One night, about three years ago, Ruel was sitting at the dinner table telling his
parents and siblings about a girl he had a crush on. “And my whole family was
like, ‘Ruel, you don’t know what you’re talking about, you’re way too young to
think about that sort of stuff,’” he recalls. “And that really frustrated me. I thought
‘they can’t tell me how to feel’, so I wrote a song about it. I never thought it would
lead to all of this.”
“All of this” is the success of the resulting song, “Don’t Tell Me” — a soulful,
stately ballad about “not letting other people tell you how to feel because no one
else knows you better than you,” as Ruel explains it. The track has garnered
millions of streams and since launched the London-born, Sydney-raised singer
and songwriter as one of the most exciting recording artists and captivating live
performers to emerge since its release.
Things had begun to spark for Ruel a few months before he released “Don’t Tell
Me,” which was produced by his mentor M-Phazes (Eminem, Amy Shark, Logic).
Ruel’s official debut was a feature on the M-Phazes’ track “Golden Years.” Ruel
was invited to perform on Australian radio station Triple J’s “Like A Version,”
where he sang a stripped-down version of “Golden Years” and a cover of Jack
Garratt’s “Weathered.” The jaw-dropping performance showcased Ruel’s
dazzling voice, which can slide effortlessly from gritty tenor to airy falsetto on a
dime, and the video quickly became one of the most-viewed “Like a Version”
performances of the year after receiving over half a million plays in just 48 hours.
Ruel watched his numbers on social media begin to climb. “My follower count
went from like 100 to 4,000 in a matter of hours, which is crazy,” he says.
“People I admired started following me. It was the first time I thought having a
career as a musician could actually happen.”
Ruel was introduced to soul, blues, and jazz by his music-loving father, who
played him Amy Winehouse, Stevie Wonder, and Dave Brubeck — all current
favorites of Ruel, who also gravitated toward artists like Frank Ocean, Childish
Gambino, Ed Sheeran, and James Blake as he got older. “I always sang around
the house, but when I saw those artists, I wanted to learn guitar, too, so my
mother got me lessons,” he says. “It was kind of boring just playing guitar on its
own, so I started singing along and the teacher said to my parents, ‘We should
make this a half-singing/half-guitar lesson because your son really enjoys
Not long after, a demo of Ruel singing a cover of...