The Orion

Q&A: The Unexpected Guest on songwriting, meatballs, racism

Jeffrey Fox

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The Orion chatted with Adan Gonzalez, senior music industry and recording arts major and singer-songwriter of The Unexpected Guest, about his time abroad, the Swedish music scene and releasing his first EP on iTunes. His most recent performance was Nov. 2 at 1078 Gallery.

How long have you been performing?

About seven years, with a few months break every now and then.

You just returned from studying abroad last semester in Sweden. How was that?

Yes, it was awesome and cold and at times very desolate. At one point, I went two weeks without talking to a single human being. It was during that desolation I wrote a lot.

Why did you go to Sweden?

It was for the Chico State music industry program. I had the chance to go (to Linnaeus University) through direct exchange. I got to work with a lot of artists and some movie stars doing live sound for them. Met a lot of cool people and made great connections out there. I also got to play on the radio there. It’s funny that I had to travel across the world to get air time and some real recognition.

What’s the Swedish music scene like?

It’s very accessible. You can pretty much go talk to anybody at any time without a big hassle like it is here. (In Sweden), if you want to talk to the head of Sony, you just call and he will answer the phone. You can also easily hang out with musicians like backstage and stuff, and it’s not a huge security issue or anything like it is here.

How is the style of music different there?

It’s very upbeat, happy and poppy, which is the opposite of my style.

How did audiences respond to your performances, then?

Many people there would tell me my music is very somber and sad but that they really liked it. In fact, many people who heard it ended up helping me to promote my music and shows there. They helped push me to get on iTunes. They responded well to my music.

What else was different about Sweden?

Well, they really like their meatballs over there. They didn’t have any good Mexican food; it was pretty sad. I was still eating my Top Ramen there though. Also, the movies come out later than they do here. I saw “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” like, three months after it came out here. The theaters are about the size of a lecture hall, so not very big.

What’s your favorite song you’ve written?

Probably “The Machine,” the title track of my EP. I spent about three or four months writing it. It’s personal but also relatable. It’s about getting old and how we start to fall apart and inevitably become less useful.

Anything interesting happen to you during a performance?

About three years ago, I was playing at the UHUB here at Chico State and these (Middle Eastern) girls came up to me afterwards, excited, and asked what I was. I asked them what they meant, and they said, “Are you Middle Eastern?” And when I said I’m Hispanic, they turned and walked away all disappointed. I just felt that was really racist. I would get that question of “What are you?” in Sweden, too, and it just seems weird.

What’s next for The Unexpected Guest?

I’m working on new songs. I want to put out another EP, hopefully by March. I’d like to do a yearly EP, and hopefully after this next EP I’ll do a full album.

Jeffrey Fox can be reached at [email protected] or @FoxyJeff on Twitter.

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Q&A: The Unexpected Guest on songwriting, meatballs, racism