José González (born 1978) is a Swedish indie folk singer-songwriter and guitarist from Gothenburg, Sweden. González is also a member of the Swedish band Junip, along with Tobias Winterkorn.
González' parents moved from Argentina to Sweden in 1976. He was born in 1978, two years after his academic psychologist father, mother, and older sister, then an infant, fled Argentina after an ultra-conservative military junta seized power in March 1976 at the beginning of the "Dirty War". González was born in a suburb of Gothenburg, Sweden. He commented, "It's a very small town. It has about a half-million people living there. It's a pretty good music city by the ocean. It rains a lot there, but it's beautiful in the summertime." González grew up listening to Latin folk and pop music, and has named Cuban singer-songwriter Silvio Rodríguez as a favourite artist. He said the first concert he went to was "The Wailers. I got their autographs and everything. I was about 12 or so. At the time my favourite music was Bob Marley and Michael Jackson."
The first band he played in was Back Against the Wall, a Gothenburg hardcore punk band influenced by Black Flag, The Misfits and the Dead Kennedys. He later played bass guitar in another hardcore band, Renascence, between 1993-1998. Between 1997 and 1998 José played guitar with rock band Only if You Call Me Jonathan.
In June 2003 González released his debut solo release, a two-track 7" single. The single was discovered by Joakim Gävert, co-founder of the then fledgling label Imperial Records who then signed González as their first official artist. In October he released his debut album, Veneer, in Europe. The album was subsequently released in the UK on 25 April 2005, and in the United States on 6 September 2005. The album was made while González was studying for a PhD in Biochemistry at the University of Gothenburg, which he has not completed due to a lack of time since his musical career has taken off.
González' trademark sound is solo classical guitar with soft vocal melody. His work, although mostly original, also includes acoustic covers of such hits as "Heartbeats" by his fellow Swedes The Knife, "Love Will Tear Us Apart" by Joy Division, "Born in the U.S.A." and "The Ghost of Tom Joad" by Bruce Springsteen, "Hand on Your Heart" by Kylie Minogue, "Smalltown Boy" by Bronski Beat, "Teardrop" by Massive Attack and "Last Snowstorm of the Year" by Low.
His second album, In Our Nature, was released internationally on 22 September 2007. The album's lyrical content was in part influenced by his reading of books like The God Delusion by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins and Practical Ethics by ethicist Peter Singer. González is an atheist and a vegetarian.
In 2007 González won an EBBA Award. Every year the European Border Breakers Awards (EBBA) recognize the success of ten emerging artists or groups who reached audiences outside their own countries with their first internationally released album in the past year.
González has performed on several television programs, including Late Night with Conan O'Brien (29 March 2006 and 28 September 2007), Jimmy Kimmel Live! (12 October 2007), the BBC's Later... with Jools Holland (9 June 2006), Last Call with Carson Daly (21 June 2006), Seven Network's Sunrise (15 August 2007) and Canada's MTV Live (5 December 2007).
The song "Crosses", from González's Crosses EP and the Veneer album, appeared on the finale of the second season of the popular American television comedy-drama The O.C., as well as on a trailer for a BBC Four programme. Also taken from the Veneer album, "Stay in the Shade" was used in The O.C., midway through season three, in the episode The Pot Stirrer. His music has also been used in the Friday Night Lights TV series (12 December 2006).
His cover of The Knife's "Heartbeats" has been used many times. It featured in a Sony BRAVIA commercial featuring 250,000 coloured bouncing balls in San Francisco; in episode 409 and 505 of the CW's One Tree Hill and is included on the album The Road Mix: One Tree Hill Volume 3; it featured in season 7, episode 2 of Scrubs; in season 1, episode 21 of Brothers & Sisters; in season 4, episode 16 of Bones; in Stargate Universe; in 90210; in season 1, episode 21 of Whitney; and in an episode of the British TV show; Sun, Sea and A+E. Gone, a 2007 film directed by Ringan Ledwidge, and Kyss Mig, a 2011 film directed by Alexandra Therese Keining, both feature the track "Lovestain", from the Veneer album.
Music from González' latest album has also been used in other television shows. His version of Massive Attack's "Teardrop" was used in the fourth season finale of House entitled "Wilson's Heart" (the Massive Attack version is used as the show's theme music). It features in the fifth season episode of Numb3rs entitled "The Fifth Man". The song can be heard at the end of Friday Night Lights season 4, episode "A Sort of Homecoming".
González performed his original song "Far Away" at the Spike Video Game Awards, where it won Best Song for its featured appearance in Rockstar Games' video game Red Dead Redemption, which also took home the award for Game of the Year.
González plays in the band Junip with Tobias Winterkorn and Elias Araya. To date Junip have released two EPs; Black Refuge and the free internet release Rope and Summit, along with two full-length albums, Fields and Junip.
He collaborated with UK downtempo duo Zero 7 on their 2006 album, The Garden, providing guest vocals on the album's tracks, along with Zero 7 regular Sia Furler. González performs vocals on four songs: "Futures", "Left Behind", "Today" and "Crosses".
González collaborated with Finnish house DJ Jori Hulkkonen on the track "Blinded By The Numbers" from Hulkkonen's album Dualizm, released in 2005, and his song 'Crosses' was sampled by British hiphop artist Plan B for the song "Cast a Light" which appears on the Paint It Blacker EP. He has also collaborated with the Swedish hip hop DJ and producer Embee on the track "Send Someone Away", the album mixed by Soundism received a Grammis. González's song "Crosses" was remixed in 2006 by popular Dutch DJ Tiësto. González can also be heard in the song "I want you Back" by the Swedish indie-rock group Niccokick.
González collaborated with The Books on Red Hot Organization's Dark Was the Night compilation album, fundraising for HIV and AIDS awareness, which was released in February, 2009. In 2011, he contributed to the organization's follow-up album "Red Hot+Rio 2" with the song "Um Girassol Da Cor Do Seu Cabelo," recorded with Mia Doi Todd.
González participated in The Göteborg String Theory project in 2009-2011, an experimental music and art project that involved artists from Göteborg (Gothenburg), Sweden and classical composers from Berlin, Germany. A new sound piece of his song "Cycling Trivialities" was arranged by composer Nackt for a classcial orchestra. It was recorded and performed together with González, and finally released on the album The Göteborg String Theory (Kning Disk) in April 2010. González continued his collaboration with The Göteborg String Theory in 2011. Nackt wrote 11 new arrangement for González' songs, and in spring 2011 José González and The Göteborg String Theory went on a European tour in 19 cites.
Equipment and tunings:
Guitars: González plays an Alhambra classical guitar onstage and Alhambra, Esteve, and Córdoba classicals while recording.
Amps: for live performances, a Fishman Prefix Pro Blend in the Alhambra. When performing solo, he also plays into whatever condenser mic the venue supplies.
Strings: La Bella polished nylon, high tension.
Capo: Shubb C5 partial.
Picks: González plays only with his fingernails, reinforced with a nail strengthener.
González consistently uses 'altered' guitar tunings in his tunes, de-tuning the 6th (E) string down to D for all his songs, with the 3rd (G) string altered between F#, G and A from tune to tune (e.g. A in his cover of Hand on Your Heart and F# in Heartbeats.) He does the retuning himself during live performances rather than use 3 different guitars on stage.