Gunnar Gehl is a singer, songwriter, model, and social media star who has been creating poppy hits with some of the biggest names in music production. For Gunnar, it keeps coming back to the fans — he’s focused on easier music to sing along to, videos that are more fun and live shows that are more accessible.
With numerous hits under his belt and a tour with PRETTYMUCH before the age of 20, he’s also found the backing of a team who has produced hits for the likes of Liam Payne, Blackpink, Selena Gomez, Panic! at the Disco, Dove Cameron, Kieth Urban, Sabrina Carpenter, James Blunt, Florence + The Machine, bülow, Céline Dion, gnash and Role Model. With a quintessential California backstory and persona, Gunnar has the potential to be a pop powerhouse.
In the spring, I caught up with Gunnar to talk about his new music and what he’s looking forward to bringing to fans post-pandemic.
H: So if I’m not mistaken, you were a professional surfer first. Is that true?
Gunnar: ‘Professional’ may be a little bit of a stretch, but I definitely love surfing. I did it competitively in high school, but yeah, it was definitely part of my life before music
Did that have any impact on your career or your music now?
I don’t know. You know, I think that there’s ways that I could probably tie it together, but I wouldn’t initially go there. You know, there’s definitely some songs and artists that I’ve found and really started to love and maybe grew a little bit of — you know, like maybe it kind of created where I am now artist that I learned from, you know, surfing and from that side of the world. So maybe, but I don’t know, I’ve never really thought of it like that.
And you’d previously talked about music filling a void that you’d had when you were a surfer. Do you feel like that void is completely full now? Did leaving surfing create any kind of void?
Yeah, I mean, there was a short time where, you know, I quit music…I just too busy doing other stuff. And yeah, I just felt like that was part of myself missing. And so, you know, I got music obviously back into my life and it kind of took over and yeah, took over the surfing part of my life. And you know, there’s parts of me that miss surfing and, you know, I love to still go do it if it’s the right place at my time. But I wouldn’t say that, you know, I wouldn’t say that. I mean, I’m incredibly fortunate missing that surfing side of my life. You know, I think that there’s obviously always a void that I’m wanting more of, and I think that even in the music industry, more than anything in life that I want more of. But I wouldn’t say that surfing is kind of the part that I’m missing right now.
How did you get your start in music?
So I started telling when I was young, I was in a band and we played like little bars during the middle of the day and cover songs, and that’s kind of how it started. And then when we got to high school, everyone kind of done with it and I really wasn’t. And I connected with the local studio close to where I live (17th Street Recording Studio) and the studio engineer and the guys who own the studio. And some people there just helped me, you know, start getting some songs and start writing and getting that process going. I’d say it really started my career with meeting a person who co-manages me now. This guy, Troy, he was working at another management firm and ended up getting me a tour opening up for the band PRETTYMUCH, and that really jumpstarted everything for me.
What was it like touring with PRETTYMUCH? What was your experience?
Yeah, touring, touring is the best thing — I think for any artist — the best thing that I could have done. I love it more than anything else in the world. And it’s just like, it’s unbeatable, in my opinion. So it was obviously amazing. And it was a really good way to kind of introduce me to the whole career in a professional way and like really show me what you know, what it’s all about and live shows is my everything. And so really being there and experiencing that was really like an eye opening like, ‘this is what I want to do’ experience for me.
Do you have any backstage or behind the scenes story user experiences from that or was it really just focusing on the music for you?
Ah no, we had a bunch of fun, like a bunch of fun experiences. One time we were at like— it was an off day and we were at some mall right in the middle of nowhere and me and one of the guys, Zion, from the band, we were like walking around the mall and there were like, there’s like laser tag gaming facility and was like, when Fortnite was a big thing. So me and him, sat down and put our headsets on and started playing Fortnite forprobably like an hour and a half. And we had our headsets on, it was all like we were in our zone or whatever, and then we get up to leave, we take our headsets off and turn around and there’s probably 20 to 40 fans behind us… Like they came out of [nowhere]! We had absolutely no idea that anyone was there and it was just really funny and it was like our second [day on tour]…It was like we had one show and then an off day. So we like the second day and I was like, ‘Woah, this is really cool. Like, what is going on?’
