“This record is everything I’ve thought over the past three years,” Ruel tells Apple Music. “This record is me.” The path to the Australian singer-songwriter’s debut album was long and winding. The artist born Ruel Vincent van Dijk estimates that, at one point, he had enough material to fill four records, with COVID lockdowns and interruptions sending him to different parts of his creative brain. He began by penning a concept album inspired by the 1998 movie The Truman Show. Then came a collection of “depressing folk songs” and, later, a record of pure pop. 4TH WALL is an amalgam of all those disparate ideas, moving between Sufjan Stevens-esque pastoral folk (“LIE”), pop bangers (“GO ON WITHOUT ME”), and, come final number “END SCENE,” a song inspired by the visuals of the 1999 film Fight Club and The Truman Show. Indeed, the latter’s story of a man becoming self-aware and realizing his life isn’t what it seems gave the album its title—to break the fourth wall is a theatrical term in which the imaginary barrier that separates the story and the audience is broken. “I found it super interesting and weirdly relatable,” Ruel offers. Here, he talks us through 4TH WALL, track by track. “GO ON WITHOUT ME” “Every time I’ve tried to make a euphoric, uptempo song, I’ve always tried to contrast it with depressing lyrics that people don’t really realize until they actually get into it. The song is about [how] you know you’re going to let someone down, and it’s from the perspective of, ‘Hey, I wish this could work, but I’m just going to end up hurting you, and I respect you this much that I don’t want you to think that it’s going to go any other way.’” “I DON’T WANNA BE LIKE YOU” “[This is] uptempo—really fast and energetic—and I was like, it would be corny if this was happy lyrically. I thought, ‘I want to write an angry song about how much [I] hate someone. I’m going to do my own fuck-you song. Everyone’s got a fuck-you song, and I didn’t have one.’ This song went through 70 versions to get it right.” “SITTING IN TRAFFIC” “It’s about the honeymoon phase [of a relationship] where everything’s so easy, but then that fear comes in of, ‘I love you so much that if this doesn’t end up working, I can’t even imagine us not being friends. I need you to still like me even if this doesn’t go well.’ I thought that was a pretty desperate and depressing way of looking at the start of a relationship.” “JAPANESE WHISKEY” “[Co-writer] PJ Harding came up with the title. I don’t like Japanese whiskey. I don’t like whiskey in general, and we came up with this idea of making it a metaphor for liking the idea of something more than the reality. I would love to look [cool] with a glass of whiskey and being like, ‘Mmm, yeah,’ but I’m not. It’s like me and relationships a bit—you like the idea of something, you like how something looks from the outside, but when you look at the actual crux of it, you’re like, ‘Oh wait, this is not me. This is not what I actually want to be doing. It’s just how I want to be perceived.’” “GROWING UP IS____” “I wrote this with Julian Bunetta and M-Phazes, my producer. It’s just about the highlights of growing up and the slight flushes of what that was like. The song, for me, is like a montage of growing up.” “SET YOURSELF ON FIRE” “It’s about when I came home from tour because of COVID, and all my friends had just finished school. They didn’t know what they were doing with their lives, and I didn’t know what I was going to do with my life because I couldn’t tour. And we all just felt like we didn’t have any purpose anymore. The song’s about that feeling and being OK with it. ‘Well, let’s just have fun, fuck around, and find some shit out about ourselves.’ And that’s what we did! The song is about letting loose a little bit and not caring about the consequences.” “LIE” “When I talk about breakups and relationships on this record, it all comes from this similar place of feeling like someone has moved on from you way quicker. They moved on from you even when you were in the relationship, and [this is] your last-ditch effort to either bring them back or tell them that you’re doing fine. And this one is just telling them, ‘Please, soften the blow. At least just lie to me and make me think it’s all good when it’s not.’” “LET THE GRASS GROW” “The concept [is about] where I thought the Earth was going—feeling helpless seeing the Earth declining with the environment and climate change, and the only way to give back is to give yourself to the Earth. I just thought it was a beautiful concept. It’s definitely one of the darker songs I’ve written.” “YOU AGAINST YOURSELF” “It’s not a fuck-you song, but it’s, ‘You’re fucking up. Get your shit together because you’re just making everything harder for yourself, and you’re putting yourself in these situations.’ It’s like an intervention: ‘You need to change direction. Otherwise, you’re going to end up hurting yourself and someone else.’ Dark lyrics, but it’s a bop.” “SOMEONE ELSE’S PROBLEM” “It’s about being stoked you’ve got someone out of your life. It’s kind of like a fuck-you song as well, but a little bit more tongue in cheek.” “WISH I HAD YOU” “It’s similar to ‘LIE’ in the way of looking at a breakup with someone moving on way before you had. It’s almost the opposite way of looking at it. Instead of asking someone to lie and say you love me, it’s lying to them and saying that [I’m] having a great time, and I can do it on my own, and I’m fine. You’re clearly not, but you’re trying to put this facade on, so they want you back.” “IF AND/OR WHEN” “This one is, by far, the most personal lyrically. The odds are completely stacked against you when you start a relationship. When you’re in your teens or early twenties, the odds of getting married and having kids and staying together are so low that it’s like, should we even try? You feel like you’re walking on eggshells. You don’t want to fuck it up because you feel like you could at any moment.” “MUST BE NICE” “This is a straight-up ballad breakup song: ‘How the hell are you doing this? How are you coping?’ When you see someone getting on with their life, it hits so hard when you’re not. I think the ‘Fuck, it must be nice’ [lyric] just captures that feeling.” “END SCENE” “When I wrote it, I was thinking about movies—putting together a little soundtrack and writing imagery around that last scene of Fight Club with all the buildings falling down. Then I rewrote it at the end of the record—not the chorus, bits of the verses—to tie it in a little bit better. It felt so much like an outro, and that last minute of production, I just told Phazes to go crazy, give it a big finale of explosions and a plane crash, shit that’s hectic and signifies the end. I was so happy with how that turned out.”

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