Ruel: “I Felt More Confident In My Own Ability To Make A Song”


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Life’s moving fast for Australian pop sensation Ruel. However, judging by the release of his new song ‘The Weight’, the 20-year-old is more assured and in control than ever. 

‘The Weight’, launched in partnership with crisis support service Lifeline Australia (meaning no chance of finding it on streaming, sorry), is a stirring acoustic ballad that implores the song’s muse to “take the weight off of your shoulders and put it on mine”. Sparse production brings Ruel’s vocals to the front, building to a soaring crescendo near the end of the song. The track is mature and compassionate — Ruel sings, “I know I don’t got the answers/I’m just tryna be there” — and conveys his thoughtfulness, which comes through in conversation, too. 

Ruel: Living Life In Your Hometown

The mononymous Ruel Vincent van Dijk is a young veteran of the industry, bursting onto the scene in 2017 at 14 under the wing of Grammy-winning producer M-Phazes. Within six months, he was hanging out with Elton John and the following year became the youngest ARIA Award ever. Then, the overnight success proved his longevity: pumping out three EPs between 2018 and 2020 in the lead-up to his debut album, 4th Wall, in March this year.   

When Ruel speaks with Junkee, he’s still basking in a “magical” Splendour In The Grass and preparing for his first visit to Mexico and South America (which, if you’re wondering, was a smashing success). He’s excited to get back on the road after some time back home in Sydney, but he’s not looking to change postcodes just yet.

“I want to live here for as long as I can,” he tells Junkee. “Let’s say you’re on tour for three months and you haven’t seen your family and friends in so long, and you finish the tour, and then you go home to LA. That idea terrifies me.” He adds, “I should be going home to the opposite of what I was just doing, which is Sydney for me, where I can just hang out with my friends, go for a surf and not think about it.”

Turning down life in Los Angeles is a big gambit for any nascent musician: it’s a cultural epicentre for those looking to make massive waves. But Ruel speaks with conviction — there’s no doubt that for right now, Sydney’s the place for him. “I’ve just seen it so many times. People put their career over their mental health, that’s where the horror stories come from, especially for young people in the industry who are on the rise,” he says. “When they put that first, it only leads to trouble. I’m grateful that I’ve got a team that backed my decision of just wanting to stay home.”

Ruel: Staying Real In A Fake World

Ruel’s debut album, 4th Wall, was his first project as an adult. In making the record, Ruel says he conquered the “battle of uncertainty” within himself. “I felt more comfortable and confident in my own ability to make a song myself and to make it just truly unapologetically me.” 

“That was really satisfying to bring to sessions because I finally felt confident in my own ability to be like, ‘hey, I actually don’t like that line that you just put forward, maybe it could be this’. When I was 13, I was like, ‘well, they know way better than me, I should just say yes’.” 

It also changed life on the road: last time Ruel was touring, it was pre-pandemic and he was a 16-year-old who was “always stressed about when [he] was going to have a testy pop on stage”. Now he’s able to have a drink with his band (who are “like, a bunch of dads”) and not worry about any puberty-related on-stage mishaps. 

“If we’ve got a day off, we’ll go to a bar and we’ll actually hang out and walk around the city a little bit and treat it like a little bit of a holiday at the same time, in between the shows,” he says. But Ruel is quick to clarify — “I’m not some big fucking rock party animal”, sticking his tongue out and throwing up the devil’s horns for effect. “I much prefer just going to a nice little cocktail bar, maybe watching the football and then going home.”

Settling into adulthood has also helped Ruel appreciate his art’s impact and has drawn him closer to his dedicated fanbase. “It’s always in the front of my mind to just be using my platform for good and not lose sight of what is actually important,” he says. “It’s easy to do in the entertainment industry because it’s all so fake.” 

“It’s always a reminder when you meet fans and you hear things like a certain song that I’ve made or been a part of is helping someone through a tough time, or they’ll be really open and talk to me about really confronting things and then say that my music has helped that.”

“It’s an amazing feeling as it is sometimes hard to respond to because you don’t know what to say. But it’s that stuff that also reminds you and makes it all worth it.”


Being There When A Friend Needs You Most

Ruel’s next step in using his platform for good comes as he partners with Lifeline Australia for ‘The Weight’. He says the song is about “talking to a friend you can see is in need and … telling them that it’s okay to vent and load it off onto me”, a perfect fit for the organisation’s mission. The song is exclusively available on ‘The Release Line’, a phone number created by Lifeline Australia. Listeners can call 1300 044 002 and donate an amount from $5. 

Its release comes just after Ruel’s trek across South America, his first time in that part of the world. “I’m over the moon,” he says, noting the amount of comments he sees online begging him to come to Brazil. “It’s insane the amount of love that’s been shown over there, so I can’t wait to finally reciprocate that and go over and play some cool shows.” 

A quick glance at Ruel’s Instagram confirms the love — the top comment on a recent post is in Spanish, with the flags of Brazil, Argentina and Chile dotted throughout. Ruel’s living every popstar’s dream: he’s a young star, realising his potential, with fans in every corner of the world clamouring for his time and presence. 

And yet, for all the pressures and potential pitfalls that comes with getting so much so young, Ruel keeps himself grounded — plugging in with meaningful causes like Lifeline, staying around loved ones in Sydney and bringing out songs like ‘The Weight’, a quiet meditation created to make a loud difference. 


If you, or someone you know, are feeling overwhelmed, you can phone Lifeline on 13 11 14 (24/7), text 0477 131 114 (24/7) or chat to Lifeline online (24/7). 

Reece Hooker is a Melbourne-based writer who can be found on Twitter and Instagram.