“It’s been a long time coming—I’ve spent years and years, pretty much my entire career, building up to the release of this record,” Wrabel tells American Songwriter. “Now that it’s out, I’ve been joking, like, ‘Okay y’all, I’m retiring now!’”
For Wrabel, the years-long journey to his debut album, These Words Are All For You—which dropped on September 24 via Big Gay Records/Nettwerk—began around a decade ago when the New York-born pop artist landed his first record deal.
“I was in my early 20s and I had written a song that people might be familiar with called ‘10 Feet Tall,’” the now-32-year-old explains, referring to the hit he penned for DJ Afrojack. “I was signed to Island Def Jam under Universal and I had what I call my ‘Mariah Carey moment’ where I got to meet with high-up executives and play them my songs on a Wurlitzer keyboard. After that, I got to go out to London to make a record, which had always been my dream.”
Yet, as Wrabel quickly discovered, not all dreams are meant to fully come to fruition… before he got a chance to finish his debut, he underwent a rough breakup (that went down on Skype, no less) and some change-ups at the record label. In the end, the decision was made that it’d be better for him to make an EP in lieu of a record. That was fine… for the time being. Eventually though, Wrabel and his team made the decision to step out on their own—going independent, he got the chance to start really finding his voice as an artist. This leap of faith led to even more career unfoldings—he worked with new folks, made new connections, and released an array of moving songs, such as his 2017 hit, “The Village.”
But through it all, Wrabel still had a burning dream in his heart: to make a debut record, a proper full-length release. Through the whole time, too, he was collecting songs.
“That very first trip to London—the one with the Skype breakup—ended with me writing ‘love is not a simple thing to lose,’ which is the closing track on this album,” he said. “It was written on one of the most cathartic days of my life, and it’s held its place in my heart all these years.”
A lot of the songs on These Words Are All For You are like that—Wrabel is the kind of writer who truly pours himself into his work. “It’s very much autobiographical—these songs are from my life,” he said. “It’s a bizarre feeling. I’ve only listened to the record front-to-back, like, five times—every time, I pick up on something different. I was struck by how much hope was on the record, how much love there is, and how deep it seems to run.”
This phenomenon becomes clear listening to highlight tracks like “nothing but the love,” which candidly peels back the curtain and gives a peek into the inner workings of Wrabel’s heart.
“I tend to not wait until I’ve learned the lesson from whatever it is to write the song about,” he said. “A lot of the time, when I’m writing is when I’m thinking, ‘What’s the lesson? Did I learn anything?’ Sometimes I don’t find the answer—but I love a question song. So, looking back on this project, it’s cool to be like, ‘Wow, I’ve grown in these ways… and haven’t grown in these other ways.’ The positives and negatives of life are both there.”
Finally sharing this genuine labor of love with the world, Wrabel is currently sitting on that bitter-sweet, “I just finished a really good book” feeling, with nothing but new opportunities on the horizon.
“I’m in Los Angeles, so everything and everyone is focused on ‘What’s next? What are you going to do now?’” he said. “But I’ve been working really hard and I’m just looking forward to being able to not think or worry about anything for a sec. I haven’t been writing, which is new for me—I’m just thinking about things like, ‘What do I want to do now? What have I not been able to do because I’ve been working on this album for so long?’ It’s a really nice, really interesting and really exciting time.”
Wrabel’s debut album These Words Are All For You is out now and available everywhere—watch the music video for “back to back” below: