When it comes to pop music, there is nothing quite so universal as a love song. And, in a bid to adhere to the genre’s obsession with the endeavours of the heart, pop artist Wrabel unveils his new track “nothing but the love”. With the song’s inspiration stemming from a performance his sister-in-law gave in church, choir-esque backing vocals and heavenly violin renditions hint towards the song’s beginnings. And, as Wrabel’s powerhouse vocals ring over the sounds of thumping drums, lyrics on the universality and transformative powers of love wash over the track, culminating in it being a display of pop mastery.
“That song started on my couch one night. I would try to pick up a guitar or the piano and just get an idea. Any little idea. A melody, a word, anything. Just to kind of keep my creative brain flowing,” explains the artist. “So I sat down, had this idea, and I just started singing the verse and was like ‘I think this is really good, this is kind of freaking me out’. We’d kind of picked all the songs and I realised I didn’t have a love song, and I’m very much in love. So I started it and within about three days I’d written four or five versions of it, substituting out new choruses etc.”
While Wrabel’s vocal abilities are undeniable, his musical background and pure knowledge of his craft are what sets him apart from others in his genre. With a childhood infatuation with Casio keyboards inspiring his interest in songwriting, the artist went on to pen tracks for the likes of Kesha and Backstreet Boys, allowing him to hone in on the plethora of skill sets necessary to complete a track and gaining him recognition from the likes of Pink, who he later went on to tour with.
And, with a new album on the way and the drop of his latest infectious tune set to be wildly successful, it is clear that we should be keeping a close eye on Wrabel.
Check out our interview with Wrabel below…
Hey Wrabel! We’re almost half way through the year, how has it been so far for you?
Oh boy! I think on a general note this year has felt a little bit more anxious even than last year somehow. I think last year it was really easy to just be like ‘nothing’s happening, you’re not doing anything, so just stop’. But now as things start to open, we’re getting vaccinated, and my songs are coming out it’s almost a little more buzzy. I find myself a little angstier, in an excited kind of way though. A lot of it is stemming from this record, and I feel really lucky to have been able to use the time primarily alone last year to finish this record that I’ve been writing for quite literally 10 years. So I’m just kind of buzzy, I’m excited, I’m nervous, I’m anxious but I think a lot of it’s stemming from a good place!
With last year being so difficult, do you think it affected your creativity in any way?
Yes. I think in ways that I haven’t even maybe seen yet. I’m really thankful to have my publisher and my management. They know me really well and I think that they did a really good job of helping guide me and helping push me out of my comfort zone. I am so technologically stupid, for lack for a better word, and they really helped. I remember I had a live stream thing and it kept crashing, and the next day I opened the door and my manager had ordered me the fastest home internet system available to humankind!
One huge silver lining – maybe it’s even a golden lining – is this song “nothing but the love”. I actually wrote it on my couch by myself, maybe seven versions of the same song. I haven’t done that since I was a teenager, quite literally, and that I don’t think would have happened without so much time by myself, listening to the record, thinking about what I want to say, what stories I want to tell, what’s missing, what’s there, what to cut, what to keep. It still blows my mind. I’m really proud of that and I surprised myself. For pretty much everyone in the world, in order to keep working and staying active and afloat during the pandemic, we’ve had to take on something that’s not usually in our ‘job description’! So a songwriter is suddenly becoming a novice engineer!
What’s your earliest memory of music?
My first memory of writing was when we lived in northern California, so I must have been in third grade. I had one of those Casio keyboards where you can hit the button and it’ll play a song that’s programmed on there. I wrote about climbing up a mountain to the tune of that song, and I’d pretend like I was playing the piano to the cheesy drums coming in and stuff. That’s my first memory of writing, but I didn’t really start until I was about 16, which compared to a lot of my friends and peers is really old! Most people are like ‘yeah well, when I was a foetus I was singing!’.
