EXCLUSIVE: Wrabel talks tour life, Kesha and “The Village”

(By: Angela McLean)

Singer-songwriter Wrabel is one of us.

Yes, this is the man who has written with the likes of Kesha and Ellie Goulding and is featured on tracks with Afrojack and Marshmello. This is also the man making a statement with his latest single “The Village.”

But when you first meet Wrabel, you forget about his immense star power. He may show you his new thrift finds from F as in Frank, come over and demand a hug or bring you outside to take photos for his Instagram. Oh, and if you offer him a Timbit from the front row as he performs, he will gladly accept. That’s something his Toronto fans learned firsthand during his show at The Velvet Underground on Oct. 23.

In every possible way, Wrabel’s as real as it gets. That authenticity is part of what makes his relationship with his fans so special – so special, in fact, that they have come to influence his music and shape him into the artist and person he is today.

See what Wrabel had to share with us about touring with Swedish songstress LÉON, the struggles of living near your ex and learning to love yourself.

You’re currently on a fall tour across the U.S. and Canada with LÉON and tonight’s show is sold out.

I didn’t know that! That’s amazing, oh my gosh. But yeah, sometimes tours get the best of me. The other night, I was literally sobbing until like three minutes before I went on stage. I was like, “Hi, usually I just start but I was just sobbing so please help me out.” Sometimes you feel like you have to be on all the time and it’s been really cool to have that kind of safe place for everyone. If one of us is going to cry, let’s all cry and be one.

Wrabel on stage at The Velvet Underground in Toronto Oct. 23, 2017. (Photo credit: Angela McLean/RUtv News)

You released an EP earlier this year called ‘We Could Be Beautiful.’ Do you have a favourite song off the EP to perform?

I think “We Could Be Beautiful” is my favourite. That song was born as piano, vocal, this little heartbeat kick drum and some pretty acoustic guitars. We took it to Stargate and I’m obsessed with the production they did on it, but I always love going back to how the song started.

A lot of your music is autobiographical. Do you ever get nervous putting out material that is so personal?

Yeah, I completely do. I get nervous writing it even. I remember when “11 Blocks” came out, the artwork popped up, which is a map to my ex’s apartment that I traced from Google Maps, and it scared the shit out of me. I remember calling my manager and joking like, “Can we call Mr. iTunes and have him just take it down?” I think it’s easy to forget that we are writing real songs about real people that are really in the world and really are hearing it and reacting to it.

You collaborated with Kesha on her new album. Can you talk about the friendship you two have formed?

We met through our mutual manager and started writing. The first song we wrote was called “Emotional.” It’s tattooed on my arm and it’s on her foot, but hers looks like mush. She pulled me aside the night her record was announced and thanked me for making a safe space. I ended up sobbing at some random Mexican restaurant with her. It just meant so much to me. She’s one of my best friends and I call her when I’m on the road and freaking out or when I go from zero to 150 back down to like -4,000 all in one night. She gets it.

You co-wrote “Woman” with Kesha, a track that is definitely an anthem. Do you have an anthem of your own?

I love Paul Simon’s “You Can Call Me Al.” I always say if a boombox were to follow me around and play a song every time I walked in a building, it would be that song just because I can’t listen to that beat without smiling.

Wrabel outside The Velvet Underground in Toronto Oct. 23, 2017. (Photo credit: Sara Kandil/RUtv News)

Your latest release, “The Village,” is about trans acceptance and how, as you sing, “there’s nothing wrong with you, there’s something wrong with the village.” What motivated you to record it?

I met these two fans last year and was just struck by the fact that they were themselves. It’s hard to even describe the feeling but they’re so young and so supportive of each other and of themselves and I didn’t have that when I was their age at all. I still don’t think I have that now. I’m trying to find it, and they’ve helped!

The day after federal protections were removed out of public schools for trans students in the U.S., I was talking to one of them and hearing what it was like. I was on my way to the studio and was like, the word village is floating around my head and this is the story and this just happened last night, and it’s not about a headline but about two real people. We wrote “The Village” and I remember playing it back and sitting in the little control chair crying. It’s the one thing I’ve put out where I’m not constantly looking at how many views it has. I just look at the comments and see people’s responses and I’m like, I don’t care if five people see this; if those five people needed this then I could dust off my hands and call it a day. It just means so much to me.

When can fans look forward to new music and perhaps a full-length album?

I have a song coming out with Kygo on Nov. 3! I wrote it the day after the election about sharing my feelings with a very special person as it seemed like the world was ending. I am trying to finish my full-length record but I think it’s going to take me a little while. I’m trying to go away to the U.K. for three months in the new year because I just love working out there. I might do a live album or EP sometime in between. I want to get stuff out!

Do you have a motivational message you can share with any readers struggling with self-acceptance?

Don’t give up. It’s so simple and it sounds so cliché but I’ve almost given up. It can be dark and it can mean a lot of different things and I’ve almost done a lot of those different things. You can always think back to a moment of hope, a moment of the sun hitting your face and try to soak those things in. And, of course, know that you’re not alone. We will never go through something that someone hasn’t gone through before us and someone will go through after us – that is crazy, and it’s a fact. It’s a capital F Fact.

Thank you, Wrabel. “The Village” is out now.

(Header photo: Sara Kandil/RUtv News)

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