Wrabel: one of Hollywood's finest songwriters ever
Wrabel’s resume speaks for itself. He has toured alongside and collaborated with P!nk, has co-writing/performance credits alongside the likes of Kesha, Marshmello, Celeste, Backstreet Boys, Ellie Goulding, Louis Tomlinson, Louis the Child, Wafia, Cash Cash, and more. He’s released four previous EPs, has racked up 265 million streams across all DSP platforms, and his song “The Village” has become an LGBTQ+ anthem. Over the past few years, his “knife-
to-the-heart” (Idolator) songwriting has led to him becoming “one of Hollywood’s finest songwriters for a decade” (American Songwriter), earned him a performance spot on the national NBC TODAY stage and had Billboard saying that Wrabel is “ready for his breakthrough”.
Because it's true, he is one of the best songwriters ever, and it was a pleasure and honour to talk to him about his true self and how he expresses his emotions with music but also about his debut album 'these words are all for you', out September 24th, an adult and hopeful record by Wrabel.
Can we just start by saying that you write the perfect tracks? Where do you get the inspiration from?
‘Thank you! I pull inspiration from my life really; I mean I think I pull sometimes maybe too much from my life and tend to maybe share too much or sometimes I find myself limited where I hear other artists singing songs where its like a character piece or something like that. But I only know how to write a true story, and I’ve tried especially with this record really to just lean into that. I think we all have our own comfort zones and its easy to want to push yourself out of your comfort zone, but I actually quite enjoy my comfort zone. I think it’s a wonderful thing - any creative person has their own zone so when you collaborate you get everyone’s best and get to pull from each other’s worlds.
But just based on inspiration I’m pulling from my life and things I’ve been through. I pull a lot fromrelationships, to love, to loss and all that.’
'nothing but the love' is an outstanding video, how did you come up with the idea behind it?
‘Thank you, I got to work with a director called Michael Thomas. With videos I’m not really an artist that always has a vision of all the visuals and what it’s gonna look like and what’s the plot of the video, and all that. I think in song form, lyric is the most important thing for me. The cool thing about working with Michael was that we really got to chat about the song, and he really cared ‘What is this song about? What does it mean to you? Where does it come from?’. And so getting to kind of express that to him and then have him write out a treatment with this incredible dancer Laine kind of guiding my movements and you know, to me this song is about the love that I feel so lucky to have found, and how it can heal you. I often hear ‘you cant love someone til you love yourself’, and I’m like I don’t know. There’s truth in that, but I think at the same time when someone is just looking at you and loves you and you feel like crap, you can start to look at yourself differently and start to see a different perspective, and someone can teach you how to express more or whatever it may be. And so, the video for that was kind of trying to express that and show that kind of love and I just thought the dancing and movement was so beautiful to watch, we were like beaming during those takes’.
'good' has strong words with a powerful video. Is it a personal track?
‘Yeah that song, I mean pretty much everything on the record comes from a day that I will never forget, that’s one of the plusses of having worked on this record for more than 8 years, is it’s just the best of the best – best being, I don’t know how to define that word, but it’s the most special songs to me over the past almost decade of my life and career. With that song that was definitely a page from a diary, and I wrote it to my best friend and Jesse Thomas and Ally. I started the idea in an uber - in the back of an uber I started humming that chorus and was like wow this is really simple and powerful, you know sometimes I tend to write too small or something, like I love specifics and in the verse its all colour and specifics and it was such a cool thing to have something that opened up into something as simple as ‘Baby let a good thing be good, don’t you let a good thing go bad’, and you know its as much to someone else as it is to myself.’
'these words are all for you' is your debut album, what is the message you want to deliver with it? ‘I don’t even have words or emotions to describe how excited I am. I really don’t. It’s been so long coming and that’s like a 45 minute answer if I really go down that rabbit hole. It’s just been so much work and so much time and so so so many songs, like hundreds and hundreds of songs. To actually have a release day, you know approving the package and writing thank yous and I’ve just been a weepy mushy mess in the best way. I can’t believe it. And I think the message when I first started this record again 8-9 years ago it was a breakup record, I always thought my first record would be a breakup record. And this record is filled with so much hope, it’s very adult, it’s much more mature than I thought or than I had expected, it kind of surprised me. And there’s so much hope on it which also really surprised me.’
you got to collaborate with many artists in your career, what have you learnt from them?
