ICON: Where did you find your love for music?
Ruel: “Through my Dad, mostly. He’s a huge music nerd and he influenced my music taste by playing a lot of old jazz, old soul just around the house – since I was born really – so I guess it has been imbedded in my brain from a young age. I wanted to play when I was about eight and that’s when I really found my love for playing it.”
What was the turning point for making this hobby, a profession?
Ruel: “Nate Flagrant is now my manager. At that point, my Dad had a little studio doing voiceovers as he is in the advertising world and in his office is a studio so in the holidays, I could go in and record some things and little covers. I remember Nate came into the studio one time and he said he wanted to work with me and he wanted [producer] M-Phazes to work with me. It was a lot to take in for a 12-year-old and I was like, ‘Okay, so I can actually do this for a living?’ and he said, ‘Yeah!’.”
What was the hardest part about leaving school?
Ruel: “To be honest, it wasn’t that hard (laughs). I wasn’t really in tears. But then again I do really miss having an excuse to see all my best friends every day. That’s the best part of school, you know, hanging around at recess, hanging around at lunchtime. The socialising bit of school which I do obviously miss. But I’m finding other ways to socialise now.”
At the ARIA Awards last year, I asked you how you were coping with things like anxiety and growing fame. Almost 12 months later, how would you answer that question?
Ruel: “I like to split (myself) into two people, who are the exactly same person. When I’m on stage, when I’m in front of my fans, when I’m on social media, it’s still me but when I’m at home and with friends … I like to think of that person as someone different so it doesn’t get to my head. I get anxious, I don’t get ‘anxiety’, but I feel like I’m very lucky because if I ever get sad or a bit anxious, I will always tell the people closest to me and I’ll make sure I’m alone as little as possible…”
Can you recall the first time you had realised that Elton John was playing your music on Beats 1?
Ruel: “Yes, the first time I was actually in school when my manager sent me the voice memo of Sir Elton talking about myself. Yeah, I freaked out as any person would. It’s really crazy to have such an iconic voice talking about you and your songs.”
Being so young, do you struggle drawing on life experiences. Is it getting easier with age?
Ruel: “To be honest, it’s getting harder to write – it sounds arrogant or weird – but I’m finding it harder to write more relatable songs. Just because I feel like I’ve used up all the ideas I’ve had of me in school and me having normal girl problems and stuff like that to write about, to relate to. I’m starting to branch out and not just writing songs about my life experience but about movies or books – wait, I don’t read books. I should read books, but I don’t. But also other people’s life experiences. Putting myself in other people’s shoes.”
What artists do you look at for inspiration?
Ruel: “All the artists that I listen to, are really inspiration for me. I love James Blake, Frank Ocean, I love Billie Eilish, Rex Orange County. I think, definitely on this new project I really think I draw from the people I listen to more than ever.”
You are so cool and confident on stage. Is that something that comes naturally or something you had to work on?
Ruel: “A bit of both. I think I’ve never really had stage fright … I’ve always been composed. But feeling confident and looking like you know what you’re doing is a whole other thing. I have had a few little movement classes as I like to call them instead of dance lessons. Just little things, like your ‘go-to’s’ I guess if you ever feel a little awkward.”
How do you feel being called a “teenage heartthrob”?
Ruel: “It’s a weird thing to call someone. I don’t know how I react, I just awkward chuckle like ‘haha, thank you’, then retreat (laughs). I feel like “teenage heartthrob” as a thing that a lot of people… it’s a weird thing to comprehend. Like why? Why that [term]?”
What lessons have you learned since winning your first ARIA Award in 2018?
Ruel: “Since then, when it comes to writing I was always pretty stubborn about writing about other people and just writing about myself. I just wanted all my songs to come from my own life experiences. I was talking to another writer and he was saying that it sometimes gets boring because no one wants to hear the same old life, over and over again. That just opened my eyes to writing about books and movies and stuff like that.”
What do you hope to achieve next?
Ruel: “I’ll definitely be touring again. Next year, I’m striving towards an album. I’ve already started writing a little bit of it. That’s what I’m aiming for around this time, next year – but I’m not sure.”
To connect with Ruel and his recent EP, ‘Free Time’, visit here.