Up-close with Ruben Pol

“I don’t want to be limited to commerciality or concepts of what’s weird and what’s beautiful.”

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This autumn, we’re all about introducing a new generation of Dutch music talent. And who better to join us on this quest than Napapijri—a brand that has human exchanges based on creativity, freedom and inclusivity at its core. Last week, you met hip-hop game-changer Leafs. This time, we get you up-close with Ruben Pol, one of fashion’s famed young faces, who’s steadily building a music career alongside a busy modelling and university schedule. With two well-received tracks out, and a visual story that lets his personality shine through, Ruben is a creative force to be reckoned with—he’s ambitious, he’s focused and he knows where he’s headed to.

You got scouted through Instagram and your modelling career took off super fast. After numerous campaigns, runway shows and what I assume to be memorable experiences, what’s something you’d want take from the fashion world?

What I discovered when I first started working in fashion is that there’s way less boundaries to hold you back from doing what you want to do. That can be in a very broad sense, of course—from clothing choices and poses to ways of shooting an image. I definitely want to take that and put it into my music as well. From the very beginning, I’ve kept my music team really small, because I genuinely feel like I want to do my own thing, be as free in my music as I can be in fashion. I don’t want to be limited to commerciality or concepts of what’s weird and what’s beautiful. If I find something to be cool, I just go for it and do it.

And something you’d like to stay in that world only?

Working as a model—regardless of the freedom of expression in fashion—I was in the middle of a creative process. I really wanted to engage with all stylists, photographers, set designers and so on, but as a model, you’re an object that others already have a course of action in mind for. That’s something I’m very happy to leave behind as I dive deeper into music production and singing. As a musician, I can be the centre of the creative process. 

Speaking of your music, what intrigued me about the music video for Bed Sheets (Stripped) is the mix of raw guitar footage with a dreamy, retro vibe. What made you mesh these?

The thing is, I released my first track Bed Sheets but I didn’t really give any more context or content about myself. With my modelling work, people just see videos and photos, but not much about me. After the release of Bed Sheets, I did a little artwork teaser for it, but nothing more. Considering that there was no other big release coming at that moment and because my team and I had some time in between projects, I decided I really wanted to get more personal with my audience. So, I just grabbed my guitar and recorded the stripped version. I wanted to translate that into the visuals too, I didn’t want it to look like a music video or some huge production. No big cameras or flashy cars—just me, doing what I’d do on a day off. Going into the city, skateboarding, being on a boat with friends… All these personal things that I’d normally do. It’s important to me that before I put out a big production project, I get to show people that I sing, write and play everything myself. 

Did you always sing, write and play? 

Basically, yes. I don’t even really remember when I first started playing guitar. My mum just had this huge Spanish acoustic guitar in the house that I always tried stuff on. So, music and performing have been a part of my life ever since I could form memories. Later on, I got more serious with using other instruments—a keyboard, the guitar, bass and drums too, although never really singing. But then, I figured out that a very small amount of people would listen to me playing the guitar. And when I suddenly started singing, everyone was like, Oh, this is cool, let’s listen to you. I thought to myself, Well, I guess I’ve got to sing. The desire to write my own songs came a bit later, when I was in New York. I had already built quite a following online because of my modelling jobs, so when I posted little acoustic covers on my Instagram, there’d be an immediate response. Until one day VEVO approached me, which resulted in a meeting with them that made me consider doing something serious with music. At that same time, I got in contact with other people too, went into sessions with Universal Records—in the end, it all went by itself quite organically. Meeting people, being at the right place at the right time—this all led naturally to the release of my first track.

You also study Business Management at the VU in Amsterdam. How do you juggle that with modelling jobs and making music?

It’s super tough. I’m working on getting an artist’s programme there, but it’s turning out to be a hard one to obtain. They do have special programmes for people doing top sports, but with culture it’s more intricate. If in sports you have the rankings and can prove what you’re doing more easily, in the creative fields, it’s more subjective. Of course, there are record sales that you can measure, but as an emerging artist, it’s hard to get into that programme when you still don’t have these lists and pieces of evidence to confirm you’re actually serious about what you’re doing. The other thing is time management, of course. I really have to be very tight about that. I did complete all credits from the first year at VU, however, so now they’re definitely easier on me when I have to skip class for fashion week, for instance.

In the midst of this crazy schedule, is there time left for you to obsess over other things?

Maybe this is too boring, but at this point of my life, I’m obsessed with being insanely busy, and basically not being able to get any sleep. Travelling, working until late, getting up early in the morning to do a shoot—weirdly, this gives me energy that stimulates my creative side immensely. 

Is there a dream collaboration you’d love to do, be it in fashion or music?

My ultimate, absolute goal would be to do a huge, worldwide fragrance campaign with me starring in the commercial, singing my own song. It’d be on billboards everywhere, on TV too. That’d be pretty sick—music and fashion in one.

And if all songs in the world disappeared and you had to pick one to listen to for eternity, which one would it be?

Prince, 1999.

Follow Ruben on Instagram

 

Words by Valkan Dechev

Photography: Maxime Cardol

Styling: Leendert Sonnevelt

Hair and make-up: David Koppelaar—House of Orange

All clothes by Napapijri

 

Shop the ‘Icons’ collection on Napapijri.nl

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