Over the course of just five songs, the Norwegian singer-songwriter delves into deeply personal territory. His first single, “Walls,” is an electro-pop ode to loneliness and longing. Earlier this month, he unveiled a music video for “Power,” an anthemic, mid-tempo track that reflects on living with social anxiety and depression. (Catch that video above.)
“I wanted to talk about my life and what’s true to me [so] it’s about the different things that I’ve struggled with, have gone through and am still going through,” the 24-year-old told HuffPost of “Melancholic,” which hit retailers and streaming platforms May 3. “I started to write about my social anxiety when I was about 14, 15 because I wanted to understand it more. When I really started working as an artist, I decided to make an EP about it.”
He’s also made no secret of his sexuality, having come out to his friends and family as a teenager. As an artist, he views his gay identity very matter-of-factly but said embracing his authentic self has “allowed me to be more open and accept every creative decision as who I am.”
Much of what makes “Melancholic” seem more intimate than a standard pop album, Ruben said, can be attributed to cultural differences.
“There’s a lot of focus on mental health. I never experienced anything like violence towards me in any way [because of my sexuality],” he said. “It’s a small country, so it’s easier to get it out there and talk about it.”
Still, it was an early ― and particularly harsh ― discussion with a teacher that sealed Ruben’s decision to pursue music.
“I remember going to school and hearing that the two types of people who will not do well in music are women and gay men,” he recalled. “I was like, ‘Fuck you. I’ll show you.’”
Audiences in Norway have already embraced several of the EP’s songs, with “Walls” and “Lay by Me” hitting that country’s top 10 chart in 2017 and 2018, respectively, according to the Los Angeles Blade. Whether Ruben can repeat that success stateside remains to be seen, of course, but he and Universal Records are optimistic. The EP has already drawn inevitable comparisons to Sam Smith and Troye Sivan, but in fact, Ruben names Bebe Rexha and Rihanna as two of his biggest influences.
Ultimately, he’d like “Melancholic” to inspire listeners to “allow themselves to be more open” and remind them that “a lot of people struggle with anxiety and depression, so while it’s OK to have struggles, it doesn’t have to be this dark, very serious thing all the time, either.”