Would you ever want to work in a group like they do? Are you happy as a solo?
I think that there’s a lot of really, really cool, beneficial parts of it and like being able to like always have, you know, your friends and family around like they all have such a crazy bond, and I think that’s something that’s really cool, but I think that, you know, I don’t think I could ever be in an artist group with other artists. I think that I’m too like, I’m too particular and picky and like, I don’t know. I don’t think it would work very well.
Do you hope to go on a tour like that again, or would you rather do like more intimate venues, smaller crowds? What was your experience like?
Oh, my God. The opinion that I formed is that they want to do that for the rest of my life, and I want to do it in as big venues as possible. You know, I want to, I want to perform for as many people and as many fans as I possibly can. So you know, whether that start is super small venues and build up versus another opening slot and then another tour, whatever it is, you know, I just want to be able to perform my music and have that energy and have that, you know, experience with other people. So, you know, I think that obviously the more the merrier, but I just want to get back on the road. That’s really it.
What has it been like over the last year and a half now without being able to perform like live music?
No, it hasn’t been easy. It hasn’t been the easiest thing to happen, but you know, the beneficial side, it’s really kind of giving me time to hone in and focus on the songs and make sure that the music is right and make sure that you know all these songs or songs that I, you know, live or die by, they’re my favorite songs that I have they’re my, you know, my babies, my masterpiece. You know, I think that’s been a really cool and special thing instead of just focusing on what showed an excellent performance rehearsal. You know, I’m putting kind of the performance first. It’s been a really cool change to focus on the music, and we wrote, you know, a really good album. Some of my favorite collaborators and spent like 10 days together and just really created a beautiful and an incredible work of art that I’m really excited for people to start hearing.
Can you share at all about who might be collaborating or might be featured on the album?
I can’t quite see that. But, you know, I think I think it’s a really good bet, I think there’s. And I think it’s going to be an exciting thing there’s a lot of exciting things coming and a lot of music coming from me that they’re pushing myself in a really good way and I have this really excited. I’m really excited for people to start hearing… I don’t want to say different, and it’s not that different, but the new music coming for me pushes a part of myself.
How would you describe the new album?
I would describe it as… God, I haven’t been asked this before. This is cool. I would describe the new music and the new projects coming as… I mean, it is cliche to say, but special. I would say that that they are, you know, like the next step of who I want to be as an artist and they they push my boundaries a little bit so that it, you know, keeps me innovative and keeps my listeners engaged and it’s exciting, and there’s some new stuff and some new type of, you know, some new type of sound. But it’s also— it’s me, you know, and there’s there’s my lyrics and melodies and honesty of stories that come through in every one of my songs. And I think that that’s something that you get to connect with people. So it’s a good blend of me pushing my boundaries sonically, but staying true to myself as a songwriter and, you know, keeping it me.
You have a pretty wide range of influences from what I’ve seen. Aside from the typical style of music that you’re even making seem like, even like BROCKHAMPTON, Daniel Caesar, Post Malone and you [were previously] signed to a label that primarily works with country artists. Do you think that you would ever make music that’s completely different from what you’re doing now and even veer into different
Yeah, I think pushing boundaries with music is really cool. I would never I would never shut down an idea because of a label on a genre of music. I think it’s super fun blending stuff — like what Post Malone is doing, you know, like country covers. And I think that there’s types of artists where it’s like, ‘Hey, I just want to do my stuff and…what works for me, and I’m just going to stick to my lane.’ But then I think that there’s like a superstardom to the people who just want to create the music and enjoy different parts of it. It’s like if you’re an athlete…and you’re an NFL athlete, it’s like saying, ‘Oh, I’m never going to step on a basketball court and shoot hoops because I’m a football athlete.’ You know, I think it’s cool to be an artist and step in every type of genre that you can and experience, experiment and have fun. But ironically, I’m actually not with that label anymore. I am currently independent.
