Hanging Out with Gunnar
Updated: Feb 28
Hanging Out with Gunnar
By Kayla Marra
Gunnar Gehl, professionally known simply as Gunnar, is a 21-year-old singer-songwriter from Newport Beach, California. Gunnar released his debut single "Ocean Blue" in 2018 and has gone on to release many singles since then, such as "They Didn't Tell Me" and "Cinnamon."
Gunnar is currently signed with super-manager Scooter Braun and is out on his first-ever headlining tour. He released his debut album Best Mistake on February 24th, and we were lucky enough to sit down and chat with him about the album, signing with Scooter Braun, and even Philly cheesesteaks!
Since we haven’t chatted before, could you introduce yourself and tell our viewers a bit about you and your music?
Gunnar. Taurus. I’m 21 years old. I’m from Southern California and I’ve been doing music for as long as I can remember. I came from a pop background that I was thrown into when I was 16. Short story, COVID was a really big “what am I doing with my life” moment for me and I decided that I was done doing that. I was going to start making the music that I wanted to make, and write stuff that that was meaningful and had purpose to me and had intention and identity. So, I wrote a project called Best Mistake that’s out, so go check it out! That’s what we’re touring, playing some songs, and getting our show dialed right now.
If you had to explain your sound in three words to a new listener, which words would you choose?
I would say “attitude,” “powerful,” and “catchy.” I would say that the main two are powerful and that it has attitude.
You can definitely hear that throughout your sound. Congrats on the release of “They Didn't Tell Me.” It’s such a great song. Could you tell us a bit about the writing process?
That song was really cool because it’s about coming to a city like Philly, playing a show, and it’s in a town. I’ve got a couple of friends who are in college all across the country, so every time we go into each city, I have a good friend of mine who takes us to the bars, restaurants, and all the good stuff. That song is about going to a city where we went to the best restaurant, we went to the best bar. I thought I had been told everything I needed to know about this city, except for one thing, and that’s somebody that I see in the crowd. They didn’t tell me about you. It’s a cool take. It’s a song that I hadn’t really heard done before.
Can you walk us through your writing process in general?
It’s always a little bit different. Sometimes it’s just jamming with the band and finding stuff. Sometimes it’s finding guitar chords and a concept and things come together. I’m a big fan of writing ideas in my phone. I have pages full of random one-line sentences like “fuck a broken heart” or “they didn’t tell me about that person in the crowd.” I’ll go into a session, and we’ll find a progression that we like and words that speak something. Then I’ll go through these ideas that I have – these one-lines or titles – and find one that I feel like I can write to that progression or that sound, melody. Then you write lyrics, melodies, and all that.
So it stems from an idea and goes from that?
Totally. Sometimes, you just write chords and random melodies. Some words just stick to melodies randomly. Songs are weird. They come out like therapy. You just talk and then things stick, and some things get thrown out. It’s always different.
Your debut album Best Mistake came out on February 24th. Which song or songs from the album best encapsulate this new era for you?
What a great question!
You can pick a couple, or if there’s one that you think is a stand-out.
I think “Cinnamon” and “Bad Idea” are the songs that really capture who I am in this project. Like I said, I came from a pop background, and this is a really transitional record for me that I feel is towards the next step of my artistry and my identity. Those songs are the songs that, at least when I play live, feel the most authentic. Just like “I really nailed this one on the head” and “I feel like I really resonate with this.”
Which songs from Best Mistake are you most excited to perform live? If you had to pick your top three...
“They Didn’t Tell Me.” “Bad Idea.” And “Cinnamon” is really cool live. We do a really cool thing with it. “Keep You Around” is really cool live. Honestly, the music was written for live shows, so the show is where they really come to life. I would say that if there’s a song that you even resonate with partially, come see it live and that’s where it makes sense. All of them are better live.
Get that promo. Come out and see Gunnar on tour!
There you go, don’t miss it.
You’re currently signed with Scooter Braun. Congratulations! Can you tell us a bit about how this happened?
It was a relationship that was just cultivated organically. I met him when I was younger. I was like 14 or 15 years old when I was wanting to do this. He was like, “You’re not ready. This is way harder than you think it is and you’re not ready for it.” And I was like, “What are you talking about?” and blah blah blah. I was a kid. I didn’t know anything. He was right, of course. I ended up doing my thing for another two years and writing, going on a tour. That really jump-started things for me a little bit in terms of the industry, gaining a fan base, and activating that fan base. After that tour, I was going to sign somewhere and figure out where made the most sense for me at the time. Scooter came back into the picture and at the time. We had a good idea of what we wanted to do.
So the timing came together.
It was not overnight. Well, it was, and it wasn’t. When it was, it was. But he had known who I was, and we had somewhat-ish stayed in touch for two years.
But then it was the right time and is what it is now! What can you tell us about working with Scooter?
We’ve had ups and downs; I can say that. Mutually, we’ve had ups and downs. I can be an asshole. I really believe sometimes that I want to do it how it should be done and he’s arguably one of the best managers to do it. We’ve had ups and downs. We’ve had arguments. And we’ve had great conversations. Where we are now is really awesome. He’s really family-oriented and very focused on his family, which I admire a lot. He’s almost taken a little bit of a step back from an actual management role, like a day-to-day manager role, and more come in as a mentor or as like an older friend. He always has great advice, and he always has incredible things to say and help with. The day-to-day stuff is run by this guy David, who works underneath Scooter on this project. David gets shit done. Scooter, like I said, he’s just a really good mentor and friend. I can always call him when I need advice or help, or if I need to talk about life shit.
So, not only is he a great manager, but he’s also that support and that push that you need.
Yes, he’s just a good shoulder to lean on and have as a friend.
