Why Jose Gonzalez chose to write in his native language Spanish for his upcoming album, Local Valley
We speak to the indie folk singer about writing in Spanish and Swedish, and more in this exclusive interview
AFTER A GAP of six years, Swedish musician José González has announced a new album, Local Valley. The indie folk singer-songwriter has a quiet and warm demeanour, and lets his music do the talking. From questioning humanity’s place in the universe to fighting inner demons, his songs have a moving and lasting effect on listeners. “The mood in Local Valley ranges from dark to very light,” he
tells us on a video call from a park in Sweden. The 13-track album is slated to release mid-September, with four singles out already.
Local Valley is José’s fourth studio album and it follows the critically acclaimed Vestiges & Claws (2015). While thematically and stylistically the album is very much in the artiste’s signature folk style, the production is a little more evolved. “In terms of rhythms, I’ve decided to add drum machines instead of percussion on this one. Also, I allowed myself to use loops to loop my guitar and vocals. On the other albums, I’ve been more focussed on doing everything with just one guitar and my vocals, but this one is a bit more produced,” reveals José who gained popularity internationally for his work on the Ben Stiller-starrer The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.
A lot of the songs seem to reflect on what is happening around us. José admits that the lyrics were written just as the pandemic was beginning, but topics like the human condition, our relationship with nature and existential risks are subjects he has always been interested in. “I’ve been following the science and researchers who study subjects like viruses and bio-threats. So, many of the songs revolve around these issues,” he shares.
This album also marks José’s first song in his native language, Spanish. El Invento (the invention) is inspired by the birth of his daughter. The introspective number is soft and melodious, and was released by the singer (who’s parents are Argentinian) earlier this year. “For some silly reason I’ve only been writing in English. But for this album, I decided to push myself and write both in Swedish and Spanish,” José tells us.
Another reason to pen lyrics in Spanish was that Latin American music has always inspired the artiste. He lists Cuban musician Silvio Rodríguez as one of his idols, along with Mercedes Sosa, the Grammy-Award winning Argentine singer and Brazilian composer, Caetano Veloso.
The latest single from the album is Valle Local. The stringed melodies of the guitar are the driving force of the track. The music video was released as part of Jim Beam Welcome Sessions, which is a series of digital concerts that brings back musicians to live venues. Valle Local is filmed at The Michelberger hotel, one of Berlin’s most iconic music venues and the video pays homage to it.
We loved the album art. What was the idea behind it and who was the artist?
The artist is my girlfriend, Hannele Fernstrom. She has studied textile design and one of our common influences is Swedish artist Josef Frank.
Who's been on your playlist?
During the pandemic all the clubs were closed. In the park I saw a young boy playing a song by Nigerian artist Oritse Femi called Ongba Larami. That’s become my go-to song when I want to go out running and to engersie in the mornings.
Tell us about the The Michelberger hotel and the Jim Beam Welcome Sessions performance.
As a touring musician, the welcome you feel within a space is so important for so many reasons, both in shaping what you do on stage but also the moments in between. From the moment you step through the doors of a venue like The Michelberger, the playful architecture and warm and inviting aesthetic immediately inspires and fuels the creative spirit, especially for musicians entering a building owned, run, and built with the distinct aim of fostering the writing, production and playing of live music. Having spent a great deal of time in The Michelberger, my connection comes from memories wrapped in rich emotions of amazing nights spent in this space. For me, as a live performer, the experience of changing the mood among a group of strangers by taking them to two emotional ends of the spectrum throughout a gig is unlike any other. You can literally watch as they physically and mentally change in front of your eyes. The music itself creates a sense of unity that is firmly based on the experience of sharing something unrepeatable, special and totally individual with others.
Watch José González perform the song Valle Local as part of the Jim Beam Welcome Sessions here:
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