So do you think that you make pop music? If you were to label your genre, would you label it as pop music
Yeah, absolutely I would— I would definitely say my music is very pop and I think…I enjoy making music that I think is anthemic…Like I said, live shows are so important to me. So, it’s music that can be easily enjoyed in a live venue and easy to pick up a chorus and remember it and sing in your car and sing with your friends. And I think that pop music has a really good part of the world in that. You know, it’s easy— easy to learn, easy to sing, it’s fun. So yeah, I would think
How would you describe ‘Dance Alone’? How would you describe the sound of that?
You know, I would just say ‘Dance Alone’ is probably…if I could describe it in like one word…I would say honest. I think that it’s a very true song, a very emotional and an honest song, and I think that songs like that are really hard to put them in a genre box because I think…good music is good music, and I think that song is just a really true, honest, good song.
You’ve described your influences coming from anything from Hannah Montana to One Direction. Do you think that you would have been as drawn to pop music if you’d found that you had such influences from other genres as strongly or?
Yeah, I think there’s different parts of how I grew up, in a certain sense, that influence or have influenced who I am now. I think it’s funny, I said that in another interview, making fun of the fact that I have two younger sisters who grew up watching Disney Channel. That’s what they always wanted to watch. But that’s where those names come from, but I wouldn’t say I was like in my room blasting those people… I think that I think part of the ‘One Second of One Day’ project that came out over the summer, you hear a lot of rock in that and a lot of like live drums and live instruments. I think that really came and stemmed from what my parents listened to growing up. So there was that blend of pop, rock anthemic music that was a mix between what my parents listened to and then what I was watching with my sisters on Disney Channel.
I think this next project coming out in the next cycle of music is my updated…and my new taste in music and like parts of myself coming out, that I forgot I even had. You know, like John Mayer was a really big influence for me and I think there’s like songwriting and melody aspects in this next project [where] some of his stuff is going to be coming through more, and there’s, songs and artists that I listened to when I was in high school [that are] a little bit a little bit more modern of the music. And I think that this next project is a little bit more leaning in that direction because I did my early childhood what stemmed from that music was that “One Second of One Day” pop rock. And I think this next wave of music for me is more of my mature era of what I was listening to in high school and a little bit more recently.
Kind of going off of the John Mayer question, if you had the opportunity, you could collaborate with anyone in the world on a music video, on a song, on a tour — Who would be your ideal collaborator?
Oh, geez, I mean, it’s such a tough question. I mean, there’s like so many artists that I love and have loved forever that I would just absolutely love to get in the studio with music, you know, like the Biebers and the, you know, like Dua Lipa, people that I’ve just listened to and loved for a long time. And then there’s like this wave of new artists that I think are really, really cool and interesting. You know, I think Tate McRae does a really good job right now…I loved Olivia Rodrigo’s stuff, and I think there’s a lot of really special songs coming out right now that have been created in the last year or two. So, a mix between new artists and older artists that I’ve loved, obviously is like the goal. But yeah, we’re just know taking it one step at a time
Now, you talked about with the ‘One Second of One Day,’ wanting it to be anthemic and for the fans. How do you how would you describe your relationship with your fans and your listeners?
You know, I would say that because we haven’t had shows and there hasn’t been really too much opportunity to meet new fans and meet new people, that the fans that are here now have been here and been with me for the last year or so, and so I would consider them like family. You know, we talk all the time. They know me. They know my life. I know them. And I think that we have a really special relationship. I think it’s really true and honest and real and I’m excited to create that relationship with more people. As the music grows, a fan base grows and we get back to live shows.
You’re pretty big on TikTok, do you ever have any fans who maybe enjoy your social media presence but aren’t actually as interested in the music or does that just doesn’t really happen?
I’m not sure…I mean…I’m sure that there are people who take my social stuff, but I don’t know. I hope people who are following like my music and, you know, but yeah, and I’m sure there’s I’m sure it’s people, but I’m not. I’m not entirely sure.
Now, of shifting gears again, how would you describe and what’s your process like for making your songs — not just the album, but the tracks themselves?
