For over a decade now, José Gonzalez has been creating "acoustic music" (I know, I know) as well as, if not better than, anyone else - with forthcoming album Vestiges & Claws cementing his status as one of the best singer-songwriters of a generation. It also turns out he's one of the nicest men you could ever wish to spend half-an-hour on Skype with.

Speaking about the relatively long process of making the new album, José explains that "in a way, it's been many years, gathering demos and ideas. It's been almost seven years in that sense. But the album itself came together in one year. Much like the first album which was also a collection, it's a compilation of the best things from those years."

The other defining part of the recording process is his choice to once again record without a producer, engineer, studio or anything in between. The whole record was recorded in his kitchen at home on his laptop. "If it didn't sound good enough, I would use a producer," José explains in his endearingly understated manner. This is a suitably innocent expression of self-confidence, as for three albums now, it has sounded just fine without anyone else's help. "I'm too eager to learn, but also stubborn. I've gone back to using the computer as I just want to learn more about recording and the methods you can use." This solo approach is clearly reflective of the end product. Intricate, immersive, deeply personal music made for intimate listening. Very much 'less-is-more'. "Well I guess I do think less is more to an extent. On this album, the aim was to have one guitar. But then as it went on I felt certain bits sounded better with more layers and varying instrumentation. The album is more produced than planned. Not very produced, but still produced for me." Although Vestiges & Claws is far from being a produced album, there's certainly a bit more going on sonically, especially when you compare it to his debut record Veneer.

One thing that has defined his career up until now, are his wonderful cover versions. Most famously of The Knife's 'Heartbeats' and Massive Attack's 'Teardrop', but also the likes of Kylie Minogues 'Put Your Hand On Your Heart'. On this record however, Gonzalez has chosen to include only original material for the first time in his solo career. This isn't entirely unknown territory though as both full length releases by his band Junip contained original-only material. "I do feel more comfortable in my own writing now I guess. The two Junip albums contain entirely original material, so I'm just following Junip on this record." Without question this is a good move as to the wider audience, the covers on his first two records did overshadow the wonderful original songwriting. This being said, he expresses no regret whatsoever in the fact that he is best known for his cover versions. "'Heartbeats' was one of my favourite songs of the moment, Kylie Minogue I did for the challenge, whereas 'Smalltown Boy' (Bronski Beat cover) was a recommendation from a friend." He speaks fondly of these songs and with pride about his versions. It seems that they were, to a certain extent, his way of mapping out his influences and paying homage to his contemporaries. Often covers are lazy, but sometimes an artist can give them an entirely new identity to the extent they can consider the song their own.

For a man who produces music with such a singular and recognisable sound, it's interesting to explore what influences him and how these influences have changed. "I didn't think that much about influences on this record. Choosing from over fifty demos, there was classical folk (Open Book), West-African music (After Glow and Stories We Tell) and some very soft stuff (The Forest). I think it is a soft album, very ambient, cosy."



Having spent his whole life living in Gothenburg, it's intriguing how the city and its music scene has impacted on his work. "There was always a lot of music, but I often felt disconnected from what was going on. I was more influenced by foreign artists, Songs: Ohia and Cat Power, and my friends. I wanted to make music as a reaction to what was going on around me." Often, scenes and movements that emerge from a certain city can result in bands sharing a similar, or trademark sound, so it's refreshing to hear a musician actively try to set themselves apart from the crowd.

One thing that is constantly apparent as you talk to José, is that he's a man who truly loves music. "Why do I keep making music? Well when I listen to music loud on my headphones, live, in a club, I have to admit that I love music. I really enjoy music. I can create the music that I'm touched by and also live comfortably at the same time. I feel very lucky that I can do this." This love for music is evident in the incredibly emotional nature of his songs. "It's key to think about emotion, they're like stones to build with. I like that sort of feeling of aggression, but like fists in your pockets when you feel frustration knowing something is wrong." It's fascinating for someone who comes across so passively and kind-natured speak about negative emotions and the positive impact they have for him. Even more interesting is how he explains the process in which he actively thinks about emotions, looking "for many synonyms before finding ones that fit."

A decision that must be made by some artists, is the language they choose to spread their message. José explains that his decision to write and sing in English came from him mimicking the music that he listened to and that the decision "wasn't that conscious." From a commercial point of view, singing in English was obviously the wisest decision he could have made (location-wise, at least). However musically, it was an equally wise one. His slight accent combined with his preference for English, works perfectly. Everything about his music seems in equal parts well-planned and natural.

Something that's becoming ever more commonplace at gigs is people talking obnoxiously loudly for the duration of the performance. A performance by an artist that they, in theory, were willing to pay money to see. This happened when I saw José supporting Tinariwen at Shepherd's Bush. A musician of his stature deserves silence at the best of times, let alone in a venue of that size, armed only with a classical guitar. In light of this I asked whether this phenomenon had ever bothered him whilst he was playing. "I had a problem at the start of my career, but I just played and didn't bother with it. Nowadays I don't play so often and I'm lucky enough that people are excited when I do, so it doesn't tend to be a problem." This is a predictably mature response from a man who goes about his business in the most professional of manners. This being said, it's a shame when you hear that artists realise this is going on and that certain individuals can easily spoil special performances for both performer and audience.

It also happens that that Tinariwen gig was the one that he was most excited about, closely followed by supporting Arcade Fire at ULU (University of London Student Union). In fact he says that the majority of the best artists he's played alongside have been in England, and as a result it's a country he holds close to his heart. He confirms that he will be touring in the coming year or so.

José Gonzalez has been producing consistently brilliant, honest and moving music for a long time now and I can't see that changing any time soon.

José Gonzalez's new album, Vestiges & Claws, is out on February 17th, 2015. Listen to 'Leaf Off/The Cave':