With his crystal-clear singing voice and vibrant, classically-inspired playing, Jose Gonzalez is one of today’s most remarkable artists, and a testament to the irrefutable power of one man and a guitar.
His debut album ‘Veneer’ captured his magical sound in its purest state, simply beautiful and beautifully simple. Touching on a remarkable array of influences, from folk to classic pop to a dazzling spectrum of world music, ‘Veneer’ touched audiences across the globe. Originally released in Sweden on Imperial Recordings in 2003 and on Hidden Agenda in North America in 2005, ‘Veneer’ was re-issued in the US on Mute Records in 2006. In September 2007 Gonzalez will release his sophomore album, the highly anticipated ‘In Our Nature’ (released in the US on Mute). ‘In Our Nature’ sees Gonzalez coming into his own as a songwriter with songs that are as instantly accessible as they are brimming with darkness and brooding intensity.
In the four years since the Swedish release of ‘Veneer,’ Gonzalez’ global profile has grown steadily. Winning the Swedish Grammy for Best Newcomer in 2004, Gonzalez was awarded the European Border Breaker Award in 2006 and the Swedish Government’s Music Export Award 2007. His cover of The Knife’s ‘Heartbeats’ (which appears on ‘Veneer’) was used in a successful European advertising campaign for the Sony Bravia LCD Television, and Gonzalez’ played multiple worldwide tours, performing for audiences in Europe, Asia, South America, and North America. ‘Veneer’ also went Platinum in Sweden and Great Britain, Double Platinum in Ireland and Gold in Australia and New Zealand.
In March 2006 Gonzalez performed seven times at SXSW – winning over audiences and critics in Austin TX. This set the stage for taking on North America. He has since toured the US extensively, selling out shows in every major market, and appeared on Late Night with Conan O’Brien, The Carson Daly Show, with Zero 7 on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno and on the nationally syndicated English-language television show American Latino. Gonzalez was also a featured vocalist on the Grammy nominated Zero 7 album ‘The Garden.’
In 2006 Gonzalez performed at multiple music festivals including Central Park Summerstage in New York City, Austin City Limits, LA’s Hollywood Bowl, Seattle’s Bumbershoot, The Intonation Music Festival in Chicago and Toronto’s V Fest. Most recently, Gonzalez performed at the 2007 Coachella Music Festival in Indio California.
Gonzalez, like his music, is deceptively unassuming, studied and powerful. Swedish-born but of Argentinean descent, Gonzalez picked up the guitar at 14, learning the basics from his dad’s gift of a Beatles songbook, then studying classical guitar through his teens. At the same time as he was learning the ins-and-outs of his acoustic instrument, Gonzalez indulged edgier tastes like The Misfits and Black Flag by playing bass in a pair of Gothenburg hardcore bands.
In 1998, Gonzalez began playing guitar in a friend’s indie rock band, saving his own songs for an as-yet-undetermined purpose. He eventually put together his own trio, dubbed Junip, with an ear towards creating more experimental-tinged music a la Low and the Constellation Records catalog (home of, among others, of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, A Silver Mt. Zion, and Do Make Say Think). Incredibly, that wasnâ€™t enough for the young musician. His newfound interest in artists such as Cat Power and Songs: Ohia – as well as a lifelong passion for singers like Chet Baker and Joao Gilberto – compelled him to attempt some solo recordings.
While working towards his PhD in biochemistry at the University of Gothenburg, Gonzalez music career began to take shape, eventually forcing him to choose a career in music over one in research.
The foundation on which he builds his songs is the same on which he built his studies – he attacks his music patiently, methodically and with great interest in finding unexpected angles. ‘In Our Nature’ is about exploring these angels.
“I didn’t want to write about love but to find other equally universal themes for the songs” says Gonzalez about the making of ‘In Our Nature.’ “These are things I have always been thinking about. But the last six months I became even more interested after I read the book ‘The God Delusion’ by Richard Dawkins. He’s an evolutionary biologist, but the lyrics are far from biological, I’d like to point that out. It’s mainly the themes that interest me.”
“I like playing with symbolism,” Gonzalez continues, “On this album I’ve wanted to bring out the primitive aspects of human beings.”
‘In Our Nature’ was recorded entirely on tape at a Gothenburg studio. Though Gonzalez spent a great deal of time writing these new songs – playing them over and over into a voice recorder until he was confident in their arrangements – the actual recording of the album happened very quickly, taking less than two weeks in the studio to record ten songs.
While it is sonically similar to ‘Veneer,’ ‘In Our Nature’ shows Gonzalez’ growth as a songwriter. Displaying a heightened emphasis on melody and strong, focused lyrics – the album is a dark combination of softness and anger that is at once mesmerizing, intimate and hauntingly epic.