Everyone out there either knows Wrabel (pronounce Ray-ble), or knows his music, but they just don’t know it yet. He’s the creative genius who wrote and sang with Afrojack on the hit song “Ten Feet Tall” which has been viewed over 100 million times on YouTube. He also recently sang the duet “90 Days” with P!nk. Aside from his collaborations, he has two major hits of his own: “11 Blocks” and “The Village.” And, on top of all that, before becoming a singer himself, Wrabel started off as a songwriter, writing hits for the likes of Kesha, Idina Menzel, The Backstreet Boys, Ellie Goulding, Adam Lambert, and many more. Whether you know it or not, you’ve probably heard many of Wrabel’s songs.
I was lucky enough to catch up with Wrabel for a quick chat in-between his busy schedule. The 30-year-old singer/songwriter just returned back to America from touring alongside P!nk in Europe, he just released a new EP, and is about to embark on his own tour.
I think we should start from the beginning. What originally got you into music?
Wrabel: Honestly, my first taste of music came from the singer Aqualung. I know they say don’t judge a book by its cover, but I totally did and bought his album based on the cover art. I was probably like, fifteen years old, and I bought it at a Borders Bookstore… (sigh) I really miss Borders… I ended up loving the album. I’d say it was ‘sad underwater music’ and it really captivated me. I was like, I want to make that!
And throughout my life I had lots of false starts in music. I went to Berklee for a while but dropped out. School just wasn’t for me. I moves to LA and was sleeping on people’s floors while I made music. I was performing my music at Chinese restaurants, or whatever place would book me, and was writing music with whoever would write with me. I did that literally for years before I got my first placement [meaning, a major performing artist decided to perform one of his songs)]. And from there, it all kind of started, and more and more of songs got picked up.
You’re not the only musician who got their start as a songwriter. Lady Gaga and Kacey Musgraves famously began their careers writing songs for other artists. Do you think that having that kind of background has helped now that you’re a recording artist yourself?
Wrabel: Oh, definitely. It’s like that old phrase “You need 10,000 hours doing something before you can perfect it…” Well all those years as a songwriter were my ten thousand hours! Also, writing songs for other artists helps you get into their world, which in a weird way, really helps you see your views in contrast, and strengthens them. It ends up making you better as an artist as well.
In 2014, “Ten Feet Tall” came out. It blew up on the charts and was everywhere, what was that like for you?
Wrabel: It was so wild. I was legit playing little bars promoting my music, and then the next night, I’m singing at Fashion Rocks at the Barclay Center to thousands of people, and it was also on national TV. It was completely unexpected. I had never experienced fame like that before.
Your next hit was “11 Blocks”, which is you counting down the number of blocks that are between you and your ex-boyfriend. How do you take something so personal and make it public?
Wrabel: Honestly, for me, I just don’t know how to write something that isn’t true (laughs). But I do remember hearing it for the first time… I called my manager in tears, because I was so afraid that I had made a huge mistake…it was just so personal. But then, I heard the response from my fans, and people really connected to it. I think people like hearing real stories rather than vague lyrics. It was totally worth it.
Another of your hits, “The Village”, has become an anthem for trans people. If your songs are all personal, how does that song translate into your life?
Wrabel: Well, I had these fans who were trans. They were super cool. They were waiting at the backstage door after a performance and wanted to meet me. We hung out, got some food, and had a great time. We kept in contact and are now great friends. So, through my friendship with them, the day federal protections for trans students was taken out of public schools, something just came over me and I knew I had to write a song for my friends. I put it out there for them, almost as a way to say I’m here for you.
That must be the greatest feeling in the world. To know a song that came from the heart got big, rather than just trying to put out manufactured hits.
Wrabel: It’s the dream. I mean, it’s why I make music! Seeing people connect with my music is the greatest feeling ever.
You spent your summer performing the duet “90 Days” with p!nk on her European tour. What was that like?
Wrabel: It was completely surreal. I had never really performed in front of that many people. I mean, it was sold-out stadiums every single night. When P!nk asked me to go on tour, it was just the greatest feeling ever. I couldn’t even believe it at first. And what everyone needs to know is that she is so nice, so loving, and so cool. If you ever get the chance to meet her, you’ll see, she’s absolutely wonderful to be around. I couldn’t believe that someone as famous as her could be remain so real and down-to-earth.
Your new EP “One of Those Happy People” just came out, with the lead song being “Magic”. What can you tell us about it?
Wrabel: It’s my first independent release. So, that alone is pretty big. It’s actually much happier than a lot of my songs in the past, so that was kind of weird in the beginning. I was like, I’m in a good place now… so, I guess I gotta’ write about being in a good place! That certainly wasn’t the original plan, but I think the end result is just perfect. I’m really excited to share it with everyone. And I’m about to embark on a tour, so that’s going to be really fun. I’ll get to finish off the year with my own tour!
Wrabel’s tour kicks off October 1st in Seattle, and then crisscrosses the nation, stopping in cities like Austin, Nashville, Boston, New York, and many more. To find out if you he’s coming to a city near you, check out his tour page here.