Singer-songwriter discusses what it feels like to be on stage, the benefits of discussing one’s vulnerabilities, and the forthcoming album
Garrett Clark Borns, better known by his stage name BØRNS, rocketed into fame in late 2014 with his song “Electric Love”. The track peaked at number 31 on the US Mainstream Top 40. He followed its success with the release of his debut LP, Dopamine, which reached number 24 on the Billboard 200 album chart. BØRNS then set out on North American and European tours.
The Grand Haven, Michigan, native wrote his first album while living in a treehouse in a Los Angeles canyon. Now BØRNS is revving up to release his sophomore record and begin a 2018 North American headlining tour. The forthcoming record was created during the artist’s first downtime in over a year, and finds him looking into his own vulnerabilities.
ARTISTdirect’s Christopher Friedmann caught up with BØRNS to discuss what it feels like to be on stage, the benefits of discussing one’s vulnerabilities, and the forthcoming album.
Christopher Friedmann: We’re talking because you are just announced a North American tour, and you’re in the middle of one right now, plus you have a new album on the way. Just to start how is the mood in camp?
Garrett Borns: It’s good. It’s nice to get back on the road, it’s kind of been a second. I haven’t really toured since last October when I just ended the last tour for the Dopamine record. And then I just kind of took some time in L.A. to work on new music, so it’s nice to get back to sort of extrovert performing mode, get those wheels turning again. Second record is all done and just got mastered, so it’s ready for the world, I guess.
CF: You partnered with PLUS1 for this tour and $1 from every ticket will go to support Grid Alternatives. Can you tell us a little about why this cause is so important to you, and give us a little more information on it for those of us who are less aware?
GB: It was kind of brought to my attention by my sister. She’s done some work with PLUS1 before, and it’s just kind of like I want there to be a broader consciousness to what I’m putting out into the world. Just because I have such a platform to speak from, and the fact that I can go out and perform and be in front of a lot of people, I think that’s a good opportunity to sort of raise awareness.
CF: Your debut LP received widespread acclaim, and you’ve got a new album coming out in early 2018. Did the success of the first record add any pressure this time around?
GB: I don’t know. I think the only pressure was what I put on myself to make a different record. I knew I kind of wanted to make an ambitious record in the beginning of it, and I wanted to really push myself to feel like at the end of the record I put all my ideas on the table and there is nothing left I could to do, and just make something I’ve never made before. I think the production is a lot different. The songwriting is different for me, and there are some live strings on it, which is something I’ve always wanted to do. And I pushed my voice in different places. It was a lot of experimenting and trying out different things that I’ve wanted to try since I’ve been on the road. I think by the end of it, I got everything out that I wanted to.
CF: When you wrote your first album, you were living in a tree house in a Los Angeles canyon. How has your headspace changed since you wrote that first record?
GB: I just did a lot more travelling than I’ve ever done, and it was kind of jarring at first. I had to figure out how to pace myself and how to get into the flow of moving around so much and performing so much because it is such an intimate experience, no matter what size crowd you’re with, you’re just always around people, and I think that kind of wipes you out sometimes. I just kind of had to figure out how to interact and perform and still feel like I had power on stage. I think it was the difference between moving and not moving.
CF: You had mentioned the power you feel when you are on stage. What is it about the power of the stage that you find attractive?
GB: I don’t know if I’m looking at it as being attractive. I think it’s just a feeling that you kind of are immortal in a weird way, like you can do things that your other mortal self couldn’t because there is an orb around you, in a way. It’s just how you use that on stage to really put on a show.
If you watch somebody who performs that just has a glowing mysticism, like Bjork, you’re just like, “How is she doing that?” I don’t know. It almost makes you superhuman in a way, which is very strange because as soon as you walk off stage you kind of become something different.
CF: You called the album’s lead single, “Faded Heart”, “this lamentation of my own mortality.” Comprehension of mortality is something that generally comes with age, but you also seem to be affected greatly by stepping away from the stage after your tour. What was it like stepping back into normal life after being on the road for so long? How are the dishes and house plants?
GB: [Laughs] They are good. The house plants are good. It’s kind of like when you are in L.A., you have to figure out the ones that are a little more self-sustainable, more like cactus, succulents can kind of fend for themselves – not to really get into specifics. But I love just having that domestic life too, like cooking, having plans, and being in one space so you are creating it for awhile, it’s really nice, and kind of recharging for the road again.
I think you have to do that to gain perspective. It’s so different going out on the road this time and seeing people come to a show and just realizing that there are people who want to buy tickets to comes see you perform. If that becomes too much of a habit, you don’t realize how crazy that is [laughs]. It just kind of hit me on stage on these shows too, I’m just like, “Man, everyone is singing these songs. Someone made a plan to come to this show.” That’s so crazy.
CF: We’ve talked about how you can feel sort of superhuman on stage, but as I understand this new album you wanted to explore your own vulnerability as an individual. Do you find making art about your vulnerabilities frees you from their weight and if so, why do you think that is?
GB: Maybe, because I feel like you can learn to have a sense of humor about them, and that just makes them more enjoyable. I think it offers a different perspective on your vulnerability because if you’re making a song about your vulnerability and people are being inspired by that song, it’s almost like that vulnerability becomes something so much more powerful.
CF: You are using your upcoming tour to bring attention to a cause, as we discussed earlier. 2017 has been a rather tumultuous year, but it seems the artist seems to be as vocal as ever. How do you view the voice of the artist today?
GB: I think artists and really anyone that has an Instagram account [laughs]. Artist is a very different term than it has ever been before, and I think a lot of people have the power and outreach to explain their thoughts. I guess I think a lot about how I offer perspective because the internet can be a lot of noise, but I guess I always want to make sure it’s something that is benefiting peoples’ thoughts and not just adding to the noise.
CF: Over the course of your career you’ve had a fair breadth of experiences, but I was wondering if you could tell us of the most grounding moment that you’ve had so far, a moment that reminds you why you do all this?
GB: Kind of what I was talking about a second ago, like just taking a step away and working on another album and stepping away from the road for a second, I think helped me see things a bit differently. Just everyone I work with and fans and people that have courted me for a long time, just kind of reacquainting with them has been really nice. It just, kind of, like you really realize what sort of genuine relationships you have and how those are very special. I feel, like, really lucky to be able to make music and continue on and do this, put music into the work the way I have and travel, it’s such a rare opportunity.
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