Stretching out his 6ft 3 figure backstage in London’s The Garage, sporting a pair of joggers and a blue tracksuit top with his hair pushed back, 16-year-old Ruel is far from the normal artist that would be waiting behind the dressing room door ahead of a sold-out show in the capital.
“I came from Berlin this morning, but two days ago I came from Sydney”, he laughs talking to CelebMix. As the youngster chats to for a quarter of an hour, he tells stories of Sydney, Melbourne, Paris, London, New York and Los Angeles too… today’s rapid stop in his birthplace is just the latest in a jam-packed diary.
What’s taken Ruel to all of those places is his fresh take on pop music. Rolling off the likes of Frank Ocean, Childish Gambino, Tyler the Creator and Jorja Smith as influences, the star has a way of seeing music far beyond his years. When pressed to describe his sound in three words, Ruel chooses “alternative, soul, pop, R&B”. “That’s four”, he smirks, “I don’t really want to be pigeon-holed in any one genre, I just want to make my own music and it’s sick when artists have their own genre”.
Later on that night, it’s plain to hear. Unreleased tracks are different from current singles which themselves differ from breakthrough 2018 debut EP, Ready– the only constant is the singer’s remarkable tone.
“I’ve always had a husky voice, even when I was 8 or 9-years-old. I started getting lessons because I loved to sing and loved music. Then I started writing songs and was like… I can do this!”
Through all the flights, the shows, the hundreds of thousands of social media followers, it’s that voice that really started taking Ruel places following the release of Ready last year, an unapologetically bold debut.
“I was mainly just excited to have music out. I only had two songs out and a whole other EP with songs to go. I just thought – get music out. I wasn’t even nervous. I didn’t care if anyone liked it or not, I was just excited.”
As it turned out, people did like it. A lot. ‘Younger’ went platinum, ‘Dazed & Confused’ and ‘Don’t Tell Me’ went gold and he collected the award for Breakthrough Artist at the ARIA Music Awards shortly after release.
In London, you can see those statistics come to life in the number of fans turning up to catch the singer on his Painkiller Tour. “They’re all so sweet and so supportive, and very loyal”, Ruel remarks when CelebMix tell him just how many are already queuing, vying for their place at the barrier.
“I try not to think about it too much, not that I don’t like it, I just don’t want to think about it as they are my fans and I’m someone they look up to – that kind of scares me. I just want to keep it so it doesn’t go to my head. More like mates.”
Whatever track Ruel plays later on, the 600 strong crowd know them all. That goes for even the unreleased material, which could well be some of his best yet; fans have obviously clung on to videos online from the moment they could.
“I did want to go for a different sound [on the upcoming EP] just because I knew what I wanted more than ever. When I was writing for the previous EP it was my first time writing with other people. I’d literally say yes to everything as the 14-year-old in the room and I thought if I said no, no-one would listen to me. It was very daunting at the start but now that I know what I want and am way better at writing and more confident I can just go in and say, “this is what I want to do, can you help me?” Try and take control.I love the songs [on Ready] but I just knew they could be better and come from me better.”
“Recently I’ve found a set of songwriters that I work really well with that I want to keep writing with. But I do a lot of trial and error to work with different people, some people work and some people don’t. Now I’ve got a great team of people. My main collaborator is called Sarah Aarons who I wrote ‘Younger’ and ‘Painkiller’ with, and way more to come on the new EP. She’s now one of my best friends and lives in LA.”
‘Painkiller’ is the singer’s latest single, a bluesy banger that closes his set later that night, and a track which “direction-wise is definitely from me more”. Elsewhere, SG Lewis collaboration ‘Flames’ was debuted at Coachella last month and is a coming together that brings the best out of both the innovative producer and Ruel.
“I’ve been a fan of SG’s music for a while, way before I was anything. He’s sick. He hit me up saying he wanted to do a writing session with me. I went and met him and was so tired, I had just got off a flight. So we hang out and then recorded a song that was out a couple of weeks later.”
As he prepares to release the Painkiller EP, there’s no stopping Ruel. He recently broke into the U.S.A., recalling shouting “what’s up New York” with grateful disbelief, “I was like… did that just come out of my mouth?” When asked about what the long-term plan is, CelebMix drops in the thought of an album, Ruel is quick to respond: “That’s definitely next.”
“I’ve been waiting to write an album but I just want the right time and I feel like after this EP I’ll be ready.”
At 16-years-old, he’s got plenty of time for that. There’s a whole EP to come first and if it packs anywhere near the punch that Ready did then the singer is about to watch his career soar even higher again.
Are you a Ruel fan? Have you been to the Painkiller Tour? Let us know @CelebMix on Twitter.