ACL Music Fest Interviews
Sunday, 3:30pm, AT&T Blue Room stage
"Quiet has always been loud for me," says Swedish singer-songwriter José González, reappropriating the classic Kings of Convenience album title Quiet Is the New Loud. "I think it's fair to say I make low-key music."
González's debut, Veneer (Mute), is definitely, and almost defiantly, delicate. It pairs Nick Drake's acoustic fingerstyles with whispery, intimate vocals. He's three singles deep into Veneer worldwide, but stateside, he's most recognizable for his bare-bones reworking of "Heartbeats," a tune from the Swedish electronica duo the Knife. An overseas Sony commercial for LCD screens where the song is matched by a stunning visual of 250,000 brightly colored superballs raining down on a San Francisco street has slowly become one of the year's biggest viral video phenomena in America.
"There's no voiceover, no beer can," says González, who admits some initial trepidation about being introduced with such a blatant mix of art and commerce. "If it were a music video, it would have been a really nice one. I can feel good about that."
González can also feel good about his initial run of stateside success. A pair of tunes have been featured on The OC, and he's racked up stellar live reviews for a slew of SXSW performances and recent tours with Juana Molina and Zero 7 (who he also recently recorded with). What are people connecting to?
"When I listen to people like João Gilberto or Chet Baker something happens; there's not that many instruments on a song, and you actually have more space for each instrument and more attention to give them as a listener," he says. "Even though the music itself is performed quietly, it works really well played loudly at home."
Perhaps it's just deceptively quiet music?
"Definitely," González says. "Maybe deceptively quiet is the new loud? I like that."