Who would you say are your biggest songwriting influences, and have they changed over time, or stayed the same throughout the years?
Great question! They have entirely changed over the years. I will say that for this project, I was really inspired by The Black Keys, Lenny Kravitz, The Raconteurs, Jack White, and I was inspired a lot by Chris Cornell. There were a lot of classic rock staple, iconic artists that I was trying to channel. Write songs that were similar to all of those people I named and more. They all wrote music that they wanted to write, that was meaningful and powerful to them. This sounds so dumb but that’s something that I had never really done. I had been a part of everything that I had written before, but I was trying to write for Spotify or radio, or whatever it was. I was trying to write for a mass amount of people. Now by using their influences and many more, I finally got to write for myself and really see how transparent it is. When you listen to a song that’s written by somebody else for somebody else, you can hear the difference between a song that Lenny Kravitz or whoever writes for themselves. It’s really cool. I fell in love with that and started doing that. That’s what this album is. It’s the first album that I made, the first selection of music that I made that’s for me.
We can definitely hear those influences throughout your music, one hundred percent.
I should’ve asked you who you hear in the music before I answered the question.
I would say, Lenny Kravitz.
Wow! that’s great. That’s crazy, that’s cool.
Speaking of influences, who is your dream collab? They can be dead or alive.
That’s the hardest question ever! I would’ve loved to do a song… I couldn’t have because this would’ve never made any sense… but with The Rolling Stones, obviously, they’re incredible. There’s an artist I love, Jean Dawson, who I think is really cool. I would love to work with him. That is such a twisted question because I can think of every generation and think of who I would want to work with at that time. I guess any of the influences I just named I would happily work with. This is what I’ll say – today I would love to work, collab, talk to, and get to know Miley Cyrus. Iconic. She’s just the modern queen of rock n’ roll. She’s so truly herself, so incredible. Her voice ethic, her work ethic, her music. I would fucking do anything, actually, to work with and collaborate with Miley Cyrus.
Manifest it, you never know!
(He sings “Flowers” by Miley Cyrus.) I can buy myself flowers.
You guys have similar vibes! I can see it working.
She’s an inspiration. I should’ve said that. Miley Cyrus if you’re watching this, I know you are, I love you.
Miley is incredible. I’m sure every day on tour is surreal, but can you think of a specific “I made it” or “pinch me” moment?
Oh God, no. I’ve nowhere near made it. But every night at the shows, it’s not an “I made it” moment, I would never say that I made it. I would say that when I get to be up on stage and do what I love I just feel blessed, lucky, and grateful. Whether there are six people, sixty people, or six hundred people, whatever it is, the fact that I get to go up there and do what I love to do. That it affects and allows other people in the room to feel something, that’s just the coolest thing of all time. I mean, I get to play with my friends, we get to rock out and express ourselves and connect with people in a room. No matter who it is, how many, age, gender, whatever it is, everybody is just in one place enjoying live music. The fact that you get to be on stage every night is like, fuck, I can’t believe this.
It sounds like a dream.
It’s the best.
Do you have anything you’d like to say to your fans coming out to see you on tour?
I just really appreciate it. This is the first time that I’ve ever gone out on the road by myself. It’s been a success. It’s been a failure. It’s been everything in the middle. I’m just excited because I truly feel like we’re at the beginning of something great and special. The album isn’t out yet when this is being recorded, it’s out next week before the last show. But we did this with people who have just been waiting and ready for new music for years and years. Who have known that there was something that I was getting to that I feel like I finally have. If you’ve made it to this tour, I appreciate you and I feel like I know that even if it’s in a year, two years, or five years from now, we’ll be able to look back at this. I remember each and every one of you and have those memories of this tour. We talk about this with the band all the time. This is our green room. This is a fucking bed. (He motions around the room) We’re in a basement, this is where people nap on break from the restaurant. There are eight of us in a van. Some nights we’re in really shitty hotel rooms. It sucks in the best way, where it’s like we get to look at each other and truly believe that this is hopefully the beginning and the smallest that it will be. Each step from here will mean more because we’ll be able to look back at this. This goes to everyone that made it to the show. That’s how I hope you feel moving forward and for the next tours. The goal is that things just get bigger and bigger and the rooms get larger and larger, and more full. To be here on this tour is really cool.
We can all tell that it’s just going to get bigger and bigger from here. Lastly, we are in Philly, so I have to ask, have you had a Philly cheesesteak?
Two of them! In twelve hours.
What did you get on the Philly cheesesteak?
I’m weird when it comes to eating. I don’t know what you get, like all these guys get the mushrooms, and this and that. I just want bread, meat, and cheese. That’s it.
What kind of cheese?
Whatever they put on. They didn’t even ask! Whatever the white normal cheesesteak kind is.
It’s like creamy cheese. All I know is that I got a Philly cheesesteak, plain, last night, and tonight. It’s fucking good. I’ve never been a huge fan. I never understood it. Now I get it. It’s just good.
You have to be here to get it.
I wish everyone could experience it. It is just like a staple thing to get.
Any time of day, Philly cheesesteak.
What’s your go-to?
You’re going to think this is so gross, but I swear by it. Cheese Whiz as the cheese, fried onions, and meat. You go up to the counter and say, “let me get a Whiz Wit.”
What else is on there? Onions?
I respect it. I don’t understand it, but I respect it.
Make sure to check out Gunnar’s debut album Best Mistake, streaming everywhere! Visit Gunnar’s website to see if he’s coming to a city near YOU on this tour: https://gunnargehl.com/ You don’t want to miss it!
Copyright ©2023 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: February 26, 2023.
Photos by Evan Albuck © 2023. All rights reserved.