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Interviews

Singer-Songwriter BØRNS Builds His Glam Pop Kingdom One Record at a Time

The LA up-and-comer speaks about his debut album and weathering a potentially life-changing Taylor Swift shout out.
26.10.15

It’s been a whirlwind of a year for Garrett Borns. The LA-by-way-of-Michigan singer-songwriter has gone from quietly releasing an EP last fall to being praised as one of Taylor Swift’s favorite new artists on social media. After listening to BØRNS’ widely-known single “Electric Love,” from last year’s Candy EP, it was obvious that there was a really magical quality to the up-and-comer’s indie-pop tracks. With his debut record Dopamine (out last week), his hypnotic, high-pitched vocals blend perfectly with chimes, disco melodies and strong guitar riffs. BØRNS has a talent for making electro-pop songs sound like lullabies—his voice is that soothing. We wouldn’t be surprised if BØRNS appears for one of Swift’s onstage duets by the end of her 1989 tour. Following the mid-month release of his debut album Dopamine, we caught up with BØRNS about his 70s aesthetic, staying balanced and life after Taylor Swift’s co-sign.

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Noisey: Congratulations on your debut album. How does it feel to have what you’ve been working on for so long out in the world?
Garrett BØRNS: It feels good. This album as a whole was a pretty fast recording process, so it doesn’t feel like it’s been sitting around forever. It definitely feels like it’s fresh out of the oven, so to speak.

Was the songwriting done a while ago? Or was that recent?
No, I mean pretty much everything was done over the course of a few months over the summer because I was on tour a lot, and we had to block out the time I wasn’t on tour to make the debut album. There are some songs from the EP I put out last November on the album, but a lot of it was done in a pretty quick manner. I feel like that kind of forces you to not overthink anything.

What has the transition from your EP Candy to your debut album? Have fans had different reactions to your full-length?
I think there’s a difference in terms of the kinds of songs on the album. They’re different production-wise, and I feel like I sing differently on the album. After doing a lot of tours, I feel like I’m singing from a different place. I’m writing about different things—maybe more true stories. The EP was kind of this fantasy EP. Nothing was too specific that actually happened in life. The LP definitely has some more truth to it. People have been enjoying the new stuff because it’s definitely different, but it seems like they’re into it.

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How did Airbnb come into play and inspire you? I know you lived in an Airbnb house you never intended to.

Right. When I first went out to LA, I found a place on Airbnb that looked like a pretty lovely paradise to live in and I was expecting to stay there for a month and ended up living there for over a year. I met a really cool family that’s really into music and art, which inspired that relationship and gave me a place to stay—a pretty modest little place.

Obviously Taylor Swift called out your song “Electric Love” as one of her favorite songs of the year and called it out on Instagram. What was your reaction to Taylor Swift’s praise?
It was definitely unexpected. I didn’t know she was gonna give me a shoutout, but I thought that was very generous of her to do because of her having such a huge outreach to so many fans. She has a very devoted fanbase, so anything she says her fans are gonna do. It was a very sweet thing to do.

Have you met Taylor in real life yet?
No, we haven’t met in real life. We’ve only met in virtual life.

Do you think you’ll be invited to perform on stage with her or will be a part of her squad one of these days?
I don’t know. I think she plays “Electric Love” at her concerts as people are coming into stadiums going to their seats. I’ve seen some videos. She’s giving it some love at the concerts, so even if I’m not at the concerts, I’m sort of performing with her.

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Do you fear not being able to keep the momentum of your music career after your debut album?
Well, it came out two days ago, so I hope the fear doesn’t kick in. I don’t really try to live with too much fear. This is really just the beginning—it’s my first album. I’m not worrying about anything yet.

How do you stay balanced? As a musician, you’ve gotten a lot of success pretty quickly.
Well, for me it’s been a very gradual, organic process of writing and recording and putting together a body of work. I’ve never felt like it happened too fast or anything. Some of the songs on my EP gained traction pretty quickly because people were putting them on playlists and were sharing them on social media. That was a big help with my music. To be honest, I’ve never wanted to do anything that feels like it’s unnaturally a quick gain. I want to work my way and make sure I’m doing the work that’s deserving of any sort of success. I’ve always stayed pretty balanced. I’m a pretty balanced dude.

I read that you’re really into music from the 70s. What do you think music from the 70s had that it lacks now?
I don’t know. I feel like music is always alive and well. I don’t think there’s anything it’s lacking now, there are just different ways of making it. I think there’s a completely different way of making records back then. It’s almost like there was less to hide behind back then. People can record on their laptops or iPhones now. There are a lot of things to describe songs and make them sound good. To make a genuine record, it takes more than a cool beat and some auto tune. This is kind of the long answer, but I don’t know. I don’t think it’s really lacking anything now. The 70s was definitely a different way of making music.

Who are your favorite 70s musicians?
The Bee Gees, David Bowie, and Marc Bolan are my top picks.

What do you want people to get out of your debut record?
I just want them to enjoy it, I guess. I kind of just want it to speak for itself.

Was there any part of putting this album out that was really difficult or emotionally challenging for you?
No, I don’t think songwriting is emotionally challenging—I feel like it’s almost a way to sort through your emotions and put them out there. You can see or hear them in front of you. Obviously there’s writer’s block, and I’ll go from writing a song and knowing what I’m doing to being lost and not knowing anything about songwriting. In that way, it’s a very temperamental process. It’s a total mind game. Allowing yourself to suck is the hard part of writing music. If you allow yourself to suck, you will probably write something better.

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