After releasing EPs and singles for over a decade, writing hits for your favorite artists — quite literally — and collaborating with some of music’s most prolific names, Los Angeles-based artist Wrabel is ready to deliver his long-awaited debut album, These Words Are All For You, independently via his Big Gay Records label.
In a discussion with EUPHORIA., we learned about the pressures of making a full-length LP, what song was the most challenging to create, the song he’s most proud of writing for another artist, and more.
After releasing numerous EPs, how did creating an album feel different?
Oh boy … I think the biggest difference was when I was making EPs it felt very contained. You know, there’s this much time and it has to be out by this day, this is the reason for it … it made sense, and there was this container in which it was created. And I think with this album, I’ve been accidentally working on it for almost 10 years. The oldest song on it is about eight years old. Once we really started making this version of the debut album, we tried to put a container around it but I’ve been working on it for so long, so it feels very different in that way. There was no rhyme or reason, it ended up just being the most special songs from the past eight years. And trying to piece that together, and also write new songs for it that fill the gaps — whether it be the storyline, themes, feelings that I wanted to share on it.
Because it’s been a long time coming, do you feel a lot of pressure releasing it?
I did. I think because I’ve been starting to do press and promo stuff for it, and even getting out and playing a mini-tour and played a bunch of new songs, I actually have been feeling no pressure. It’s kind of freaking me out a little bit, honestly! I think it’s maybe because it’s been coming so long and I almost feel like even the moment I got to hold the album in my hands and read the lyrics of the booklet, and see the pictures, and see my Big Gay Records stamp and the Nettwerk Music Group stamp, that this is a real thing. I’ve been feeling this sense of ‘I did it!’ Even though at this moment it’s not out yet.
Looking back, do you think your EPs were a good way of discovering your sound and trying things out?
For sure! In many ways, I feel like this album is me, and what I’ve always wanted to do and what I’ve always wanted to be and thought I was, but I think it took me a lot to get there. I think the EPs have allowed me to try a bunch of different things and see what I really love. I would say “Flickers” from One of Those Happy People is the closest thing to something that I’ve released before that feels like it could have fit on this record, in the kind of context of the theme, of sonics, of all that.
What song was the most challenging to create for the album?
Challenging is an interesting word; it can mean so many different things. I immediately think of the closing song and also the title track, or at least where the title came from. It’s a song called “love is not a simple thing to lose,” and is the oldest track on the record. It only took us one day to write it, but it was emotionally the most challenging song to get out. It was my last day of writing for the record at that time, and I had been writing about this person that I was with, and we broke up while I was in London, for like three and a half months making this record. And right at the end of the trip, we broke up and I had to say something about that. It’s like a plot twist! The last song is horrifically sad, and I need to say everything because there was no room to go back on any of the other songs. That was a very emotional day, quite literally sobbing and chain-smoking vogue cigarettes on the stoop and trying to figure out every single thing and thought that I wanted to share with this person because that was the final stamp on the record.
Is there a particular song that’s your personal favorite, or one that remains special to you for a particular reason?
It’s interesting because as I do press on this record, I find my answer to this question is changing, almost every time, which is really exciting for me. The last song definitely is one that continues to haunt me, it’s the only song I can’t play without crying, quite literally. Another song that’s kinda come to the forefront for me in the past even week or two of sitting with this record is a song called “let love in,” I wrote it with Eric Slavin and Justin Parker, and I just love the hope that’s in it, and just the space that it takes up on the record, for me is really nice.
What are you hoping that listeners will take away from the album?
I hope that they feel something. I hope that they feel hope, I hope they feel like they’re not alone in whatever feeling they’re having if it’s a happy feeling, sad feeling, something in between. I think if I were to have a mission statement I hope through what I do if I can make one person feel like they’re not alone. I think there’s so much more hope on this record that I even realize, that’s really surprised me. And I hope that people feel that, I hope they feel even on a kind of humorous note.
Your song “Village” has become an LGBTQ+ anthem. Growing up, who were your icons from the community?
On some level I had none. And that’s on me. I grew up pretty conservative, in the church, really thinking that there was something wrong with me. I felt like if I were to look up to someone, a queer person, that that would be wrong. That I shouldn’t look up to them because it was demonized, and I thought it was unnatural. It’s hard when you’re growing up and you’re learning about yourself but you’re also being taught that if you choose this path of life you will go to hell forever! You know, fire and brimstone. Now I can talk about it and sound a bit detached but while you’re going through that it takes up your whole entire soul, really. Your whole brain and heart. So I don’t know that I really even let myself look up to anyone, which even as I’m saying it now I don’t think I’ve ever made that call, it’s quite sad to say out loud. But now in my adult life, I’m looking at a rainbow I had painted in my archway that I walk through every day. Now I’m just floored, I look up to everyone!
I look up to LGBTQ+ kids that are growing up, that are just trying to be themselves. For me, I look up to “ordinary” people more than I look up to an “iconic” performer or something that’s queer. Because I know what it’s like to be sitting in a church pew, trying to quite literally pray the gay out of me. I look up to an entire generation of LGBTQ+ youth around the whole world that are doing that right now, in that spot trying to navigate.
You’ve written songs for a number of established artists. Which song are you most proud of that was released by someone else?
That is tricky. I really have a deep connection with the song that Louis Tomlinson put out called “Don’t Let It Break Your Heart.” That was a song that we had originally written for me, and I had every intention of releasing it, but because I was in this major label deal at the time, and we were not seeing eye to eye with what I should be doing or what I really wanted to be doing, which was kind of make the record that I just made, ironically enough. So I felt like I couldn’t release this song at that time. We felt an urgency with the song just because it felt so special, he heard it and he loved it, and that to me when an artist can really appreciate the song, for me I’m not always good at writing a song, sending it off and whoever wants to sing it can sing it. I don’t really operate like that, for better or for worse — maybe I would be more successful if I could let go a little more. But I like to vet the people that are singing the song, I like to know that they can connect to it and that there’s an emotional stake invested. And he really connected with the song and I’m so proud of that song, the people I wrote it with. That’s a really special one.
Who is on your radar that you would love to work with next?
I always say Adele, as cliché as that is. I also really love country music, like the best country music. I love the story and emotions. I’m a long-time fan of Lady A. “I Need You Now” is the perfect song. The Band Perry, I love. The band Dan + Shay, I’m also obsessed with.