Artist: José González
Album: Local Valley
Number of Tracks: 13
Label: Mute/City Slang
Release Date: September 17, 2021
From a park in Gothenburg, Sweden, after a day in the sun with longtime partner Hannele Fernström and their two small children, José González took a leisurely evening stroll and spoke with us about Local Valley, his fourth solo album and his first in English, Spanish and Swedish. With Local Valley, his music—defined by artful beats and poetic lyrics—evolves into something lighthearted and wonderful, yet still masterful and epic, sometimes delightfully unexpected. As with all he does, José’s sincerity shines through.
“In a way, I’m always trying to write and record music that has a touch of universal themes and melodies, but also try to stand out, try to find something that will feel unique. I’ve put a lot of effort into reading a lot this time and to incorporate the words and meanings that relate to bigger thinkers than me,” José says, with a light laugh. “Maybe that’s something that translates. I don’t know. I think it’s a matter of taste.”
José González goes “On the Record” with us to discuss the incredible lightness of Local Valley.
She also helped me write “Swing”, the current single. I made a version of the song in Swedish, that in some ways didn’t really work. I was a bit tired of working on that song, so I asked her, “Do you want to try to rewrite this in English?” She co-wrote the lyrics. She wrote the part of, “Swing what your mama gave you. Swing your bum like seaweed.” [Laughs.] Then I asked her to sing on this song and really elevated song from good to amazing.
Do you always write songs together?
No, no, no. That was the first time. I wasn’t sure it was a good idea. I try to be careful with collaborations. She did all the artwork for Junip [my band with Tobias Winterkorn] too and my previous solo album and we always get into fights. We have different tastes. It takes more time than we thought at first, so [chuckles] it can be bad for the relationship, but once we’re done, I think it turned out really great. Musically, I’ve thought not to involve her, but she was excited and she had this amazing really high-pitched vocal that worked perfectly for that song.
Do you have a favorite song on the album?
Well, right now it is “Swing” because it’s so light. In a way, I have many favorites compared to my other stuff. I feel like “Visions” is maybe the best song I’ve written in terms of, if I think of classic songs, of classic song structures, chord progressions and the lyrics, it’s very complete compared to other songs that I’ve written.
“El Invento” also feels that way. “Horizons” is also a favorite. I always try to have some songs that have a sacral tone and I think that one has it. In many ways, I feel like this album deserves better scores than the other albums. [Laughs.]
It sounds like you can really mark your growth on this album. Would you agree?
Yes, I feel like I’ve grown. Also, I’m showing off a bit more my musical skills. With the first album, for example, I didn’t want it to have a chorus refrain on any of the songs. It was deliberately linear. You can talk about growth, I think now I’ve been more open, I’ve been putting on different types of hats for the production, like trying to produce songs that are danceable, some that are very dynamic, and some that are very quiet and still.
What are you most proud of with Local Valley?
I’ve been trying to find a balance between writing songs that are deep and ambitious and then trying to balance that with not sounding preachy. “Visions”, again, I felt like I found that balance, but also with the song “Tjomme” in Swedish, which means dude or slang for dude. With that one I was referring to prophets and doomsday dudes that so many people around the world seem to follow. It’s a sensitive topic, sensitive subject. I feel like I managed to write a lyric that I don’t think anyone in particular will feel [they have been]pointed out, but at the same time I’m making fun of these doomsday dudes. There seem to be one for each religion, at least one. [laughs] Or ideology, so not only religions but also these person cults that seem to arise.