Discover the musical evolution of artist Wrabel, his unique creative process, and inspiring journey to connect through heartfelt music
In the dynamic music scene of 2023, Wrabel burst onto the scene with his June release, ‘abstract art,’ setting the year ablaze. This infectious track has found its way onto BBC Radio 2‘s playlists, amassing a wave of support. With lyrics radiating warmth, “abstract art” celebrates the beauty of embracing one’s unique essence, offering a glimpse into Wrabel’s upcoming EP, “chapter of you,” which dropped on August 25 via Big Gay Records/Nettwerk. In Wrabel’s own words, it’s a song for all those who’ve felt like outsiders, affirming that their uniqueness is a gift that brings joy and love to the world.
But that’s not the end of Wrabel‘s exciting journey. Following April’s “chapter of me” EP, these two chapters will merge to create his second full-length album, “based on a true story,” arriving on November 17. “Chapter of you” is, as Wrabel describes it, a collection of songs crafted for his listeners, designed to instill hope, love, and joy, offering a sanctuary to escape to, whether in your car, living room, or through your headphones. Wrabel’s music isn’t just about tunes; it’s a powerful force that unites people in shared experiences, as acknowledged by Billboard and People. This summer, Wrabel furthered his impact with “Turn Up the Love,” a PRIDE anthem for the AT&T Turn Up the Love 2023 campaign, showcasing his commitment to fostering a sense of community and acceptance. “The Village,” another of his resonant songs, recently went viral when performed by the inspiring dance troupe Unity on Britain’s Got Talent, earning a Golden Buzzer from Simon Cowell.
So what exactly keeps this enticing artist going, where is he headed and how does inspiration come along?
Wrabel, can you share a bit about your musical journey? What inspired you to pursue a career in music, and how did your journey as an artist begin?
I took piano lessons as a child, but I absolutely hated them. I’ve never been great with structure and never been great at doing things I’m told to do… aha. I took it back up on my terms around 15 after hearing a record by an artist called Aqualung. My main goal was to start playing so I could write songs. I began playing and singing in church and joined every choir available at school. I wrote songs throughout my high school years, and after high school, I went to Berklee College of Music for a semester.
While at Berklee, I had the opportunity to go to London to work with a producer, which really inspired me to start thinking about leaving school. I got connected with an incredible writer/producer in LA, Eve Nelson, who became a mentor to me in so many ways. Long story short, I made the move to LA after just one semester of school and never looked back. I spent the first few years crashing on an air mattress on my brother’s floor until I could support myself. I was writing with anyone and everyone who would collaborate with me and playing shows anywhere that would have me, often for a bartender and maybe one person, aha.
Eventually, I met a collaborator’s publisher who heard the demos I was singing on and asked me to come in for a meeting. I signed with them as publishers and managers, and that set me on the path I’m still on today (thankfully without that first company now – we all make mistakes!).
Every artist has a unique musical identity. How would you describe your signature sound, and what elements or genres have influenced your style?
That’s hard! I don’t know if I have a signature sound, but if I had to pick something that defines my signature, I think it would be a focus on lyrics. I write true stories. That’s really all I know how to do, or at least what I feel I do best. As they say, truth is stranger than fiction, and I have found that to be true. My influences range from Aqualung, Dan Black, and Mr. Hudson to Paul Simon and Bruce Hornsby, as well as Earth, Wind, and Fire. I’m also heavily influenced by Motown and the crooners I grew up listening to.
Walk us through your creative process. How do you typically approach writing and composing new music? Are there any specific rituals or habits that fuel your creativity?
Oh, to be honest, I have no idea, aha. It really happens differently every time. For me, I rarely start with a title, but thinking about it, the few times I have done that, those songs all landed somewhere, aha. Maybe I should try doing that more! I usually like to start with chords and then develop melodies and lyrics simultaneously. I love freestyling and engaging in free association, whether it’s in the room or on a microphone – just seeing what comes out. I find that often, you say or sing something that starts to shape the song – its theme, mood, and emotions. After that, it’s all about crafting something real. Collaboration is something I adore, and I mostly work with friends. It’s crucial for me to create in a space that feels safe, allowing us to share emotions and stories openly.
Music is a dynamic art form. How have you evolved as an artist since your early days, and what pivotal moments or experiences have contributed to your growth?
The first experience that comes to mind is my first tour supporting Andy Grammer and Gavin DeGraw. It was the first time I witnessed how my songs resonated with an audience on such a grand scale. “11 Blocks” was gaining traction on the radio, and it marked my first time being on the road, hearing and seeing people sing along to one of my songs. It completely transformed my connection with my own music. It opened my eyes to the realization that these songs no longer belonged solely to me; they now belonged to everyone who listened and related to them. It was a profoundly beautiful realization.
