It’s not just down to jet-lag. One of his keys to preserving his mental wellbeing is an ability to disassociate. Ruel, the singer, is kept separate from Ruel van Dijk, the man. He doesn’t like to read about himself online. He’s never bought into the hype around him, although there’s plenty of it: “I don’t want to believe anything people are saying, apart from the people around me and who know me,” he says. The public’s fixations with his bodily proportions, hair and visage – similar to the gushing verbiage devoted to Harry Styles or Timothée Chalamet – is something he tries to ignore. “It comes back to the disassociation, I don’t like to think about it all too much.” Sometimes, being a pop star, he thinks, is just a little bit absurd.
Ruel’s ascension to fame came with his first single, “Golden Years” (2017), released when he was 14, his voice beyond his years. With songs rooted in gospel-tinged blue-eyed soul, Ruel racked up hundreds of millions of plays on Spotify alone, was co-signed by Elton John and supported Shawn Mendes on tour. The press heralded him as the next superstar, a Justin Bieber from Down Under, and three EP’s – Ready (2018), Free Time (2019), Bright Lights, Red Eyes (2020) – kept his star ascending faster than Ruel was prepared for.