Out on the island of Bjarkøy a young musician by the name of Ruben has taken the Norwegian music scene by storm – his first album lead him to win a Spelleman award which is the Norwegian equivalent of a Grammy! Yesterday saw the release of his new single ‘Dear God’ which he says he was ‘inspired by a complicated relationship that one of my friends had with someone else a while back‘. We found about more about the musician who is a huge hit in Norway and beyond (including millions of listens on Spotify)!
Tell us who you are and what is your sound?
My full name is Ruben Markussen, I’m 25 years old, and from a tiny viking island in Northern Norway called “Bjarkøy”. I lived there among 300 people for 16 years before moving out on my own. Already at 13-14 years old I started producing and writing in my own bedroom. Way before I released my own music I used to look up artists on soundcloud and give them the songs that I had written and produced, it wasn’t until I was 20 that I wanted to release my own music, so I started working on an EP where the theme was mainly focused around mental health.
Since then I have released the EP and done a bunch of other songs and started working on new projects.
What exciting projects have you got coming up?
I’m currently finishing my EP that’s set to release sometime early next year. Dear God is the second single from the EP, and I’m really looking forward to getting this project out to the people. I’ve had so much fun experimenting with this EP, and I feel satisfied when I look at the tracklist and listen to the song. It’s been a project where I’ve been able to have fun, be creative and a little dramatic.
I’m also just starting to figure out the direction of my next project, which is also very fun because every time I go to the studio and create something new I feel like I’m getting a little closer to figuring out the rights and wrongs for the project. It’s almost like trying to get to know someone you’ve never met before, so you have to test the boundaries a little.
Where did you grow up and what music influenced you?
I grew up on an island called Bjarkøy, which in english would translate to “birch island”. It’s a small island with only 300 people living there, so there were not that many new impulses on the daily, to say the least. Regardless of that, I do owe my hometown credits for all the time I got to be creative.
I used to spend a lot of time with my friends watching MTV, so a lot of the music I listened to came from there, but I think what influenced me the most at an early age was pop-country. My mom and I used to drive around and listen to music, and she had a couple of Anastacia CD’s that we used to listen to. Also I remember being at different country festivals with my family and learning linedance, which looking back is kind of funny. However when I became older I remember Avicii releasing his song “Wake Me Up” which blew my mind. I fell so hard in love with the melodies and the way they made me feel. The way Aloe Blacc performed the song became a huge inspiration for me.
There were different artists that influenced me in different ways. I became obsessed with how Bebe Rexha, Sia and Sandro Cavazza wrote and sang, how Rihanna presented herself visually and lyrically and Stargate when it came to the production. Today I don’t really have any artists that I feel influence me as much, but the inspiration I got from the ones that I named, has definitively shaped me into becoming my own artist.
What cool places do you recommend to visit in your city (bars, restaurants, etc)?
There’s not much, but there’s a little convenient store and a tiny cafe in the center of Bjarkøy. The cafe is called Krambua and it has the best milkshakes and fried chicken wings. I remember being home alone one summer and just going down to Krambua almost every day to get 20 chicken wings and a chocolate milkshake. It was one of the big peaks of my life.
We love recommendations – what have you been listening to, watching, or reading recently?
Top 5 Songs:
Highasakite – Can I Be Forgiven
James Blake – Are You Even Real?
Daya – First Time
Madrugada – Majesty
Labrinth – When I R.I.P.
I don’t really watch that many tv shows, but what I have been watching during the corona times are::
The Haunting of Bly Manor
The Good Place
Dirty John: Betty
Rick & Morty (nothing new, but I keep rewatching)
Never read a book in my life, but I just bought a book that someone recommended on tiktok called “We Were Liars”. Only read like 20 pages, but I’m getting there.
Finally, what was the last thing that made you swear out loud?
I have a bad habit of swearing too often, so the last thing that made me swear out loud was probably 5 minutes ago when I realized I had to take out the trash.
Interview by Alex Minnis