Interview & Photos by Yising Kao 1.31.19.
Gunnar Gehl is featured on the cover of our January issue! Grab a copy here: https://www.galaxy-mag.com/issues
Gunnar Gehl pursued his passion for creating music after posting John Mayer covers on social media, gaining a large amount of attention. This inspired him to release his original songs, including his first single "Ocean Blue." His music is a combination of alternative pop/pop rock, with a sprinkle of chill acoustic vibes. At only age 17, the Orange County based musician opened for PRETTYMUCH’s 2018 Funktion Tour and he’s definitely an artist who's making waves!
Stay updated with Gunnar!: https://gunnargehl.com/
Congrats on finishing your first tour opening for PrettyMuch! What are some important things you’ve learned about touring and what was your favorite part about it?
Gunnar: My favorite part about touring was performing and meeting fans. The biggest thing I learned is that it’s important to stay healthy ‘cause you meet people who get sick a couple of times. I also learned how to connect with people better on tour and that the fans are everything.
I’ve watched videos of your live performances and you give so much energy that the crowd feeds off of. Is there anything you do specifically to engage with the crowd and convey your music’s emotions?
Gunnar: One of the engaging parts of my performances is whenever the audience sings, like in “Ocean Blue” when they sing the “Na na na na” part back to me.
Yising: And you also hop on the barricade to get closer to the audience.
Gunnar: Yeah, it’s the little things that connect you with the audience, like grabbing someone’s hand and looking someone in the eyes.
You released your first single "Ocean Blue" a few months ago and you’ve already gained a lot of attention through social media and Spotify. How has your experience been like adjusting to this rapid transition and meeting fans on tour? How do you remain grounded?
Gunnar: I’m really lucky that this kind of happened to me so late. Like, I’ve grown up as a normal kid, but I don’t think much can really change who I am as a person and my moral values. Meeting fans is amazing and having that support, it’s like wow! People actually support me and care for what I’m doing. It’s an amazing feeling and warms my heart all the time. But it’s not something that’s going to make me change and become a different person, you know? That’s what fans really care for the most and what I care for the most; its being who I am all the time for them and for everyone else.
Yising: That’s awesome. It’s really important to stay humble and to be a genuine person.
Your music has a mix of an overall chill beach vibe and urban rock, and you post a lot about surfing on your social media. So has your passion for the ocean inspired that theme and metaphors in your songs or did you purposefully want your music to have that type of vibe?
Gunnar: It’s kind of funny ‘cause I grew up by the beach but I didn’t sit down and say “Hey I’m going to write this song thinking about the water and stuff.” But I think it just happens organically. When I first got into songwriting and “Ocean Blue” was the first songwriting session I had, that’s when I used it a little bit more. But now I’m breaking into my new self of writing and diving into deeper things with a lot of meaningful topics.
I admire how you write your own songs and have genuine lyrics. Do your personal experiences inspire your songwriting or do you also pull from other people’s experiences? What’s the process like?
Gunnar: Both. Most of my songs are about me, like relationships and stuff like that. But there’s also a bunch of songs are about other people’s experiences. ‘Cause I am only seventeen, so I’ve never had a full blown heartbreak; I’ve only had like heart cracks. But I know the feelings and I know you can watch movies to pick it all up. I kind of write stuff that people can relate to but can interpret differently at the same time.
You’ve cited John Mayer and Shawn Mendes as some of your musical influences. What’s one aspect of your music that differentiates you from them and that you think would make people want to check out your music?
Gunnar: Shawn has a lot of energetic music so I think I lean more towards that than John Mayer. For a lot of his live shows, he’s at the mic a lot of the time with his guitar, and I play guitar as well but during my performances, I’m always moving around and I have a lot of energy and stuff like that. When it comes to music, my melodies are a little bit less singer-songwriting pop. They’re almost a little bit more urban in some senses. Just because I think it’s so fun to bridge genres.
What would you like to say to your fans and what projects can we look forward to?
Gunnar: My fans are my everything and I love you guys. I’m going to be constantly putting out content.
Yising: Like an EP or album?
Gunnar: Yeah, probably more towards the summertime but for now I’ll be releasing some singles.
Rapid Fire Questions
Favorite surfing spot?
Gunnar: 28th street.
Last album you streamed?
Gunnar: Benny Blanco’s new album.
Last show you went to that wasn’t your own?
Gunnar: Jingle Ball.
Person you'd be starstruck to meet or have already met?
Gunnar: Dua Lipa. She’s my life.
Dream venue to play at?
Gunnar: Staples Center.
A place you’d love to travel to?
Gunnar: Switzerland. I want to go skiing in the snow up there.