Elizabeth. His uncle, John Ruess, was a performer on Broadway and served as an influence for Ruess' musical ventures.
In 1986, his family moved to a farm in Glendale, Arizona, due to repeated bouts of pneumonia Ruess faced as a child. Ruess remained in Arizona throughout his childhood and attended Deer Valley High School, graduating in 2000. During his time in school, Ruess played in punk bands and upon graduation chose to pursue music professionally. In an interview with American Songwriter Ruess states, "I'm not one to take lessons, so I decided that the only way I was going to learn how to sing, if what they were saying was true, was to go in my car and put on any sort of music from a vocalist that might be really hard to mimic, turn it on as loud as possible and try to hit all those notes". He took a job in a law firm as a way to support himself while he pursued his musical ambitions.
In 2002, at the age of 19, he launched the band the Format with his longtime best friend, Sam Means. The Format was his first musical endeavor to gain widespread attention.
2002–08: The Format
After forming in 2002, the Format released a five song EP, titled EP, which generated local interest and led to the band being signed to Elektra Records in 2002. They released their first studio album, Interventions + Lullabies, on October 21, 2003, leading to more local mainstream success. The band's fanbase began to grow, and the Format released their second EP, Snails, with Atlantic Records in April 2005. However, while working on their second album, Dog Problems, they were dropped from Atlantic. They eventually created their own label, The Vanity Label, and released the album on July 10, 2006. On February 4, 2008, Ruess announced through the band's blog that the Format would not be making another album.
We have just put out word that we will not be making a new Format album. Please understand this was a tough decision and we're both upset about it. While we accept there will be false speculation as to why, understand that Sam and I remain extremely close and in fact are still passing the Twin Peaks box set back and forth in an attempt to figure out who REALLY killed Laura Palmer.
We also want to thank everyone with and within the Format, particularly Mike, Don, and Marko, whom without, none of this would have ever even been fully realized. We both suggest you support their musical talents and whatever they decide to do. And lastly we want to thank the fans who made this the best 5 years of our lives.
Immediately after the split of the Format, Ruess contacted Jack Antonoff of Steel Train and Andrew Dost, formerly of Anathallo, to form a new band called Fun. They released their first demo, "Benson Hedges", through Spin's September 20, 2009, article. Four months after releasing their first single, "At Least I'm Not as Sad (As I Used to Be)", through Myspace on April 6, 2009, Fun released their first studio album, entitled Aim and Ignite. The album received generally positive reviews and peaked at 71 on the Billboard 200.
The band's first tour happened in 2008 supporting Jack's Mannequin and gained exposure opening for them as well as Paramore in 2010. On August 4, 2010, Fun announced that they had been signed to the Fueled by Ramen label.
Their second album, Some Nights, was released on February 21, 2012, and featured production by Jeff Bhasker. The album's first single, "We Are Young", which features guest singer Janelle Monáe, was released September 20, 2011. The song was covered on Glee in December 2011 and featured in a Chevy Sonic commercial during the Super Bowl in February 2012, and reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 on March 8, 2012. The album has become a success throughout the world, selling nearly three million copies. The album's title song, "Some Nights", reached number 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and reached number 1 on the Alternative Songs chart.
On February 10, 2013, the band won a Grammy for their song "We Are Young". Upon receiving the Grammy, Ruess commented, "I don't know what I was thinking writing the chorus for this song. If this is in HD, everyone can see our faces and we are not very young. We've been doing this for 12 years and I just got to say we could not do this without the help of all the fans that we've had keeping us afloat for the last 12 years." Fun also won the Grammy for Best New Artist.
Alongside Fun, Ruess had been a supporting vocalist for many different songs across genres. In 2012, he was featured on "Only Love" from Anthony Green's second solo album, Beautiful Things, and in 2013 was featured on Pink's album, The Truth About Love, in the song "Just Give Me a Reason". The song began as a simple songwriting session with Pink. She decided the song needed another side to it and subsequently a male part was written. While at first reluctant, with Pink encouraging him, he decided to participate in the duet. The song eventually topped the US Billboard Hot 100, becoming his first number-one single as a solo artist and his second overall. After the success of "Just Give Me a Reason", Ruess was featured on Eminem's eighth studio album The Marshall Mathers LP 2 on the track "Headlights". Many of Ruess' lyrics were borrowed from a previously unreleased track, "Jumping The Shark," written during the Aim and Ignite sessions.
