The wandering life of José Gonzalez

José Gonzàlez has spent the last couple of years touring with his five-man-band and he obviously enjoyed it, as he’s just about to hit the road again with a full orchestra. We got hold of him at home in Gothenburg, on one of those rare days on the west coast where the snow stays on the ground but the sun keeps shining.

You have said you feel comfortable in your boring style. Does this still apply?

I feel there are certain degrees of being boring. I guess that’s where I need to strike a balance, to play low-key guitar music with soft vocals, but still play around a little within that genre. I feel I have experimented, but never gone full tilt.

You have produced all of your albums by yourself. It feels like the DIY approach has been important to you. Is it still?

At the beginning it was almost a rebellion, it was punk to do things by yourself and not depend on the big labels. Now, being older, I think it’s nice to have people do things for you as I have become aware that most people are reasonable. Now it’s more about liking the aesthetics of doing things yourself, to sit with your headphones, jam away and record.

Soon you’ll embark on a tour together with The Gothenburg String Theory, who you collaborated with for the first time back in 2009. How did this come about?

It began with them doing the Berlin String Theory where they arranged various artists’ work for an orchestra. When they moved to Gothenburg they wanted to do the same thing again and invited me to do the song ‘Cycling Through Realities’ with them. In 2010 I was booked for Göteborgskalaset and was paid well. I wanted to do something interesting and fun, so I asked them to do a full set with me. The following year we went on tour in Europe and we have just waited for a chance to do it again ever since.

I read that you sometime book gigs depending on where in the world the weather is good.

Yeah, kinda. I usually talk about it with the crew like ‘it would be good with an Australian tour in January or February’. Now we’re going to Asia – Vietnam, India, South Korea.

Why do you reckon you are so popular with the makers of film and TV?

It’s probably the “muzak effect”, haha. I fit into the “soft emotional music” label which works fine, without clashing with the dialogue. They have picked either Junip or myself to big scenes in things like Breaking Bad, Suits, Parenthood, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and the game Red Dead Redemption.

Speaking of Walter Mitty, when did you last hear from Ben Stiller?

It was a while ago, when he filmed Zoolander 2 in Italy. He got in touch and said he was nearby and that he thought I should swing by. I kind of regret that I didn’t, because I suspect I would have gotten a cameo.

How did you get to know each other?

He liked my music and wanted to use it in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. So he invited me to his place to look at an early version, and we’ve stayed in touch since. When his mother passed away I played at her memorial in New York.

José Gonzàlez – solo artist, band member, provider of film scores. You can really do a bit of whatever you feel like.

It’s real nice. I feel a bit sorry for people who have a job where they have to be at a certain location, at an office or at a factory, with little opportunity to spare time and a variation of things to do.

I’ve heard you have struggled mentally at times. How do you feel today?

I feel really good. But I have given a lot of thought, and spoken a good deal with people, about what leads to poor mental health, what baggage I carry, what tendencies I have to feel bad in certain situations. Nowadays I make sure I get enough sleep and try to stay away from too many stressful situations. I like to hang out with people and party, but I’m aware of the associated risks. And then I use proactive tricks like working out a couple of times a week and meditation.

José Gonzàlez plays at Berwaldhallen on February 7



Words Jonas Källgren