Most recently Forsman's skills were recognized by Xotic Effects & Guitars, a California based company that endorses him in addition to an impressive roster of world famous guitarists including Scott Henderson, Steve Lukather, Lee Ritenour, Michael Thompson, Andy Timmons and others.
Earlier this week I had the pleasure of catching up with Gabriel Forsman, who just wrapped an incredibly successful tour with the band Radical Something opening for Matisyahu, for an interview. To find out how this extraordinary musician got to where he is today, and more about his exciting upcoming projects, be sure to check out our interview below!
You can also find out more about his work through his website: http://www.gabrielforsman.com/
ELA: Where are you from?
GF: I was born and raised in Malmo, Sweden. Growing up I was surrounded by a lot of music-- my dad who's a touring percussion player would play old Latin jazz tunes and I have many fond memories of him teaching me drum patterns and us jamming together. Most of the time I lived with my mom, and the music didn't stop there. As a dance teacher and the owner of a dance school, she would choreograph at home and sometimes I had to be guinea pig. It's not as fun as it might sound, especially when you're 8 and just want to be cool.
ELA: How and when did you get into music?
GF: I wish I remember why, but I have vivid memories from being 6 and wanting an electric guitar so bad! One time I made a wish to what I pretended to be a falling star. I said, "When I wake up, please let there be a guitar laying on the living room couch". Of course it didn't happen. I had to methodically beg my parents for years. Then finally, at 9 years old, my mom got me my first guitar and I was sold.
ELA: What did music do for you when you discovered you were able to communicate through it?
GF: Playing the guitar was the best thing I knew. I have always enjoyed challenges and the feeling you get when you have worked hard and you can see how it's paying off in progress is a very humbling feeling. It might seem like climbing a mountain at first, but don't get discouraged. When your fingers start doing what your mind tells them, you can focus on really creating music and reach your creative peak. This is sometimes called "being in the zone" and it is the absolute best thing you can experience. It gave me a lot of confidence too.
A couple of years later, I started getting bored with only playing to records by myself. At the time, I was living in a small town and there wasn't many other musicians around, but when I started junior high I met these guys that also were in to Rock music, so we started the band that later came to be known as "Chains". It started out in a classic garage band scenario, rehearsing in a basement, doing local talent shows and what not, but over 7 years we grew a whole lot bigger and started playing bigger shows like Sweden Rock Festival, Rock the Night Fest and opening for bands like Winger, Gotthard, Fate and Vains of Jenna to name a few.
ELA: How many instruments do you play and how long have you been playing each?
GF: I actually started playing the recorder. There was a very weird and illogical misconception that in order to play guitar, you have to play the recorder first. So I did that for a couple of months and it wasn't my thing. I wanted to play cool guitar solos. I've been playing the guitar for over 15 years now. Over the years I have picked up other instruments as well. I'm pretty good on drums and can also get around on bass and keyboard. I have also done backup vocals for several of the bands I have played with.
ELA: Why are you passionate about playing music?
GF: As music has been such a big part of my life for so long, it now is what defines who I am, how I feel and what I do. It's like the perfect marriage. It's a passion that is so strongly rooted in my soul that I couldn't imagine myself doing anything else.
ELA: Can you tell me about some of the artists you've worked with and your role?
GF: In my career, I have worked for over 20 artists and bands, mainly as a live and session guitar player, but also as a songwriter and producer. It's always a matter of adapting and finding your place in the musical context. What can I do to make the music sound and feel better? As a hired musician, it's my job to support the artist so I try to keep a dialogue with the band leader/MD to make sure they get the most out of my playing. Usually I get the liberty to do what I feel fits the music best and then we polish details.
ELA: Who are some of your music influences, and how have they influenced you?
GF: I have had so many different influences over the years, but the biggest one would probably be Michael Jackson. I got into his music early on in life and today I still come back to his records. His work is so rhythmic and a lot of good guitar stuff by some of my guitar heroes, with Paul Jackson Jr. being one of them. His smooth RnB based playing has inspired me a lot. He writes really good guitar melodies and they always have a strong groove. Another very important guitar player who has influenced me is Steve Lukather (Toto) who is more of a rock player, but also infuses Fusion and RnB in his playing. Other guitar players that are significant to how I approach the guitar are: Jimi Hendrix, Eric Johnson, Robben Ford, Michael Landau, Mark Lettieri and Allen Hinds whom I had the pleasure of studying with.
ELA: As a musician, do you have a personal music style that you prefer to play?
GF: As a professional guitar player, I have played in many different scenarios and genres. It all started with rock and blues for me; and that energy and attitude is still rooted in how I play today. Then in high school I got hooked on jazz-fusion through Chick Corea's Elektric Band. That really pushed me to explore the guitar in a new way. Every style has its own set of colors and textures; and I'm a big proponent of learning multiple styles as they all feed in to one another. Even though I don't play a lot of jazz gigs at the moment, the style is something that has been integrated into my playing. I later transitioned into music driven by rhythm and groove, so funk soul and RnB has been central to how my guitar playing has developed over the last couple of years.