On June 18, 2014, Fun debuted a new song on The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon called "Harsh Lights". It would be the last new Fun song performed before Ruess' pursuing his career as a solo artist, however the band has made it clear that they are on hiatus, not splitting up.
2014–present: The beginning of his solo career
On February 5, 2015, Fun posted a letter on their official website as a note to their fans on the status of the band. The band wrote that "there was no new Fun album in the works", and instead all three members were pursuing their own projects, including Ruess; who is beginning to release an album, as a solo musician.
Fun was founded by the three of us at a time when we were coming out of our own bands. One thing that has always been so special about Fun is that we exist as three individuals in music who come together to do something collaborative. We make Fun records when we are super inspired to do so. Currently Nate is working on his first solo album, Andrew is scoring films, and Jack is on tour and working on Bleachers music. The three of us have always followed inspiration wherever it leads us. Sometimes that inspiration leads to Fun music, sometimes it leads to musical endeavors outside of Fun. We see all of it as part of the ecosystem that makes Fun, fun.
In an interview with Rolling Stone, Ruess added, "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. I'm writing and singing these songs about myself. When you work with producers versus bandmates, that line becomes a lot less blurry."
In addition to his solo album, Ruess was invited to perform on Brian Wilson's album No Pier Pressure. Wilson, who co-founded the Beach Boys, likened Ruess' voice to his deceased brother and former bandmate Carl Wilson. Ruess then contributed as a guest vocals to the frequent collaborator Emile Haynie's 2015 release, We Fall. Ruess' then released his first single from his debut album, titled Nothing Without Love, which was sent to the alternative radio on February 23, 2015.
On March 23, 2015, he made the first of multiple appearances, as a guest advisor on the eighth season on The Voice. On April 6, 2015, Ruess announced his debut album would be called Grand Romantic, and it will be released on June 16, 2015. On April 27, 2015, Ruess released the opening track from his debut album Grand Romantic, titled 'AhHa'.
In May 2015, he released another song, titled "Great Big Storm", in honor of the announcement of his tour. On June 1, 2015, Ruess released an new track from debut album Grand Romantic, titled "What This World Is Coming To". The song features guest vocals from American singer-songwriter and musician Beck; it was released, in honor of the countdown to the release for his new solo album. On May 31, 2015, Ruess made his debut, as a solo artist with his newly formed backup band called The Band Romantic. He performed in Utrecht, Netherlands at the intimate Tivoli/Vredenburg Cloud Nine location. The set list comprised the 3 released tracks from Grand Romantic, several as yet to be the unheard tracks from the same album, as well as several of his other creations; including his band's Fun, with their singles, Some Nights, We Are Young, Carry On, and his award winning duet with Pink from her successful single "Just Give Me a Reason". On January 1, 2016, Ruess played during the 1st period intermission at the NHL Winter Classic in Foxboro, MA.
On January 12, 2016, he released a music video for his song 'Take It Back' starring Patrick Fischler who is known for his acting in the shows, Once Upon A Time, Mad Men and LOST and also features a guitar solo from Jeff Tweedy of the band Wilco
- For Ruess' releases with the Format, see the Format discography
- For Ruess' releases with Fun, see Fun discography
|Title||Details||Peak chart positions|
As lead artist
|Title||Year||Peak chart positions||Album|
|"Nothing Without Love"||2015||77||14||24||6||90||Grand Romantic|
|"Great Big Storm"||—||30||—||—||—|
|"What This World Is Coming To"|
|"—" denotes a single that did not chart or was not released in that territory.|
As featured artist
|Title||Year||Peak chart positions||Certifications||Album|
|"It's for the Best"|
(Straylight Run featuring Nate Ruess)
|"Kill Monsters in the Rain"|
(Steel Train featuring Nate Ruess)
(Anthony Green featuring Nate Ruess)
|"Just Give Me a Reason"|
(Pink featuring Nate Ruess)
|2013||1||1||1||1||4||1||1||1||1||2||The Truth About Love|
(Eminem featuring Nate Ruess)
|45||21||—||54||—||—||60||—||—||63||The Marshall Mathers LP 2|
(with various artists)
|"—" denotes a single that did not chart or was not released in that territory.|