We caught up with some of the hottest young talent set to grace the stages at one of New Zealand's best-loved summer shindigs.

Ruel

There's something about Ruel that makes him seem impossibly cool.

The Dazed and Confused singer, real name Ruel Vincent van Dijk, is a 17-year-old pop artist who resides in Australia.

Ruel has toured with Shawn Mendes and Khalid and he even counts Elton John as a fan – how's that for a name drop?

Advertisement

The artist boasts a streaming audience of over 6.8 million per month and a powerful vocal range, having a tone comparable to a mix of Harry Styles and Rex Orange County.

He's also a regular teenager, adjusting to a very public lifestyle.

"I try to be as normal as possible without being immature. I'm still a teenager, I'm still doing stupid stuff," he admits.

For an artist in 2020, social media is essential. It's how they share their music, communicate their brand and connect with their fans. So the job doesn't stop when Ruel is off stage or leaves a recording session.

"It's a 24-7 job, I'm never really off, because my brand is me.

"The whole thing is a little scary, I could be walking home from a bus stop and then a bunch of fans come over, and they, like, follow me and ask where I'm going.

"Sometimes [I think], 'Oh why am I doing this? This is awful.' But as soon as I get on stage, or I'm writing again, which are two my favourite things to do, it's all worth it."

Ruel's first musical memory isn't exactly typical of a pop star prodigy.

"It wasn't a good one; it was when my parents forced me to play the piano and I really hated it."

Advertisement

His master plan was to annoy his piano teacher enough by sprinting out of lessons as soon as he had less than five minutes left - and it worked. His mum agreed to let him ditch the lessons but eventually Ruel found the freedom to find a genuine love for music.

He began writing his own when he was just 12.

Inspiration comes from movie plots and typical teenage feelings of angst, like being bored. There are some real-life experiences too but as his career has taken off, he's had less time to live out song-inspiring moments.

"On my first EP I was set on [the idea] that everything has to come from my own experience but I feel like I've really run out of experiences to write about without being too repetitive.

"It was a weird transition going from just normal school life to like now after school, every weekend we got to the studio with some producer and it was all a little daunting," Ruel explains.

"I feel like there's such weird thing where everyone thinks everyone is some blood-sucking industry executive and they just want you for your money and spit you back out. But I don't think it's still like that."

Ruel says he wants to connect with other young artists but finds the process intimidating.

"I've always had a weird fear of DMing [direct messaging] celebrities on Instagram just to make friends.

"Even seeing celebrities at a festival, I just freak out and I can't say hi, I don't want to embarrass myself."

When Ruel returns to New Zealand for Laneway Festival, it will be a family affair. He has extended family, including cousins and his grandmother, who live in the South Island.

Col3trane

Laneway Festival 2020 performer Col3trane. Photo / Supplied
Laneway Festival 2020 performer Col3trane. Photo / Supplied

One thing you can't escape when you google Col3trane is a comparison to Frank Ocean, which was made in a British GQ profile last year.

"I used to think that people weren't really listening and didn't get what I was actually doing and what I was trying to say, or accomplish with my music," says the singer, who was born Cole Basta.

"Now, I've realised that's just stupid and it's nice to be compared to someone like that."

When we chat, he's in a cab heading home after spending "a very lovely evening" with "his girl".

The North London artist has a smooth way with words, a velvety voice and his music is a nice modern take on RnB, complete with easy-listening production. Watch any of the videos for his songs and it's clear the artist is creative, caring a lot about his the way his music looks as well as sounds.

"I always get too excited by the endless possibility of a video … if you have enough money, skill, and talent you can really paint a picture of anything," he says.

Col3trane, 20, has worked with several high-profile artists, including SG Lewis and GoldLink. His most recent release, Rendezvous, is a duet with fellow North London singer Miraa May.

But possibly his biggest collaboration came when he opened for New Rules singer Dua Lipa, for her London Arena shows in April 2018. Almost overnight, he went from playing tiny shows in front of 200 people to warming up arena audiences of 15,000.

It was, he says, a crucial training ground for getting to grips with entertaining big crowds.

"The thing about that tour was that I quickly learned how to do that."

Fast-forward to 2020, Col3trane's live show is on the rise and people are paying attention. It is a fan's review, sent directly to him on social media, that sums up what this year's Laneway audience can expect.