The first song that truly changed me was “The Village.” I co-wrote this song with Drew Pearson and Andrew Jackson, intending it for two people I had met during that tour. Initially, I didn’t plan to release it; my aim was to offer them something that could make them feel understood and less alone. It was my first time writing a narrative that wasn’t my own, although I could relate to it to some extent. We poured our hearts and love into it, respecting their story and experiences. Witnessing what the song has achieved and continues to accomplish in the world often brings tears to my eyes and has inspired me to delve deeper into my songwriting, not shying away from topics outside the typical themes of love and loss.
Another memorable moment was touring with P!nk in 2019. Every night of the tour, we performed our duet, “90 Days,” in front of 70-80,000 people, and I found myself shedding tears on stage. It was a surreal experience, and P!nk, an absolute icon, proved to be incredibly sweet. This experience instilled in me a newfound confidence, not in an egotistical way, but as a moment of realization: “Wow, I’m here… I’m really here!???”
Collaboration often leads to exciting new musical directions. Are there any artists, producers, or songwriters you dream of working with? How do you think a collaboration might impact your music as Wrabel?
It’s very bizarre because if you had asked me to write this list years ago, I would have included so many of the names of people I’ve somehow had the opportunity to work with. It truly blows my mind, and I’m beyond grateful for the partnerships I’ve been fortunate to be a part of. I would really love to collaborate with Clean Bandit, and I also have a strong desire to sit at a piano with Nicki Minaj. Additionally, I would love to work with Dan + Shay and Chris Stapleton.
I see collaboration as like a Venn diagram. It involves taking two individuals with their unique “sweet spots” and coming together to create something that only the two of you (or however many are involved) could produce. I am constantly learning things about myself and the creative process through collaboration. The way someone initiates a song, searches for ideas, forms a phrase, or explores melodies can all be so different and profoundly inspiring to be a part of.
Your lyrics often delve into unique themes. Can you discuss the concepts or emotions you enjoy exploring in your songs? What messages do you hope your audience takes away from your music?
I try to tell stories, really. I tend to live my life based on feelings, for better or worse. I strive to create music that conveys emotions and narrates the story as it unfolded. Songs, for me, can serve as little revelations from my experiences—what I’ve learned or what I’ve felt, and so on.
If I were to have a mission statement, I believe it would be to offer solace to someone who might be feeling alone. I’ve personally experienced how a song can achieve that for me, and I hope that by simply telling the truth and staying true to myself in my music, someone listening can relate to it and feel less isolated.
Live shows are a significant aspect of an artist’s career. How do, Wrabel, approach translating your music to the stage? What do you enjoy most about performing for a live audience?
Every song begins with an instrument for me. So, when it comes to touring and performing, it’s crucial to me that everything can be stripped down to piano and voice. That’s where I discover my magical essence. It’s almost transcendental. When I’m performing, I lose myself in it. I see colors and often have the sensation that my feet have left the ground.
I believe my favorite aspect of performing is the connection it fosters. It’s an incredibly beautiful experience, sharing space, stories, and emotions like that. It feels almost spiritual.
Fans often feel a personal connection to artists through their music. Are there any stories from fans that particularly touched you Wrabel, or highlighted the impact your music has had on their lives?
The two people I wrote “the village” for really changed my life, and to get to see them living and thriving just brings me so much joy. I really care so deeply for my fans – “fans” never feels right to me. It feels too separate or like i’m here and they’re there, and I don’t feel that disconnect. It’s like we’re all just together in this weird life, connected through our experience and our feelings and through music. I’ve seen people go from post breakup heartbreak to getting engaged to getting married, people having their first kid. People meeting each other at a show and forming lifelong friendships. It’s just such a special thing I feel so honoured to have such beautiful and kind and caring and loving people coming to shows and listening to my music.
Looking ahead, what are your goals and aspirations as an artist? Are there any new directions you’re excited to explore in your music, or any milestones you’re aiming to achieve?
I don’t really set specific goals, even though my mom always tells me to, aha. I just want to keep doing this for as long as I want to, if that makes sense. I’m so thankful for every step along the way. It’s been a slow and steady journey for me, and I’ve learned so, so, so much through it all. You know, I used to desire massive fame and the whole Hollywood thing, but I don’t crave that anymore. If anything, I think I don’t want that, ha. My primary desire is to create music that truly matters to me, and I hope it deeply resonates with someone.
I’d like to perform at Red Rocks, the Hollywood Bowl, or the Greek, but this time with my name on the marquee. However, above all, I want to keep making music and continue building connections with those it resonates with. I’d also like to persist in working with LGBTQ charities and organizations, spreading love and hope, and reaching out to those in need of a helping hand. Collaborating with more artists and creating things I didn’t know I could create is something I look forward to. I must admit, playing at the Grand Ole Opry is on my bucket list.