Swedish musician José González thrives on simplicity

Swedish musician José González thrives on simplicity
In an age when even hard-up musicians can create studio quality from a bedroom, and producers like Timbaland and Mark Ronson are becoming stars of the industry, successful Swedish songwriter José González stands out for his raw simplicity.

González’s indie/folk came to the world’s attention in 2005 when his cover version of “Heartbeats” by fellow Swedish band “The Knife” was used in a commercial by Sony BRAVIA which involved the release of 250,000 bouncing balls in the streets of San Francisco.

The exposure helped sales of his debut album “Veneer,” to achieve platinum status in Britain and Sweden, gold in Australia and New Zealand, and double platinum in Ireland.

But the singer, whose Argentinean parents fled to Sweden to escape from Jorge Videla’s military junta in 1977, believes technology is not killing the art of the solo singer/songwriter, as has been suggested.

“Actually, I think the opposite,” he told AFP in an interview.

“Many studios are buying back their analogue equipment to recreate a more authentic sound,” he added.

“Because of the internet you can record things and put them out and you don’t have to go through the whole machinery. You can look like a telephone salesman, and it doesn’t matter. We’ve got the power.”

The Gothenburg-based artist’s second album, “In Our Nature”, was released at the end of last year, and while still characterized by low vocals on top of acoustic folk guitar, has moved away lyrically from the traditional ballad.

“It’s still just me and my guitar, but it is much more about the spirit of trying to get your fist in the air and a move away from the love songs. I think I was very influenced by world events,” he said.

González, who studied for a PhD in biochemistry at the University of Gothenburg, cited “The God Delusion,” written by fellow biologist and prominent atheist Richard Dawkins, as a major influence on the record’s exploration into the primitive aspects of human behaviour.

“It was one of the bases of the album. If people knew more about why we are the way we are, I think we would be better off and would come up with better ways to get along,” he said.

“I know people who don’t want to know, they think if you peer into your brain to see which part of your brain fires when you’re in love, it will take away from the feeling, but I don’t believe that,” he added

“It’s like knowing what kind of spices are in your food. I don’t think it will take away from the feeling of ‘this tastes really good’.

“I think religion is an umbrella for many different subjects and different things will replace these areas, people will learn, and maybe philosophy will replace some areas about how we come to be in the world, how we can live together without believing in supernatural beings.”

By AFP’s James Pheby