Ren aims for Number 1 with Sick Boi: "This album is a victory over my health"

The Welsh singer-songwriter has connected to a cult audience thanks to his painfully honest lyricism about living with chronic illness.
ren interview

Ren had the shock of his life yesterday. 

Waking up in Calgary, Canada - where he's currently undergoing treatment for his chronic illnesses, including lyme disease and brain damage - he was made aware of some shocking news; his new album, Sick Boi, was Number 2 on the Official Albums Chart Update, and in with a shot of Number 1 this week. His only competition for the crown? Rick Astley!

"I can't even be mad at that," Ren tells us, grinning of his equally unlikely competitor. "If he gets to Number 1, I will have literally been Rickrolled."

But if anything, Sick Boi's success on the Official Chart - if it manages to cling on, it will be Ren's first Top 10 album, as well as his first to ever enter the Official Albums Chart itself - is the next surprising move in a career full of them. An anarchic spirit making music that's both alarmingly personal and refreshingly candid about his struggles and trauma. Ren has built an entire world in his struggle to accept and overcome his pain, and he's welcomed a lot of people into it already. But he'll be welcoming a lot more before the week is over.

"Having a shot at Number 1 is the most mind-blowing thing ever," Ren says. "I've been working towards this since I was 12."

MORE: Find out more about Ren here

But let's go back further than that. Ren Erin Gill was originally born in Bangor, Gwynedd in North-West Wales, before moving to the island of Anglesey, just off the coast of North Wales, when he was four. Settling in the small village of Dwyran, Ren soon found himself battling a malaise that will be very familiar to everyone who has grown up in a small, isolated part of the country.

"You can drive in and out of Dwyran in about five minutes," Ren tells us. "You've got to create some sort of entertainment for yourself. That's why I started making music. There was really nothing else to do."

And make music is exactly what Ren did. Despite his at times severely debilitating chronic illnesses making it hard for him to do much of anything, he has been slowly but steadily making a name for himself over the years. Sick Boi, despite being his breakout LP, is actually his second album, after 2016's debut Freckled Angels.

"I actually made that to raise money for a stem cell transplant," Ren explains. "I've been so sick for such a long time. I was working on it whenever I had the energy to, I've been stuck in bed for so many years, At the time, I didn't have a huge amount of exposure, I was only really circulating it around my family and friends, people who found me on Facebook."

In all likelihood, it's probably the most successful album ever released in Anglesey, right? "That's not hard," Ren says, cracking another grin. "I'd probably need to sell about 10 copies for that!"


But following the release of that first album, Ren worked hard. He issued several EPs from 2018-2022, all the while tinkering away at his next full-length record. Some songs on Sick Boi date back to 2015. It would be fair to say, then, that the album acts as a culmination of everything Ren has been building towards. Like most overnight success stories, he's been working for decades to get his moment in the sun.

"The Hunger and What You Want have been songs that have been sitting around for a while, I didn't know what to do with them," Ren says about the oldest songs to make the record's tracklist. "When I started putting the record together, they made sense to be a part of it. 

"I've produced the album myself, it's just drawing from a lot of things that I've worked on over the years."

It's no coincidence, then, that Ren has has written and produced Sick Boi entirely himself. It's given him control over his own insular world, and he himself acknowledges that his work on Sick Boi "is a victory over my health. To know I could pull something off like this, it's very empowering."

One thing that needs to be highlighted when talking to Ren is his fanbase. Grown from the ground up, their devotion to him is clear (check out that Albums Update, for one) and the relationship that they've established is not a typical artist-to-fan parasocial relationship. As Ren himself says, he's not put himself on a pedestal.

"I have so much to thank [the fans] for," he says. "My connection with them has always been an integral part of this. I do a lot of Twitch streams, I communicate to them a lot on my Discord. There's not a pedestal situation going on here, we're just all getting involved, talking to each other, sharing things. I'm not trying to follow any kind of trend. I'm not doing the dance challenges, man. I wish I could dance! I'm just doing my own thing."

And that own thing? It's working! Now, Ren is looking ahead to the most exciting week of his life, as his fans, old and new, will ultimately help decide where Sick Boi ends in the Official Chart this week. But the obvious question on everyone's lips is...there has to be a Ren and Rick Astley collab coming soon, right?

"I would love to hear Rick Astley do Hi Ren. Hi Rick!" Ren laughs. "Me and Rick Astley, back to back at Glastonbury next year."

As Ren approaches to chance to engage with his biggest audience yet, we have to end our chat by asking a really hard question. If he could sum up Sick Boi - an album that says so much about pain and trauma, about rage and grief, and trying to find the light in these dark moments - in three words.
"I would say honest...cathartic. And I need another word, about triumphing over my illness. One word."


"Yeah. Victorious. Let's go with that."

Sick Boi by Ren is out now.

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Here's to that ren and rick collab 




Ren for number 1




Yes he is !