Every couple of years an indigo child with undeniable talent and charm rises from the depths of the internet to the mainstream stage. These artists seem to share a common thread of irresistible catchiness and charisma that takes the world by storm. Ruel, the London-born, Australian-raised songsmith is next in this lineage. However, he comes equipped with a vintage layer that catapults him into a lane of his own.
In celebration of his debut EP Ready, we sat down with Ruel to talk about his relationship with M-Phazes, his love for Frank Ocean, his musical process, and his love for lasagne. With a passion for his craft and a voice that’s engulfed by R&B smoothness, there’s no doubt that Ruel is on track to becoming a superstar.
Ready feels like the mission statement for your journey into the music industry. How do you about the reception so far?
It’s going really great. It’s growing slowly which is what we wanted. I’m just happy to get it out because it has been three years in the making. I think I wrote over 35 songs for this project that I had to cut down to 5. The songs that didn’t make it could possibly make the next album. Overall I’m in a happy state of mind!
Three years is a long time and a lot of hard work. What do you think caused it to take so long? Was there a sense of indecisiveness throughout the process?
I think it’s because I’m still developing as an artist. I was only 12 when I really started writing. That’s when ‘Don’t Tell Me’ and ‘Golden Years’ came about. The next year I started writing with a good friend of mine named Thief, and we basically wrote a whole EP together. But I don’t know, I think we wanted to hold off so we didn’t go in too early. We waited for the best songs and were spoilt for choice. The only song from those early sessions that made the EP was ‘Don’t Tell Me’ – the rest were recorded within the last year.
As a child, what was it about music that impacted you and made you want to do this as a career?
My dad is a huge music nerd. He doesn’t play or anything but he’s just in love with music. He’s played it around the house since I was young – a lot of soul, R&B, jazz, and rap. I’ve been really well educated by him and I’ve had this love for music since. I bought my first CD when I was 5, and then my dad set up guitar lessons for me when I was 8 because I was really wanting to learn an instrument. I then started singing along with guitar because I found the guitar quite boring and it ended up becoming singing lessons from there.
What was the first CD you bought?
James Morrison’s Undiscovered.
You make pop music – but it’s mixed with a lot of soul and R&B. Who were some of the artists that influenced you into becoming the Ruel we know today?
Man, there’s a lot, and it keeps on changing as well. Amy Winehouse is a huge one, I’ve always been a big fan of her. Some more modern artists that I like to take inspiration from include Rex Orange County, Billie Eilish, Frank Ocean, James Blake, James Bay, and a lot of others.
Why do you think that in an ever-changing landscape that vintage genres like soul and R&B have stood the test of time?
That’s is a complicated question (laughs). Soul will never die, it’s timeless. There’s also a lot of new soul acts that are really helping the genre move forward.
There’s a lot of emotion and honesty in your music. What life experiences do you think have helped you craft the lyrics you write?
Everyday things really. All the themes come from my everyday life. I think getting those themes and exaggerating them is a big part of songwriting. For example, ‘Don’t Tell Me’ stems from this conversation at the dinner table with my parents and two sisters. I was talking about this girl that I liked, and they kept telling me I was too young for all that stuff. I realised that it kind of angered me and that I didn’t like being told how I feel. So I talked to my dad, and we got some lyrics down.
I’ve seen you talk about these emotions that you tackle, and how that you are still learning about your feelings. Do you find approaching these themes therapeutic or hard to approach?
It definitely helps me cope. As a 15-year old, I haven’t had many terrible experiences that I need therapy for. However, the little things that I write about in a ballad or sad song do help me understand some of the things I’m feeling.
You were talking about how you didn’t like being told how to feel. Do you feel as if your songwriting showcases your ability to handle the topics you talk about?
I hope so (laughs). Three years have passed now, so I think they are a little more understanding now.
Can you tell us about working with M-Phazes?
I’ve known him from the very start. He and my manager were the first people I met in the industry. He’s always made sure that I know to work with trustworthy people in the industry and to make sure that the people around you have your best interests at heart. I’ve learnt so much from him production wise as well. All the little details that you put into songs like chants in the background and weird sounds. He has made me love weird sounds.
Are there any artists you would currently like to work with?
Any artist that I listen to really. Rex Orange County, Frank Ocean – although that ones hard. I actually got to meet one of Frank Ocean’s producers Malay in Brooklyn. My team and I knocked on the door and there was a table laid out for dinner. Let me tell you, Malay is one of the best cooks ever. He cooked us like a seven-course meal of five-star restaurant food, and it was insane. Later on, I got to talk to him and he played me the first ever version of Frank Ocean’s ‘Solo’, which was amazing. Frank Ocean is probably my favourite artists ever, and just to have that little connection to him makes me feel over the moon.
On the topic of food – if your music was a dish what would it be?
Lasagne, because of the layers (laughs). That’s a really corny answer.
You’ve done a lot with the time you’ve had thus far. What do you have in the pipeline for the future?
An album is coming. I’ve been writing for that, and will hopefully get all the writing done this year. A headline tour is coming, which is still in the works so I can’t say much about that. I’m playing a festival next month in Japan called Summer Sonic, which has a huge lineup featuring Chance The Rapper, Shawn Mendes, and more. I’m playing the main stage as well so that’s awesome.
You’ve been selling out shows as of late- and toured with Khalid last year. What has it been like connecting with the fans in real life?
It’s been great. After the Sydney show, I had a fan meetup at the merch stage. I was only expecting 30-40 people to come around and say hi. However, the whole crowd rocked up and it was super daunting. But it was so much fun to connect with them all. I had fans tell me that my music got them through some hard time and it was really amazing.
What do you want people to feel when listening to your music?
I want people to interpret it how they want to. I don’t want to pigeonhole it into anything. The themes in my music are quite universal and it doesn’t have to only relate to 15-year-olds. I just hope the people listening relate to it even just a little bit.
Ruel’s debut EP Ready is out now. Stream it below.
- Photography: Michelle Grace Hunder