Keeping it fluid

Jose Gonzalez says a dynamic set-list allows you to tweak it depending on what people expect or want

Updated - December 04, 2016 04:28 pm IST

Published - December 02, 2016 05:19 pm IST / / / /

Folk artiste Jose Gonzalez says he is excited about coming to India for the first time, as part of a larger Asia tour. Playing a career-spanning set at Backdoors in Bengaluru, Gonzalez adds that he’s going in with an open mind.

Over the phone from Gothenburg, he says, “Knowing it is a festival, it is a narrow part of the culture that I’m seeing, maybe the Westernised part of the culture. I have friends who have travelled a bit more, backpacking, I’ve heard stories from them and I’m sure my short stay will be different.”

With roots in Argentina and Sweden, Gonzalez is definitely a tourist in Asia and Africa, but a little more at home in Europe and the Americas. “When I’m touring in South America, I speak Spanish, but every time I open my mouth, people notice that I have an accent and it is very weird. They notice that I’m a stranger.”

Apart from presenting the sides of joy, sadness and love through his bitter-sweet lyrics on songs such as ‘Leaf Off/The Cave’ from his 2015 album Vestiges & Claws, Gonzalez became equally well-known for his rendition of songs such as ‘Heartbeats’ by electronic duo The Knife, ‘Teardrop’ by trip hop act Massive Attack and ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ by Joy Division. His advice to upcoming artists everywhere is to “have songs that people recognise and songs that people want to hear”. He adds with a laugh, “Which is not an easy thing to do if you’re a new artist. But one of my ways was to play covers, which got attention to what I was doing.”

In his experience, working with a dynamic live sound has also helped – transforming his songs from simple acoustic guitar-led melodies to something more holistic, with help from a band of musicians. He explains, “We’re able to do different dynamics of the songs, a bit more upbeat, percussive, with a lot of harmonies. I guess my advice is to be able to have a bit of dynamic so that you can tweak your set-list a bit depending on what people expect or want.” As a singer-songwriter and one-man act – in addition to having experience playing with his greatly influential folk band Junip – Gonzalez says he doesn’t try to convince an audience or become louder to rise over the chatter of a club audience. “If you play quietly, something that is soothing, they might get calm and listen to that,” he says.

There’s more to Gonzalez than just being a musician, though. If you do as much as look through his social media accounts, you know he loves his philosophy and his podcasts. But he considers himself more of an enthusiast than an intellectual. Rattling off philosophies and movements such as effective altruism, humanism and his interest in statistics he says, “I enjoy tweeting some stuff at a level where people can read it. I’m probably not going to write a book any time soon, I’m not going to have my own podcast. It’s like a loose hobby level with me.”

As for expectations for an Indian audience who will see Gonzalez for the first time, he is characteristically modest.

“I think music is great in the sense that it talks for itself. I’m excited to play my music – guitar and vocals – and these people want to check it out before the show. The music stands for itself.”

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