I would say that. I would say that there’s different ways of going about writing music, and I think that sometimes it starts with the melody, sometimes the lyrics, but for me, the majority of the time, I have a little section of notes in my phone, and when I get ideas… I write them down and I think that walking into a session and saying, like, ‘Hey, you know, I have this idea about, you know, a relationship that ended that, you know, I don’t want to see them dancing with somebody else. I only want to see him dance alone.’ It’s like, ‘Whoa, that’s a really cool lyric. Let’s let’s dive into that a little bit and then start getting the track to sound a way that makes me feel good, like, starting to put them all together.’ But it’s always different. You know, I feel like there’s not a really safe way to write a song.
Who do you usually make your music with when you’re going into the studio? With whom are you going to work?
Oh, there’s always new people and exciting, you know, exciting sessions for meeting new people, but I’d say my really core family when it comes to songwriting right now is AFTERHRS, John Ryan, Max Duvall, Steoh Jones, Jake Torrey, Grant Averill. You know, a really good songwriting family friend of mine that we all just worked well together.
Now, what was it like shooting the “Somewhere We Can Be Alone” music video for you? Are the music videos as important? Or is it just kind of all background to the music, for you?
Yeah, [it’s] definitely really important. I think that, like the actual visual content along with the songs, is really important. And I think that we’re in a time where, like, there’s so many artists creating so much music that, you know, I want to stand out by putting out the coolest stuff… I think that we did a really good job with ‘Somewhere We Can Be Alone’ and I think the concept was something that I’ve had the idea of for a while. Then it came to life and it was really exciting. So I would definitely say, the visual content is just right now, at least, just as important as the music. So it’s exciting to see the people love it. It’s exciting to see it all come to life and just seeing the reactions.
What was it like shooting the crazy ‘Somewhere We Can Be Alone’ music video?
It was awesome. It was cool that we did the ‘Dance Alone’ video, which was very clean cut and very different for me in a weird, proper way. But then that ‘Somewhere We Can Be Alone’ is definitely more Gunnar-esque, I would say…I like that type of style of video. I think it’s fun being in ripped up clothes and bloody and on the dirt…I thought it was really cool and it was really cool. Just a cool set and a cool idea and a really fun process.
What is Gunnar-esque to you?
I would just say it just felt like me. That video felt the need to [have] me crawling in there in the dirt and just walking through a plane, boneyard, jumping out of planes and fire everywhere…It makes me really proud. It made me feel really cool. So that’s what I mean, but like the ‘Dance Alone’ video…[had] my hair was all slicked up and it was very like playing a character. And I feel like the “Somewhere We Could Be Alone” video was just me having a good time and really enjoying myself. [00:21:11][40.3]
Now what inspired the song ‘Somewhere We Can Be Alone’?
That song is more of just a fun song [that’s] not about a crazy story — “Dance Alone” is very honest and very vulnerable and very real and true song. It comes from a very…space for everybody, and I think that like ‘Somewhere We Can Be Alone’ sounds more like, ‘Hey, let’s just write a song for this song and that’s, you know, we’re coming out of COVID. It’s summertime. Let’s just write a fun song that people can just enjoy and not have to like, you know, think about every lyric and not have to do all that.’ And I think that it was like a really cool and hard different thing for me, because it’s so easy for me to write the vulnerable and easy, true songs because it’s coming out of my heart. And so this was a fun boundary push, like ‘Hey, let’s just write something that’s fun, cool and easy to listen to.’ And so that’s what we did
What can fans look forward to seeing from you?
I would say, you know, this next step of music is really exciting. It’s a part of myself that I think is really special, and it’s the next step of who I want to be as an artist and the next step in my relationship with my audience and my fans and my supporters. And I think that getting back into live shows and getting back into the real world, I’m excited. I’m really happy and really thrilled with the music that we have coming in and I just can’t wait to perform and I can’t wait for people to hear it. And I’m just really excited for this next year. I think it’s a big one. You know, I think a lot is going to happen. I feel it in my heart…Our whole team is excited. So I would just say to be excited, be ready. The music’s really good, the content is going to continue to hopefully be good and if live shows come back, everything’s going to be golden.
You can stream Gunnar’s music everywhere now!