Hockey fan Nate Ruess planning some fun for NHL Winter Classic

Nate Ruess will perform at the NHL Winter Classic.
Charles Sykes/Invision/AP
Nate Ruess will perform at the NHL Winter Classic.

When the Bruins play the Canadiens on the outdoor ice at Gillette Stadium for the 2016 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on New Year’s Day, Nate Ruess will be there. The Fun. frontman, whose solo debut, “Grand Romantic,” came out this past June, joins American Authors and Jordan Smith, recent winner of “The Voice,” on the side of the festivities that don’t include whacking a disc with a long, flat stick. “I grew up a hockey fan,” says Ruess, “which is strange, because I lived in Phoenix. I’m an alt type of guy, so when I was growing up, I was like, ‘That’s going to be my sport, the sport that no one else is into.’ ”

With his band having been launched into the public consciousness with anthems like “We Are Young,” it might seem like an odd time to go on hiatus rather than build on its success, but that doesn’t concern Ruess. “If Fun. loses a whole bunch of momentum, there’s nothing a good song can’t fix,” the singer says. That faith in the power of music seems to go hand in hand with the open-hearted optimism threading through his best-known work, but Ruess is adamant that the real him is marked by something different: “Don’t say I lack cynicism.”

Q. How much pressure have you felt to make your solo work appreciably different from what you do with Fun.?


A. Probably none. I literally just [use] whatever songs come out of my head. And you utilize the people that you’re in a room with. So with Fun., it would be Jack [Antonoff] and Andrew [Dost], and then with this solo thing, it would be [collaborators] Jeff [Bhasker] and Emile [Haynie]. Everybody brings something kind of different. But as far as where the songs are starting — which is in my head — all the song lyrics, all the melodies, all those songs, even just stylistically, those were things that were conceived either in the middle of the night or driving in my car or whatever it was. So I never think about how to change that just based on the personnel.

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Q. What’s been the most extreme incident of a song coming to you while you were doing something else that you had to stop immediately?

A. It’s happened in the shower a few too many times, where I’ll have to jump out and I worry about slipping on the floor or damaging my phone with how much water is coming off of me. The middle of the night can be tough if you’ve got a significant other and you don’t want to wake them up. And also if you want to go back to bed. I think all my best songs I’ve lost because I was just too tired to hit “record.” And a lot of times, I will be too tired to hit “record” and then I’ll wake up the next morning and it’ll still be in my head, and I kind of look at that as a sign.

Q. Whether with Fun. or on your solo album, your songs are deeply uncynical, almost defiantly so, which often can go against the grain of rock music. Is that something you ever are consciously aware of, or is that just the unfiltered unconscious philosophy of Nate Ruess?

A. Did you say deeply un-cynical?


Q. Uncynical, yes.

A. Oh, I find them to be very cynical.

Q. So songs like “Some Nights” or “We Are Young” or “Nothing Without Love,” you see them. . .

A. Oh, those songs are maybe some of the least cynical [I’ve done]. No, I consider myself to be a very cynical person. I’m trying to think if “Some Nights,” there was some cynicism in that. Yeah, it’s weird that you point that out, because I’ve never really . . . I am not conscious of whether I’m being cynical or not. So when you point that out, it’s kind of disappointing. I’d much rather be cynical, to be honest.

Q. “Just Give Me a Reason” is another one that’s pretty heart-on-its-sleeve.


A. I’ll give Pink credit for 70, 75 percent of those lyrics, so that’s OK. But even she writes cynically. I guess there’s just interesting ways of doing it. Now I’m going to spend the afternoon trying to figure out where I’m cynical and where I’m not. I guess I just figure [that] in life I’m such a cynical person that it’d have to show up in my writing.

‘I grew up a hockey fan, which is strange, because I lived in Phoenix. I’m an alt type of guy, so when I was growing up, I was like, “That’s going to be my sport, the sport that no one else is into.” ’

Q. I feel like I may have just broken you in some way.

A. Yeah, you’ve definitely, like, glitched me out.

Q. I didn’t mean to make you self-conscious about what you do.

A. No, you should see me right now, just going though my head. Because “Carry On” isn't cynical, either. Uch! If I ever write another song again, it will be extremely cynical.


At Gillette Stadium, Friday at 1 p.m.

Tickets: $95-$440.

Interview was edited and condensed. Marc Hirsh can be reached at