Ruel, despite his age – he’s only 20 – has managed to capture the attention of fans globally with his indie take on pop music. Getting his start in his teens, Ruel, born Ruel Vincent van Dijk, gained rapid fire popularity in Australia through his collaborations with Grammy award winning producer MPhazes. As his skills and style developed, Ruel joined forces with pop icons such as Omar Apollo, and Shawn Mendes, opening for them on tour, his honest style of songwriting propelling his popularity. Ruel’s debut album, 4th Wall, was released in March to wide acclaim, with Clash Magazine describing it as a “punchy yet eclectic debut offering.” In a period where there is immense pressure on stars to create and conform to a standard image, Ruel manages to strike a remarkably sincere tone.
With his sense of sincerity, and an evident idea of his newfound personal direction, his debut album underwent several versions before final release, Ruel is not compromising anything in his vision of stardom. A key player in a new generation of artists, he’s effortlessly chic and clearly comfortable owning his work, recognising that his own perceptions of himself and his identity as an artist have been in flux. It's to be expected, given his early start, that there will likely be many versions of Ruel, each of them as individual and exciting as the last.
Hi there, thanks for taking the time to chat. What are you up to at the minute?
Just gearing up for tour! It’s going to be a crazy year, so I'm just doing as many rehearsals as possible and trying to get fully prepared and fit for what’s to come.
What drew you to pop music, and what artists did you listen to growing up?
I was always drawn to soul and R&B as a kid just through what my dad played around the house. Then my taste changed the older I got. That’s where I found my love for people like James Morrison, Andrew Bird and even Jeff Buckley.
Growing up and gigging in Australia, and now being a huge popstar, how does it feel to be known globally? When did it first sink in how much notoriety you had gained?
It feels surreal going to places in the world that I’ve never been before and having people that listen to my music. I went to Japan for PopSpring Festival in 2018, and that was the first time I’d seen people sing lyrics back to me in another country. I had so much fun meeting my fans for the first time in Japan.
Any dream collaborations or artists you’d like to know more personally? You’ve worked with quite a famous bunch already.
I think I was a born collaborator, I always feel I do my best work when there are multiple people to bounce off. There are so many people who inspire me, anyone I listen to I’d love to work with if the opportunity arises. It’s hard to just name a few.
You’ve drawn comparisons to Shawn Mendes and Omar Apollo, do you find these sorts of blanket statements flattering or frustrating?
Well of course I'm flattered, they are incredible artists.
What has your artistic journey been like? What would say defines you as an artist?
I’ve always struggled trying to define who I am as an artist, and I'm okay with that. I don’t think I'll be one hundred percent certain with who I am for a few more years (laughs). I’ve got far more trial and error to go till I figure all of that out.
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Does it feel stressful as a young person to have to cultivate such an outward style and personality, given the impact of social media on artists' careers of late?
I'm happy I get to be myself on social media. It’s great because I’m able to connect with my fans even when I’m not in their city. I also feel really lucky that they want to share things with me too. It can be difficult spending so much time on social media but overall I feel really grateful for it.
Your 4th Wall tour in September is set to be quite extensive, is there a stop you are most excited for?
I’m playing quite a few cities I’ve never played before, so I’m really excited to meet the fans there and experience the show with them. Especially looking forward to going to places like Austria and Switzerland.
Having already produced three EPs and your debut album, what can fans expect from you in the near future?
I'm really just focusing on this tour and trying to create the best show possible for my fans who have waited so long. I’m excited to play all the new tracks for everyone, and yes, there’s a deluxe coming soon.
Your global breakthrough coincided with the Covid pandemic, what was this period like for you?
The pandemic was a big change of pace for me, I’d almost wrapped up a world tour for my second EP and was gearing up to write and release again. It was pretty challenging to not be able to tour or write with my collaborators around the world, but in a way, I really appreciated the time it allowed me to spend with my family and friends back home. I’m forever thankful to my fans who stuck with me throughout that time, I cannot wait to get back out on the road this year and see everyone in real life again.
So far, what have been a few moments that have stood out in your early career?
One feeling that will always stick with me was when I walked on stage to a packed out Sydney Opera House. That was a real pinch me moment.
Also, when I went to Bangkok for the first time we put on a free mall show. I didn’t expect too many people to come and it ended up being one of the biggest shows I’ve ever played. My fans in Bangkok are incredibly supportive, every time I go there I always feel very welcomed.
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