"When you're on stage, you're able to relax into the rhythms."
Jose Gonzalez is on the road when he takes the call from The Music, en route to Milan. It's early; he's just had his morning coffee and seems in good spirits. He's friendly, speaks quietly, thinks about things before he says them — measured, like his music.
For a little over a decade, Gonzalez — the son of Argentinean parents but born in Gothenburg in Sweden — has held captive a growing audience worldwide with his quiet and powerful music. Whether solo, with a backing band or with side project Junip, Gonzalez has cemented himself as a player and writer of the highest calibre. His three solo albums to date — Veneer (2003), In Our Nature (2007) and Vestiges & Claws, released earlier this year — stand as solid monuments to said skill, three records that link together, but which display a careful evolution. He's not one to merely tread sonic water.
Gonzalez will soon return to Australia, his first run over here in some time. Most recently he was here with Junip (the band he started with Elias Araya and Tobias Winterkorn in 1998, well before his solo career took off), but it's been a while since Australian audiences have had the pleasure of his solo work. He's playing a variety of venues too, from Melbourne Zoo, to a club or two, to the Sydney Opera House. Keeps it interesting, he says.
"We played in a barn — that was pretty fun — out in the woods in the mountains."
"What I've mainly been doing this year is 1000 capacity venues," he adds, "and so whenever we do something different, it really stands out. In the US [recently], we played in a barn — that was pretty fun — out in the woods in the mountains. So I'm looking forward to playing [different places]."
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Gonzalez plans to showcase a good deal of material from latest release, Vestiges & Claws, as well as a selection from his first two solo records, the albums that essentially introduced him to the world. But he's not just appearing as a solo player.
"We're a five-piece band touring, so we're able to do lots of harmonies, percussion, another guitarist," he explains. "We're able to play songs, tracks from the [new] album, that I couldn't play on my own. I do enjoy both (solo and band), but it is nice when you're touring to be around more people. And when you're on stage, you're able to relax into the rhythms."
Vestiges & Claws itself is quite rhythmic, but what sets it apart from its two predecessors quite clearly, is how "less strict" it is, as Gonzalez mentions in the accompanying album bio. Where Veneer, and to a slightly lesser extent In Our Nature, were quite structured, Vestiges & Claws seems a bit freer, a bit looser, a touch more fancy-free, for want of a better term.
It also comes seven years after his last, which he puts down to "wanting to spend six more months trying to figure out how to play some of the songs on my own, comfortably. It was more important to get good songs, and continue having that acoustic intimacy. I'm older, and that time means a bit more."
Gonzalez can take his time - the results are more than worth it.