Aside from that, my biggest childhood memory of music was through my great uncle, Uncle Carl. We had these CDs of him, and I swear in another world, in a life with different opportunities and a different path, he would have been a Frank Sinatra or a Tony Bennett. He was a crooner, and his voice was incredible. For fun, it was just his passion to record to karaoke tracks, and so we would listen all the time on the way to school and in the house to Uncle Carl’s music. That was always really inspiring to me. Even if he did it as a hobby, I grew up thinking I could do it as a hobby and maybe it would turn into something more.
You’ve been doing music for almost a decade now, how do you think your sound has evolved over the years?
If anything, I think it’s become more ‘me’, and I’ve become more myself. I think that’s my forever goal, to kind of get that drop of the essence of who I am creatively to be smaller and smaller and more in focus, almost like I’m looking at it myself in a microscope and dialling in on the focus. Some things in the past I feel like have been a little blurry on the microscope there, but if anything I think I’ve tried to strip away. For me, everything starts with an instrument, melody, lyric and a story. On this record, I got to work with one of my best friends and favourite collaborator called Stint. He executive produced this record with me and I think the first thing I said to him was that I wanted this record to be ‘nothing you’ve ever heard before’.
Doing this record independent on Big Gay Records – and I partnered with Nettwerk – I’m so thrilled about. I don’t hold too much bitterness or resentment towards the major label system but it’s a totally different thing when someone says ‘yep, do whatever you want!’ and you’re like ‘really?’ and they’ve been like ‘yeah, we love what you’re doing, just do that!’ I’m quite insecure – even with my creativity and artistry, at times it can be crippling. I like to think I’ve built up some confidence in the last 10 years with plaques in the hallway to remind me! So it really means a lot to me when it’s just whatever I want. Not in some huge ego way, but it’s so common for a label, or an A&R or a manager to be like ‘but what if you do this?’ Most songwriters started in their bedrooms with a locked door because they didn’t know how to say something. It’s far too easy to lose that feeling. For me, I hope to get closer and closer to whatever it is I am.
Congratulations on your new single “nothing but the love”, take us through the production process!
That song started on my couch one night. I would try to pick up a guitar or the piano and just get an idea. Any little idea. A melody, a word, anything. Just to kind of keep my creative brain flowing. So I sat down, had this idea, and I just started singing the verse and was like ‘I think this is really good, this is kind of freaking me out’. We’d kind of picked all the songs and I realised I didn’t have a love song, and I’m very much in love. So I started it and within about three days I’d written four or five versions of it, substituting out new choruses etc. I got out my computer and like a mad scientist put together a kind of production sketch. It started on guitar, I took it to piano and raised the tempo of it. It was my first time doing that with my limited knowledge of computers and production. I then sent off the first draft to my producer and it didn’t quite translate. So I was like ‘ok, hold on’. I went back and I think by the end of it it was version 12 and the tempo was higher, the key was different, piano was the primary thing and there was a tonne of background vocals. I then got to go in with Stint and sit with him on it, and he helped take it to outer space.
The single is about God’s love and healing, what made you touch on this specific theme for the single?
The inspiration lyrically was from a song my sister-in-law was singing at church. She always sends us videos and I always love to watch, she has such a beautiful voice. I was kind of sitting with that and thinking ‘I have a colourful history with the church’. I was thinking about seeing and hearing that and knowing kind of what she was talking about, then zooming out and looking at love in general, just love, what is this thing? I’m usually writing songs about loving someone and being like ‘I wish you could see what I see in you, then you’d love yourself’, or ‘I wish you could see us in the way I see us’, it’s always like ‘I wish’. And now I look at my own life and my own relationship and I think ‘wow, this person has loved me though everything’. I’m six years sober, I have things in my life that I have been so scared of, and when you look across the table and see that person that loves you through all of it, it’s really beautiful and I think a really rare thing. I wanted to kind of dive into that and not just have another love song that’s just like ‘ahhh I love you so much and I miss you when you’re gone’, but that kind of transformative love that I think is in a lot of gospel music, and applying that in my case to romantic love, with a man. I’m like ‘God is dope, but have you ever been loved by a man?!’