Artist of the Week Yosué Gonzalez ’24 on Shakespeare, Orion, and Color

I met Yosué Gonzalez ‘24 in Modern Political Thought with Professor Arlen. I announced to the class that I was looking for third and fourth-year students to interview when Yosué mentioned that they are a musician and had released a new single a few months prior. However, I never expected to hear that their lyrical journey began with a coincidence.

“I actually started singing by accident. So funny story, in sixth grade, I was in gym class and I broke my arm. My teachers decided to put me in the chorus instead. Around the same time, I downloaded Katy Perry’s whole discography, which sent me on a path of pop music and pop culture. As I listened to more music, I started branching out, and found new genres to explore. And so then I started singing and stayed in [the] chorus all through middle and high school. Now I take vocal lessons and release music here.”

In high school, they slowly built their lyricism skills through poetry and early drafts of future songs. 

“I’ve been writing songs for a very long time … since early high school. Those were outlets for my emotions and not necessarily ready for sharing with the public. But I kept doing it, got better, and decided to make these [lyrics] into actual songs,” they shared. “I had to teach myself music production for about a year to actually get to a place where I felt comfortable releasing something. And then came ‘Liquor.’”

When I heard their first released song “Liquor,” I immediately thought of Hamlet – yes, from Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.” When I brought the connection up to Yosué, they said, “I used to write Shakespearean sonnets in high school – probably in my junior year of high school. Sometimes I read lyrics and I realize I’m writing in iambic pentameter.”

Shakespearean or not, Yosué uses their minor in English with a focus on creative writing to incorporate literary elements into their songs. 

“There’s a ton of alliteration and wordplay [in my songs] … and allusion. I love biblical references. ‘Slow’ is full of that. My stage name – Orion – draws from mythology, too.”

Why choose Orion? Yosué said, “You can see Orion every night when you look up. And I think that it’s a reminder of someone constantly being there … a guiding force for me. Every night, I look for Orion. He’s there and just kind of moving me forward.”

For Yosué, literary techniques, mythological references, and color form their main inspirations. I heard about color synesthesia for the first time in a Lorde interview. Shockingly, despite being a musician AND an artist, I have never correlated hue with sound. But Yosué’s vision is intrinsically connected to color. “Oftentimes I’ll have a visual in my head that I’ll try to impart into the song. Yeah, I have a music video idea in my head that gets translated into the work. Even if it’s just colors, I’ll lean into a specific image that becomes a repeated motif throughout my work … I have specific pictures that I want to paint through music.”

Fascinated, I asked them what colors their singles are. They replied, “‘Slow’ feels very purple. ‘Alone’ is red … straight-up red. And I put that into the lyrics, too. And ‘Liquor’ is a dark and mustardy kind of color.” Unsurprisingly, each cover art reflects Yosué’s color perception. 

With so many varying interests, I wondered how Yosué plans to incorporate their major studies of political science and educational studies into verse. They explained, “I think the state of education in this country is scary and disheartening. Having music brings me hope that things will be alright … I think music is about comfort. So in the future, I can see myself writing satirical songs about current events.”

But their upcoming EP won’t be satire. Instead, it will encapsulate SALT: sadness, anger, lust, and truth. Listening to slow, liquor, and alone, I feel SALT. But I also hear Yosué’s command of alliteration, wordplay, and biblical allusion hidden within their powerfully vulnerable voice. When I close my eyes and immerse myself in their soundscape, I see the same hue of purple Yosué describes in “Slow”, I taste “Alone’s” red, and I feel “Liquor’s” mustard yellow. 

I don’t have synesthesia, I can’t write Shakespearean sonnets, and I have no singing ability whatsoever. Yet, in talking to Yosué about their nuanced lyricism and command of voice, I feel my only restriction is that of imagination. So, I think this Artist of the Week feels lilac. 

If you’re interested in Yosué’s music, follow Orion on SoundCloud at https://on.soundcloud.com/9ag7pdUt2Jxx31XA8

And their Instagram handle @yosuexgonzalez

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