Treasure Island Music Festival artist profile: Jose Gonzalez

Gautami Sharma/Staff

“Look into the sun as the new days rise.” Indie folk singer Jose Gonzalez’s soft-spoken and calming voice brought his lyrics to life while the soft strums of his guitar and Treasure Island’s warm weather embodied the message of the song, “Stay Alive.”

Gonzalez, solo artist and lead vocalist of Junip, performed at Treasure Island Music Festival on Saturday. Audiences cheered as they heard popular hits and swayed to older favorites such as “Crosses.” As sunlight streamed into the grounds, visuals of hay fields and forests changed to match every song and the afternoon’s ambiance.

The Daily Californian had the opportunity to interview Gonzalez over the phone during his tour about his latest solo album, life and emotions. While he is most well known for his solo covers of songs such as “Heartbeats” and “Teardrop,” Vestiges and Claws is his first album of completely original pieces. Gonzalez says, “It was a good opportunity to discover my own lyrics.”

Gonzalez has come a long way from his 2006 debut album, Veneer, but the message remains the same. “I liked my past album’s title, Veneer, it really captured the metaphor that I felt comfortable with. With Vestiges I was aiming for the same feel.” A unique title such as Vestiges and Claws is not just a title randomly put together. “Vestiges — something to do with the past, and Claws — something about the possibilities and moving forward, felt like a good pair of words for the album and the song, about global ethics and humanities.”

This depth applies to Gonzalez’s songs as well. Audiences come for the introspective and universally applicable lyrics that Gonzalez writes.

As Gonzalez spoke on the phone, his gentle voice slowly layered his emotions, articulating how deeply personal his tracks could be without seeming so. “ ‘Open Book’ is more personal and about relationships, moving on from relationships, death, or not being loved.”

As the singer-songwriter stood onstage at Treasure Island, his emotions reverberated through his microphone and flowed into the wind blowing toward the audience. But not all his songs were met with such enthusiasm. Festivalgoers responded more to the livelier, more rhythmic songs. Slower tracks such as “With the Ink of a Ghost” did not trigger as many responses.

The powerful depth of Gonzalez’s songs is lost in a venue such as the Treasure Island Music Festival, where festivalgoers come for headliners. The intricacy of songs such as “Leaf Off,” which urges listeners to reflect on how far they have come and what it means to be alive, is more appreciated in smaller venues where listeners can engage in every aspect of the song.

Contact Gautami Sharma at [email protected].