I spent a little over half of Earth Hour listening to Jose Gonzalez’s new album, In Our Nature on my battery-powered CD walkman--which is ironic because the chorus of the second song goes “don’t let the darkness eat you up, don’t let the darkness eat you up…” Well, I didn’t.
The candlelight flickered, and for a little over 33 minutes, I was transported to someplace warm and nice where people are thoughtful, proactive, and effective. Truth be told, I was probably thinking about the artist himself and reflecting on the great conversation we had regarding the greening of his tour. I had the chance to talk with him while he walked around the streets of Portland.
In January, Jose’s record label, Mute, announced the onset of his green tour. Through an innovative partnership with Reverb (see Jason’s interview with Reverb here) and Native Energy, Jose’s fans can opt to add fifty cents to their ticket price to support Reverb’s greening efforts. Similar to Andrew Bird’s tour, fans can purchase carbon offsets to green their travel to and from the show and wear a custom sticker that shows their friends what they did.
Here are some snippets from my interview with Jose: SK: How did the idea for your green tour begin? JG: It was an idea from my manager, but straight away I thought it was a good idea. I went to Reverb’s website and checked out the work they did with other artists. As a person living in Sweden, it’s very easy to recycle or take the tram or ride a bike. It’s very easy to recycle—every building has receptacles for separating litter. But, when you’re on tour it’s very difficult. Reverb worked with the venues and worked out transportation by bus and that sort of thing. They made it easy.
SK: Do you find that some countries or even cities are better about that stuff? JG: On this tour, we’ve had luck recycling bottles and paper. Before this, everything went in the same place. In Sweden, it is more common to find places to separately recycle litter.
SK: I hear you guys all have water bottles that you refill? JG: I decided not to do that. The plan was to make new bottles, and I didn’t think that it was practical. If you have your own bottle already, you can just use that. My crew gets the big water jugs and takes the water from there and we refill the jugs with tap water from the cities we go to.
SK: You’re doing quite a bit more than most artists by greening the footprint of your tour and building in a 50 cent price onto the ticket that goes towards Reverb’s greening efforts. JG: I’m not sure if this tour is completely carbon neutral, I think the ambition should be to do as much as you can.
SK: Was it a choice for you to do the greening or to write songs about being environmentally responsible? You’ve decided to lead by example instead of penning songs with lyrics about recycling or being carbon neutral… JG: (laughs) I don’t think you need to be creative to write a song about that and make it creative. In general, I try to be pretty vague about my songs. I like the idea of art being art and being able to say whatever you like and not be too moralistic—it’s about the enjoyment. I like the feeling of urgency in the music. I don’t like the part of it where you’re pointing your finger and saying how things should be.
SK: I think going about it the way you have is most effective. JG: Many other artists have done this and the more people that show they are willing to do this with economic sacrifice will get things moving in the right direction. This has an important ripple effect.
SK: Absolutely. Do you have any advice for other musicians or fans? JG: I like the idea of looking up information about things and not doing things because you have to. The environment is a really good place to exercise that and figure out what you can do without getting caught up in little details.