José González, musician

I am enjoying writing lyrics that have a more distant perspective, so lyrics that have an outside voice that speaks to a crowd more than the inner voice that is involved in a personal struggle ...

Sweden’s José González stunned the world with his beautiful blend of indie folk with his first album Veneer. The track ‘Heartbeats’ became an instant favourite among global audiences and the musician’s career took off. Nearly a decade since emerging on the international scene, Jose has released two more solo albums, In Our Nature and Vestiges & Claws. José has also released two albums with Junip, a collaborative project with Tobias Winterkorn. José’s third album Vestiges & Claws is a record of beautiful compositions and soulful vocals. José González will be heading to Australia in February to perform these new songs for the first time in front of local audiences. We picked the musician’s brain about his career so far and what went into the creation of his latest solo work.

How was 2015 for you? I imagine it would have been pretty busy.
It was a great year. I released my new album in February, which is a bit different from other albums. Then I started touring right away, travelling with real nice people – very talented musicians. They are the same type of crew that I have been touring with many times before. Playing the music has been better than ever and everything away from music has been better than ever. I’m very happy.

Your new album Vestiges & Claws is the first solo effort you’ve made in seven years. How long was that album in your mind? When did you start putting it together?
I’ve been thinking about it throughout the years when I was writing, recording and touring with Junip. But I was only actively thinking about it once in a while, recording a demo here and there. I thought about it enough to form some ideas of an album that would be very different from the first two, but being more of a follow up in terms of production and style.

In terms of the relationship to the previous two albums, Vestiges & Claws is described as the third part of a trilogy. What ideas and inspirations did you draw upon for this album?
I did have an idea of a trilogy – not in a super strong way – but in terms of style I wanted to keep the artwork similar and the production similar. I let myself be inspired by Western Aftican music, more than on the second album. ‘What Will’ and ‘Stories We Build, Stories We Tell’ are both riff-based songs, and I had other songs that I felt I couldn’t form them that well on my own with just guitar and vocals so I decided to add more harmonies. In that way I was inspired by Crosby, Stills and Nash, along the lines of traditional folk music from the States. Percussion wise I started to do some home percussion on the guitar, plugged in to make it sound bigger and fatter, which was new, I guess.

Were there any challenges putting this record together? With this much time between releases was there any uncertainty as to how to go about making a new record?
I sort of let go of my stubborn side in trying to let the songs be, and become something else. I also knew I was going to have to invite people when I went on tour, I also felt a bit too old to sit and rehearse guitar too much and decided to bring more people on board.

As a musician, through working on different albums with Junip, how do you think you’ve grown and matured as a songwriter?
I think guitar and harmonies and chords I haven’t changed that much since I was young, but lyrically I feel like I’m focusing on different approaches to writing. I am still very happy with some of the lyrics I wrote on the first album but that aspect of writing about an inner struggle from a lonely person’s point of view I feel has changed. I am enjoying writing lyrics that have a more distant perspective, so lyrics that have an outside voice that speaks to a crowd more than the inner voice that is involved in a personal struggle.

What was it about the other projects and your time away that helped re-energise yourself for solo writing? Was it important for you to stretch your legs creatively with other projects?
Yeah, it was really important for me after my second album to go and do something with Junip. It was actually hard to start that band again and write collaboratively, but once we got going it felt really good and that was the reason we did a second Junip album instead of me going back to the solo work. Throughout the years it has been important for me to switch between different things. I had many moments of only touring or only trying to write, sometimes being away from playing live for so long that I lost a bit of momentum of what I am good at. Nowadays I have to have a good balance between writing and touring and having my own time to be a normal person outside of music.

You are coming to Australia to play a run of shows. What do you like about performing about Australian audiences?
I really look forward to coming, I was there with Junip last but I have been many times with my solo music. I remember mentioning to my friends how much I enjoy having touring vacations in Australia because it’s normally around the time it is darkest and most depressing in Sweden. The crowds have always been amazing so everything from the weather to the culture and people I have always enjoyed.

You’ve been playing the songs from Vestiges & Claws for most of 2015. Aside from the new songs, what will Australian audiences experience in your show that they might not have seen before?
Yeah! So I am doing a couple of songs on my own in a similar way to how I used to perform. But I also have been adding musicians that are doing the harmonies and more guitar and lots of percussion – the set itself is pretty mixed and when we play the more percussive songs it’s a lot different to what I have done before. It’s a band that I have handpicked, so I have one of my favourite percussionists from Los Angeles on tour with us and then there is a singer from London that I picked because of his vocals. There are a lot of new elements.

You’ve had a successful career to date, one which will continue for many more years to come. I’d love to know how you define success?
I think anyone that is able to do something that they like to do and be able to buy food while doing it is very successful.

Jose Gonzalez will be performing at The Tivoli on Wednesday February 10. Tickets are still available, you can purchase yours through Ticketmaster.


Sign up for our weekly enews & receive more articles like this: