Interview: Jose Gonzales

Last week I was fortunate enough to do a phone interview with José González, and although it’s been nearly seven years since Jose Gonzalez last performed in New Zealand, we still can’t forget just how superb his performance was at Bruce Masson.

José González, the Swedish folk musician of Argentine descent, is coming back to New Zealand to perform at the St James Theatre on February 3. González will bring his soft vocal melody and his incredible acoustic guitar playing all his hits such as “Heartbeats”, “Teardrop” and “Crosses.”

Where are you at the moment?
I’m home at the moment, in Gothenburg, Sweden. I have been here for a month having the best winter.

Many people know that you started playing Hard Core Punk and part of a Hard Core band. How did you come to a decision to change styles so completely?
When I was young, I first started playing acoustic guitar as well as bass and I started playing in a punk band and later a hard-core band. During this time it was great! I was also learning classical music. And I began to imitate the style and songs from Silvio Rodriguez, from Cuba. And I kept on doing home record acoustics’. It was a very eclectic time! One moment I was playing bass and the next I was playing the Harp. When I started University, later on, I didn’t have time for all the different bands, but I kept on doing my own music. I never switched it consciously, it was more gradual as it wasn’t something that my band was offering me.

I can see some influence of Brazilian music in your work. Am I correct?
I learned most of my guitar playing Bossa Nova from artists such as Joao Gilberto, Caetano Veloso, Tropicalia, Gal Costa. There are so many music styles that I really like. I don’t think you can hear that well in my recording, but I really felt inspired by Brazilian style music. Many of the harmonies tend to go to the “Dreaming” type of harmony.

What is your favourite song on the new album?
After the recording I am really happy with “the Forest”, but I’m happy with the first one “ With the Ink of a Ghost”, that is going to be my next video release. It is the type of the song that takes you through a journey. I was really happy how the guitar was written and the lyrics turned out.

What memories do you have of New Zealand?
I remember doing shows for my first two albums, and I remember the reception. I felt that I haven’t spent enough time there. I probably should have stayed a bit more.

What are you bringing to the show in New Zealand?
I am bringing a five piece band, 4 part vocals, two guitars, congas and percussion. It’s a band where I am able to do the acoustic songs and bring a more western African oriented style. We are playing songs from my three albums and a couple of covers.

I highly encourage you to find someone you love and take to the St James Theatre on February 3. He is an artist that will take you away from all you daily stress and immerse you into folk culture. For those that have never listened, I hope this will encourage you, and your Google search should start with his famous music cover “Heartbeats”.      

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