While in LA I've played in a lot of churches that are very RnB heavy, so that has also helped fuel that side of me. It's what I enjoy the most. Even when playing with the alternative pop act Radical Something, you can hear some of those influences in there. It's something that keeps changing though. As a session player you have to be prepared to play in different situations that bring out different parts of your musical identity. It's always challenging and fun, and knowing how to read music helps a lot. Not only in a direct practical way, but it also brings a deeper understanding of how music works. After a while you develop your set of "tools". When I'm at a session or a rehearsal with a new band or artist, my first priority is to figure out what tools to use, what's appropriate for the style and how I can serve the song in the best way.
ELA: What albums have you released as an artist? Can you tell me about the style and creative influences that you incorporated into each one?
GF: I co wrote and released 5 Eps with my first band Chains. For me, that's where the biggest foundation was laid for writing and arranging songs. After that I co-produced songs with different bands and artists, such as actress Q'orianka Kilcher whom I produced the song "It's Lonely at the Top" for the movie "Power of Few", as well as songs for the pop/funk band "Just Ahead," and hardcore/metal act New World Anger's EP's "Before I Die" and "Still Around"
In 2010 I was hired by MINT production to write and produce "Citytunneln", the theme song for the induction of a new metro system in Malmo, Sweden. You can also hear me on Melodic Rock artist ISSA's album "The Storm" (Frontiers Records) as well as on several of Hip hop artist Demis Tzivis' EP's as the producer and guitar player. I also produced a couple of live sessions/videos for Diana Feria, overseeing the recording process as well as mixing. Lately I have been doing a lot of sessions on songs for production teams in LA that are currently being pitched to different projects.
ELA: For someone so young you've won and been and nominated for an impressive amount of awards, can you tell me about them?
GF: In 2008 I was dubbed "Best Guitarist" (In Sweden) during the finals in international music competition "Emergenza" The prize was a Gibson guitar. That was a trip, especially being the youngest nominee. The award I'm most proud of is the "Outstanding Player" award I got when graduating Musicians Institute in 2013. Having Scott Henderson, a big idol to me, personally hand it over, was surreal and a dream come true.
ELA: Have you released any music videos with any of the groups you’ve played with?
GF: One of the last shows on the "Built to Survive" tour was filmed and released earlier this year. It was recorded in St. Petersburg, Florida and is called "Radical Something - Jannus Live." Out of all 54 shows we did that tour, it was probably the most hectic and unprepared one. Matisyahu's bus broke down on the way from Charleston, so everything was running late. But, even though we didn't have any sound check, it ended up being one of the best shows on the tour!
ELA: What do you think separates you from other musicians?
GF: I think what separates me from a lot of guitar players is my diversity. I have a lot of experience playing with different groups, both as a studio musician as well as on stage. Playing with different musicians has really opened my ears, so I can easily adapt to the music. I've spent a lot of time fine tuning my chops, but more importantly, I have worked a lot on playing rhythm, something that often gets overlooked by guitar players who are known to be the weakest link of the "groove chain".
I think that's what other musicians I've played with value the most in me. Apart from that I'm very easy to work with. As a team player, I have respect for the bigger picture and I always leave my ego at the door.
ELA: How do you feel when you’re playing on stage?
GF: The stage has always been a second home for me. I love the adrenaline and the energy between the band and audience. It's definitely a craft of its own and something that you get better at the more you do it. After having done more than 200 gigs, I don't get nervous about it. I'm at a musical level now where I can trust my playing and focus more on performing and putting on a show from a visual perspective. Also incorporating new effects to my pedal board keeps things fresh. So, even when I'm playing the same 12 songs on tour, I can improvise and try new things to keep the music breathing. The last thing you want to do as a musician is be on "auto pilot."
ELA: Can you tell me about some of your upcoming projects?
GF: I am currently working in the studio with Far East Movement for their upcoming releases. They are great guys and very fun to work with. I can't disclose too much about it, but as of now I have recorded guitars on about 5 songs and we plan on being finished by the end of the summer. In the meantime I have a couple of college shows and festivals lined up with Radical Something. We'll be going out on tour again this fall with rapper Shwayze in the US and Canada. Also be on the look out for our upcoming EP. I've also been working with artist "Diana Feria" recording on her debut album and preparing for the release and a following tour in 2016. Check her out. She is a great RnB/Latin singer and artist.
ELA: What are your plans for the future?
GF: I'm looking forward to a project a producer and I have been planning for a while.
We've started writing material for a full-length album that's going to feature different musicians from LA and Sweden. Most of the album will be instrumental in a fusion of slick rock, funk and RnB. Apart from touring and gigging around the LA scene, I'll continue working at Musicians Institute. It's a very rewarding job and I get to hang and play with a lot of great players.
ELA: What do you hope to achieve in your career as a musician and producer?
GF: I have already achieved a lot of things I could only dream of. To have a successful career already at 24 is huge, so I'm just going to keep on doing what I do and build a long lasting career and hope that I never have to retire.
ELA: Why is music your passion and chosen profession?
GF: Music has always been a big part of my life and when I started playing guitar, I found my voice. It's a divine experience being able to create and communicate through sound and music. I love the challenges it presents and it's something I can always improve and develop. For me I almost had no choice but to make it my profession. For a short time, I tried holding down a 9 - 5 job, but as it took away so much energy and inspiration, I decided to just do music. It feels so much more natural to me and it brings out the best in me. I also like the music business. Even if it works in its own weird ways, it's very awarding when you have worked yourself up to doing it for a living. There's no better job in my opinion.