A Chat With: Wrabel
I got to catch up with Wrabel on the Toronto stop of his tour with LÉON. After interrupting his shopping spree, we talked about his love for Billie Eilish, recording his debut album and how we can empower women in the music industry!
You’re finally here in Toronto supporting LÉON, how has touring been so far?
It’s been awesome. I’m such a fangirl of hers and have been for a while so it’s really cool to share the stage and tour with someone that you really admire and respect. Just watching her, like, I’ll play my set and then fangirl for the rest of the night.
Do you have any interesting or funny stories from tour yet?
Besides my sprinter breaking down, not really. It’s been a lot of travel. I have not stopped shopping, I don’t know if that’s funny? My manager doesn’t think it’s funny.
You’ve been writing for many other artists (Kesha, Ellie Goulding, Adam Lambert, etc.), how does it feel to finally put your own voice out there?
It’s fun to kind of play those two paths at the same time. Before this tour I was very much in writer world, so then to go from almost exclusively a writer to artist is like going: ‘where am I, who am I, what am I doing?’ But it’s really nice, especially this setup where I’m playing just me and a piano. It’s the most natural state of every song and that’s my zone.
photo by: Brian Bui
What current music inspires you?
I don’t know any of the cool stuff, I don’t even have spotify. But Billie… is it Eilish? She’s dope!
Did you know she’s fifteen?
Are you serious? What the fuck! What! I hate her now, I’m so jealous. That’s incredible, wow. Wow.
That’s the regular response. It’s cool to hear you’re a Billie fan.
I love her, I love Astrid S, Sigrid. I’m loving these chicks making dope, interesting and honest pop music. Some of it’s pretty ballsy. And every night I’m inspired by miss LÉON. There’s been a few nights where people come up to me and I’m like, “are you staying for LÉON?” and they’ll say they came for me and I’m like “shut up, please go back in there.” She’s one of the best performers I’ve ever seen in my life. Her voice, lyrics and the story she’s telling are so raw. There’s something so raw about what she does and that’s really inspiring.
You released your EP We Could Be Beautiful this year. With everything happening in the world and the current political climate, how do you believe the world could be beautiful?
Oh boy we need help! I wrote We Could Be Beautiful about a boy that broke my heart. But it’s taken on a bigger meaning, even for me, because man it’s rough out there for a lot of people. I feel like we need to look around at each other, actually see each other and realize that everyone’s going through something and that we’re not alone in whatever we’re going through. There’s a big Us vs. Them right now and I hate that. It’s become very clear that it’s real and I think a lot of people are scared. I don’t know what the answer is but I think something as simple as really looking at each other and trying to see, trying to hear and trying to understand - that takes so much fog out of the room. And when something is bad, call it bad! If something’s just different don’t be scared of it and if you’re scared of it, don’t be violent and aggressive.
The Village is such a powerful song and so is the video. Can you tell us about the story behind it?
I met these two trans kids last year on my first tour, after my show when I went back to my bus they were outside the stage door. We started talking and probably were there for over an hour that night just talking. It stopped me in my tracks just how comfortable, or honest about being uncomfortable, they were. They were maybe the only two authentic people I’ve ever met in my whole life! That’s not true but two of the most. It’s so hard to describe but I was really struck by them and their character. So I was playing around their city a bunch at the end of the year and I would just hang out with them if I was around there like “let’s go hang out at Starbucks and catch up.” Just hearing about what their life and struggles are like was so inspiring. When I was their age I was scared shitless of myself. Then the day after federal protections for transgender students was taken out of public schools I was talking to one of them and hearing what it was like outside of the headlines and Donald Trump’s twitter account, what it really felt like to be a trans kid in a public school. And it was heartbreaking. So I was on my way to work with two of my good friends and I just wanted to write about that.
Was it difficult for you to write that song?
Difficult, I don’t know. It was very emotional. It took me a while to not cry while I played it, I still do sometimes. But it’s been so cool, especially the beginning of the tour almost every night someone in the crowd would come up with tears in their eyes. Like, fuck man. If that happens with one person on every tour date it makes literally everything worth it. I feel like it’s getting to the people that need that, and I need that too. We all need that!
What’s one thing you want to accomplish with your music?
Right now the biggest thing on my mind is making a record. I’ve been working on this debut album for about ten years and through two labels. I’m currently scheduling and trying to plan to get out of town for a few months, go to the UK and come back with a record. It’s hard when you’re on tour, and I mean not complaining at all these are wonderful problems to have, but I have so many songs I’ve written for this record. If I’m not just like ‘this is what I’m doing right now,’ I feel like it’s never gonna happen. I have a hard time thinking beyond that.
Kesha spoke about writing with you and how beautiful it was to write about women’s empowerment with a man. With the Harvey Weinstein story breaking right now, what can people in music do to overcome these power dynamics in the industry?
The biggest things happen when people see it and talk about it. Even Kesha, tracing back to her coming out and sharing her story, started a shift. I know she got so much support, but it also made me sad because I thought she should have gotten more. People in the industry, kind of like what’s happening with Harvey now, came out like ‘yeah I knew that.’ People get scared of these men and don’t want to say anything, and that sucks because it leaves these people kind of yelling to no one. I think we have to open our eyes up to that and take away this image of, especially in Hollywood and music, these glamorous rich and powerful men. Like, no, he’s a sleazebag! And they’re taking advantage of people and everyone knows it. But I think it’s really powerful to see people coming together. The #MeToo campaign has been incredible and people being are vocal but we have to hear them and we have to support them and hold their hand. Otherwise they’re yelling through the Grand Canyon.
photo by: Sarah Kandil & RUtv News
Fave LÉON song?
There’s so many! Maybe Tired of Talking, it’s just so good. I also love I Believe in Us, it’s so bittersweet. But I love Tired of Talking, I don’t dance but it makes me almost try. But while crying a little bit but still swaying.
An artist you would want to write for?
I’d love to work with Billie Eilish. That would be fun. I can’t believe she’s fifteen! My mind is so blown. I feel so insecure.
Dead or alive, a celebrity you would like to have dinner with?
Frank Sinatra. He’s so cool! I would just love to watch him eat, honestly. He wouldn’t even have to talk to me. I would just watch him eat, smoke a cigarette and drink a whiskey.