Joel Gabrielsson is a Swedish musician, producer and singer-songwriter. He has announced the release of the debut EP called Citadel which will be out on Maech 12th via Jivvär Records (a brand new Swedish label founded by the musician David Ahlen & veteran producer Manne von Ahn Öberg). According to the press release, With “Citadel”, Joel Gabrielsson debuts in his own name, and tries to cut to the core of what it means to be human. The EP has an open and scaled back quality to it : acoustic guitar with tactile instrumentation and vocals accompanied by an evocative backdrop.

Today we have the pleasure to share the title-track which shows the warm and embracing vocals and the powerful aesthetics and intimacy of the sound. Listen below and check our chat with the artist who details the new EP, his roots and more.

Citadel” is your first EP with your own name. What was the main focus of this new work?

The focus for this EP has been to try to be completely honest, emotionally and aesthetically. The music is very instinctively inspired and I tried to stick close to that original emotion and expression when we continued with the production and added layers of instruments to the songs. I had this intention to not overanalyze, re-work things too much, but just let things come directly, which is why the base is simple with piano and acoustic guitar. The songs are more personal than anything I’ve done previously and I hoped that would be conveyed through it all.

“Morning Light” is the first single of this new EP. Can you tell us more about the track and the video directed by Gustaf Järver?

The song, as well as the whole EP, is initially inspired by a break-up and the feelings associated with it, but contains parallel layers of meaning. It touches a lot on the themes of what it means to be human; to experience transciency, change, faith, to learn to find acceptance in uncertainty. For me, personally, the lyric from the song ”what should become will become…” is at the center of the track and summarizes that feeling.

The video was shot by Gustaf, literally in his backyard. I visited his house in November, and we shot the whole thing in a few hours in the woods close by, and in his green house.
He worked with projections to create the atmosphere in the video, first manipulating footage that he had filmed; then projecting it on to me and filmed me dancing inside the projections. Then he edited again. I’m thankful for his keen aesthetic sense which I think fit really well with the track. He was able to capture the essence of the song’s emotion and amplify it through film, much better than I could have visualized myself.

The Artwork is very intense. How did you choose it?

I tried a few different sketches first, but none seemed to fit well with the concept, so I asked Gustaf to pick out a few frames from the video to ’Morning Light’. We settled on one for the EP and adjusted it to fit the album format. That frame is at a focal point, and seemed to be a powerful symbol for the whole EP. To me it represents a state of being; our existence being blurred, distorted, beautiful and also wrapped up in a sort of light at the same time.

You are from Sweden and grew up in Asia. I’m really interested in the connection between the places we live over the years, our roots and the art. How do you feel these themes connect to your music and your way of thinking music? What are your favourite places which have inspired you the most?

I had the privilege of experiencing several cultures as my family often travelled back and forth between Asia and Sweden when I was a kid. It’s affected me in more ways than I can understand, but one thing that comes to mind is that it opened the world to me. A feeling that there’s more to life than the status quo. This affects the way I view art as well, and perhaps has made me a bit restless in not settling for a specific way of doing things. To search for expressions that are not obvious at first.
Seeing a lot of different scenarios and change as a kid also made me nostalgic from a young age. As far as I can remember I always had this longing or wanderlust, reminiscing of the past. I think it comes acrossin the music, like an existential backdrop that affects most things I do.

It’s difficult to pinpoint a specific place, but the feeling of waking up in the countryside close to the mountains in India and seeing a community come to life is something I carry with me. I love Tokyo as well, and parts of Eastern Europe where I also travelled as an adult. People in general inspire me a lot, and where things are slightly out of sync or not too controlled.

Let’s talk about the current situation. How are you living these strange times and what are the main concerns as an artist?

Like most people, my life is different from before the pandemic. It’s slow-paced and I have a small group of friends that I meet with. I haven’t played live since March last year, which I miss.

The main concern for most artists I think is how to survive financially. I have friends who have been hit hard with basically their whole income gone. I’m OK though and work from home with other projects, and recording a bit. For me, though, there’s been a big internal struggle in finding inspiration. Even if I’ve had more time on my hands, without input or stimulus it’s difficult to feel inspired. I feel like I need new experiences and people to get energy, but that’s difficult to come by nowadays.

Ritual question. Have you seen or heard anything good recently?

Yes. I saw a (digital) concert a few days ago by Erik Jeor, a Swedish artist, who just released a new album. I also decided to finally watch through some Bergman movies that I never saw. That’s been inspiring.