‘Everything! I think some of the biggest things I’ve learned were just to kind of trust myself. I think of Kesha first and foremost, who’s become like not only a collaborator but my fairy god sister. And she’s taught me so much about ego and about not having one, and about not being afraid of trying something, and not being afraid of saying what you feel, and being vulnerable, and she’s taught me how much power there is in that. And also, the way that she cares for her fans and the way that she nurtures them, and really really cares to the depths of her soul, cares about these people that are connecting with her music, and coming to the show, and feeling like they can just be themselves. She speaks up for people and that’s been such a beautiful thing. Someone like Pink that I still pinch myself that I have gotten to work with her, and she took me out on tour, the way that she was so more than willing, like excited about shining this huge spotlight that she’s built for herself on someone else and feeling that light on me is just like…I have goosebumps just saying that. Her generosity, and again how much she cares for the people, I feel so lucky to have worked with so many people that have such big hearts and that care. Its not just oh this is my job or it’s not just like oh I’m famous and I don’t care. I’ve been able to work with so many people that genuinely care so much for every single person that’s listening to their music, and I think in many ways we connect on that because I create things for myself and for people to connect to. I know what it feels like to hear a song and feel understood and feel like you’re not alone. But if I had a mission statement that’s kind of it.’
Speaking of collaborations, P!nk confirmed that you are “one of the greatest singers and songwriters alive today".
‘I cant do anything but laugh at that statement! Not in a dismissive way but are you kidding me? One of the first things she said to me when we met to work on 90 days she said ‘You are a unicorn’. I was like ‘What?!’. And she said you are doing your own thing and your choices. She was so thoughtful and when I heard her say that I knew it wasn’t just a passive statement. Its kind of a lot to digest, coming from one of the greatest singers and songwriters alive to today, to say that about me is really unbelievable and I’m so honoured.’
Was it your dream? To become a songwriter?
‘Not really. I kind of showed up late to the party in comparison to a lot of people that I collaborate with and have met along the way. I started taking piano lessons when I was young, a little kid, and I hated it, I hated anything that made me do something. Like practise this, learn this – no this is stupid I hate it. And it wasn’t until I was about 15-16 that I heard an album by a guy called Aqualung, and that album is called Strange and Beautiful. I bought it because I liked the cover. I mean it sounds so cliché but it changed my life. I remember the moment I went into the parking lot, I was living in Houston, there was a doughnut shop in the parking lot. I got a doughnut, and just putting that album in and hearing that I thought ‘This is what I wanna do forever!’ And that started me on my quest. I picked up piano and pretty much from that point on I was doing everything music, everything at my school that involved music, whether it was show choir, I was in the boys choir, I was just trying to do everything and anything to find out what stuck with me, what felt natural and so from about 15/16 I was like ‘Yep this is what I’m doing! Everybody needs to get on board or leave me alone’.
What is Wrabel listening to at the moment?
‘My kind of old faithful’s are Aqualung, I love Paul Simon and Bruce Hornsby. One artist that I’m such a fan of and have been lucky enough to work with is Wafia, I think she’s incredible, the heart she puts in her music is just amazing. There’s an artist called Harloe that released an EP last year called Rivers Run Dry and I’m just obsessed with this EP. There’s a song called ‘Crushed On You’ that is just like always always always always on my rotation. I kind of listen to a little bit of everything but not too much of anything, I tend to get way too in my head if I’m listening to like NMF every Friday, especially as I’m putting together this album over the past decade. I’m like should everything actually sound like this? Especially in the past year of putting this album together I didn’t listen to too much because I felt like I’m easily distracted. I’m easily insecure, I’m easily questioning. But those are some things that I definitely love and have made their way into my mind forever.’
You were on Billboard’s ’20 Best LGBTQ Albums of 2019’ with One Of Those Happy People. What is it like to be a LGBTQ+ artist in 2021?
‘I feel so thankful that there are so many people that have come before this generation of queer artists that have really paved the way for us to be able to exist in the public world, and in a publication like Billboard! Even Billboard what they do with Pride I think it’s such a beautiful thing. For me its such a personal thing. My coming out story was not the worst that it could have been, but it wasn’t an easy thing. I grew up in a church and was kicked out, I lost a lot of friends and lost myself. And so now you know seeing something like that for me always just floors me because I never thought I would make it out of the closet, so to not only make it out of the closet but also very naturally and kind of accidently by putting myself in my music and talking about things that I care about. I try and be as much of an advocate as I can for the community and for people that feel different wherever they are and whoever they are. It just floors me to see something like that, because I’m like wow, I’m doing this thing that I dreamed of and I’m doing it as myself, so I feel so lucky and so grateful to be able to do what I do.’
What is next for Wrabel now?
‘I can’t wait. I can’t wait to just be on stage and sing in front of real live people. And there’s the tour coming up, ending up with an album release show in LA on September 23rd. And then I hope to travel and get back to Europe, get back to the UK and play some shows and do some writing. I have a few collaborations, my song with Duncan Laurence has just come out, some other songs that I’ve written with artists that have been on hold or paused I should say through the pandemic, that are gonna make their way out, and I’m really excited. I don’t know what I’ll do next, I try to not plan too far ahead, but there will always be a song coming out somewhere.’
Words by Sal F.
Photos by Yazz Alali