"I got a message from someone on Instagram and they said, 'I love your show, it's so chill and also so jumpy.'"

He wants festival-goers to connect with the music but also "swear and jump around and be in the moment".

He also wants them to care. In a moment of goodwill, Col3trane has decided to donate 100 per cent of his merch sales while on tour Downunder, to the Australian Red Cross, to help after the bush fires.

"I was trying to tell people about these shows but it just felt kind of wrong of me to promote … and ignore how horrible all of the s*** that was going on down there," he explains.

"It just felt f***ing wrong of me, you know?"

Benee

Benee is performing at Laneway for the second time. Photo / Imogen Wilson
Benee is performing at Laneway for the second time. Photo / Imogen Wilson

She was the princess of the 2019 New Zealand Music Awards, scooping up four awards, and 19-year-old Benee has no plans to give up her crown any time soon.

In an elevator pitch, how would you summarise your music style?

I like genre-blending, mixing styles and trying to create fresh and interesting sounds. I don't really like the idea of labels, as I think they can be too creatively confining. I want my audience to be open to me experimenting.

What's your live show like?

It's fun... for me! I love putting heaps of energy into my performances and getting a bit wild on stage because when I do, the crowd responds. I try not to take myself too seriously and that allows me to really enjoy myself. My live band and I are mates and this definitely adds to our on-stage dynamic.

Which of your songs will get the Laneway crowd most hyped?

Last year it was definitely Soaked, but Glitter might be the one this time, I'm thinking.


Who else on the Laneway line-up are you a big fan of and why?

I really like Omar Apollo. I found out about him a while ago through his song Brakelights. I'm excited to see what his live show is like. I'm keen to see Charli XCX perform as I really like her vibe. I saw her last New Zealand show and it was insane. She has a crazy stage presence; I definitely won't be missing her set (unless she's on at the same time as me!). I'm also keen to see Julia Jacklin and Soaked Oats.

What can we expect from you in 2020? Any new releases, tours or other projects?

All of the above! I'm currently working on releasing some more work, which I'm really excited about. I'll also be announcing a bunch of shows soon - it's a big year for me.

What songs are on your summer playlist?

I'm actually just about to make a proper summer playlist but some I'll be adding are Make it Work by That is Good, The What by The Notorious B.I.G., Dreams (the 2004 Remaster) by Fleetwood Mac, All Your love by Jakob Ogawa, Wait by Billy Lemos and The Doo-Bop Song by Miles Davis.

Kaiit

Singer Kaiit will perform at Laneway Festival 2020. Photo / Supplied
Singer Kaiit will perform at Laneway Festival 2020. Photo / Supplied

At just 22, with honeyed vocals, fierce rhymes and a bold eclectic style, Papua New Guinea-born Kaiit is captivating audiences with the sweet sound of soul.

In an elevator pitch, how would you summarise your music style?

My music is truly a reflection of my love for soul, hip-hop and jazz. I express myself by telling stories of my experiences and perception of what's around me in a way that rhymes sometimes.

What's your live show like?

Performing live is probably my favourite part of my job. Tracks that are on Spotify and that, every time you hear them, the recording will always be the same. But live? You can go beyond those two minutes and 35 seconds. My amazing band play so beautifully and I can sing and interact with all the beautiful people who have come to listen and boogie.

Which of your songs will get the Laneway crowd most hyped?

I'm thinking of chucking in a possible unreleased track for people to bump... it'll also let me determine if it's trash or not. If it's trash, we've redone the set so it's going to be a whole new vibe.


Who else on the Laneway line-up are you a big fan of and why?

[I'm] so hyped to see J.I.D, Earl [Sweatshirt], of course, Tones and I [who is performing at the Australian dates only], someone who's always been so lovely and supportive of me, the sis JessB, and I'm definitely keen to suss out some of the unearthed artists in each city.

What can we expect from you in 2020? Any new releases, tours or other projects?

I feel like it's gonna be pure spirit and universe guiding me this year. I've just had to simplify my thoughts and focus on what no one can ever take away from me: creating. I've been getting into the studio and cannot wait till everyone's ears can hear it!

What songs are on your summer playlist?

I will warn you now, I got a lot of moods: Body by Summer Walker, Run Away by Georgia Anne Muldrow, Old Friends by Ella Haber, Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now by The Smiths, Right Here by SWV, Klink by Smino and Power to the People by Curtis Mayfield.