The Spanish artist’s first album (EP) narrates the return home of a prodigal son, with a direct sound and language, aimed at his generation.
With a direct style, Niel González brings in his first short album (EP) a musical journey that goes from rebellion to reconciliation, from flight to encounter and from betrayal to embrace.
In Volver (In English, Return), Niel is inspired by the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15, in the New Testament), one of Jesus’ best-known parables. He approaches this universal tale from a contemporary perspective to present it freshly to his generation.
Niel tries to pack Jesus’ story into five songs with precision, in a work that sounds quick and digestible for all audiences. The message is not difficult to assimilate, but it doesn’t lose depth and navigates well, presenting themes and musical nuances that range from 90’s rock-pop (Veo veo veo, Con Dinero Sin Dinero, Al Final) to ballads (Cuando) to pop with epic overtones that have been successfully by other artists in this century (Volver).
The short album (it lasts less than 20 minutes) tells the story in a linear and simple way, where Niel González presents himself with a fun and captivating proposal that leaves you wanting more.
Question. Niel, we see that the album has a clear progression, it tells a story. Did you compose it under this idea?
A. Yes, the idea of this album is a story that is told from beginning to end. It has a closed narrative, like a novel. Each song has a very clear context that leads you through that central message.
When I started thinking about the idea, I stopped to see what I really wanted to do. Sometimes you don’t know how to bind your ideas together. And as it was the first time I had done a project of this scale, I thought about defining the structure first, what I wanted to say. Then the more creative part began, to give shape to the songs.
Q. Are you aiming the album at a young audience?
A. The story of the prodigal son inspires all the work. My idea, perhaps a bit ambitious, is to make an album that has a clearly Christian background, but that is aimed at young people in general.
[destacate] “I want to use a language that is close to people who don't know God, so that they can understand the message”[/destacate]
I want people who don’t know about God to be able to listen to this music, and for that we use a vocabulary and music that is close to them. The message is direct and very clear. I am concerned that there are many Christians who listen to music that does not speak of God, but not so much the other way around, that is, that people who have not had an encounter with Jesus listen to Christian music. It is in my heart to influence, impact and present Jesus through music.
Q. In your musical development, you have not opted so much for urban music or Latin rap, which is now very trendy, but rather for rock-pop.
A. I have a classical music background. This year I finished my piano studies at the conservatory. I’m a big fan of urban music but I don’t see myself doing that. I like to mix the new with the organic. I consider myself a musician more than a singer, because of the my training background.
I wanted a format in which there was a band, with musicians playing, that’s what I enjoy most. And although it is important to be attentive to the styles that are in fashion, we also wanted to bring something fresh, something new, and to represent my identity with this music, not so much to take moulds or forms from others.
Q. In the first song, Con dinero o sin dinero (With or without money), there is a demand from a rebel.
A. The song is a reflection on rebellion. We young people tend to want to take over the world, we think we can do anything, and we decide according to what we feel. But there is something that doesn’t quite fit. Although you let yourself go with what you feel, you have a little voice that tells you that maybe you’re not on the right path.
The song talks about a quick, short life, a time that is coming to an end, about making the most of the moment, although there are also some points about the fact that it’s not all about enjoying life and nothing more, there has to be something more.
Q. You then hear a father talking...
[destacate] “We young people tend to want to take over the world, we decide according to what we feel. But there is something that doesn’t quite fit”[/destacate]
A. Yes, it’s my own father speaking in that track.
Q. His voice introduces a ballad, Cuando (When), with the views of the father in the parables. It might have been interesting to put yourself in that role of the father.
A. This was the last song I wrote. I felt that the album was missing a song and I couldn’t find the right point of view. But then I put myself in the father’s place. This was the only song I wrote all at once, in one morning, and it stayed as it was.
The father remembers that his love remains despite the circumstances. It’s a song that gave me a bit of goose bumps when I was writing it.
Q. We continue with the story, and Veo, veo (I see, I see) describes the moment when you realise the destination to which the path of rebellion has brought you. It reminds of a popular game for children [In English: “I spy with my little eye something beginning with...”]
A. Yes, it was conceived in this way. When the son leaves home, he has certain childish attitudes, he has not become a mature person yet and things still have to settle down. This song talks about not longer seeing things as clearly as before, what seemed good is no longer that good.
Q. Sam Muñoz joins you in this song.
A. Sam is a great friend, we’ve known each other for a long time (we were together in Mosaico, an initiative bringing together Christian youtubers in Spain) and I admire his talent. As I was writing the song, I told him that I would like to have him on board, he loved it and we got to work. He gave a touch that I love to the song.
In the video clip we wanted to show a young spirit, strength, happiness. We had the opportunity to shoot it in the Basque Country, and we really enjoyed the experience, with an incredible team. We filmed in an art gallery and in a skate-park.
A. Return is a song with more epic touches, where you can see the son’s encounter with the father.
A. Yes, it starts off softly, there are decisions that are sometimes difficult to take, because you have to overcome your own pride. Small decisions require a lot of courage, sometimes you need to take these decisions in solitude. But then they can turn into something big. That’s what happens in the song: it grows and confirms the right decision. It is s like the hero’s homecoming, and through that small decision he comes to a total change.
[destacate] “Some people think that when they meet Jesus, the journey is done, they will never go away again. But in my experience that is not the case”[/destacate]Q. The prodigal son is a universal story, many who can identify with it.
A. Thinking about it, the story of going back is not something that has happened only once in my life. Sometimes it’s a return journey that I have to make more times than I wished. But that’s not a bad thing, it’s being brave enough to go back. Some people think that when they meet Jesus, the journey is done, they will never go away again. But in my experience that is not the case, I have to go back many times.
Sometimes I decide wrong, but always in the end I want to go back and nowhere can I find what is in the Father’s house. I see so much love, so much grace on returning. To realise this reality, that your Father has forgiven you even before you ask him, it blows your mind.
Q. The story closes with the Son in the Father’s house, a song about rediscovering your relationship with him.
A. The last song is a full-blown love song. I suppose that if someone doesn’t pay attention to it, they might think it’s dedicated to the love of a couple, but it doesn’t go that way. It’s about finding your father’s love and that feeling of being embraced by your father, and that no one has ever loved you like him. That’s why it says “you are the love of my life”. The song talks about how no one will love me like he loves me, it’s a security that overwhelms you.
Q. You collaborate with Ana Nieto Marcos on this song.
A. She sings with La Ruta [a worship music band in the Basque Country], an incredible group, and I’ve wanted to collaborate with her for years. We have just released the video clip of the song, it has been great fun to record it. I think it gives a special colour and feel to the song.
Q. How do you approach the present and future of your career?
A. I am very happy about how God is allowing everything. It’s a dream to have recorded this album, to make music. We are rehearsing with the band to prepare for the live shows. We want to try to take this format live, to sing it and jump with the people. We also want to present this message to people who may never have heard it and need it. So it’s weeks of rehearsing, playing in some summer camps, taking small steps forward. I want to keep making music, making new songs, collaborating with new people... And on a personal level, I don’t make a living from music yet, I combine my job as a teacher with my musical career. But I put everything in God’s hands.
Niel González’s music can be found on digital platforms, here.