Amélie Outters

21 Jun
Music

Backstage Chat with BØRNS About Gucci and Genders

I had the honor to have a little backstage chat with BØRNS, before his concert at Botanique in Brussels. Our conversation drifted from Gucci to androgyny to dating on tour. It’s fair to say that the American singer is the most charming and genuine artist I’ve ever met.

Garrett Borns – the man behind BØRNS – smiles at me as I enter his dressing room. The tour manager told me that his schedule is very tight, so after introducing myself briefly we get down to business.

Questioning The Universe

In January BØRNS released his second album: Blue MadonnaI challenge him to describe the album without mentioning genres. “Oh, I’m not really a genre-mentioner! I try to stay away from that,” he makes clear first. “I think it’s because I’m interested in so many genres, that my sound is this cumulation of a lot of different things that don’t make any sense together. But okay… Blue Madonna without genres… I’d say it’s kind of whimsical. It’s sad, but sweet. It’s very wondering… There’s a lot of questioning in this album, not just about myself, but also about experiences I had or about the universe.”

“So, how has the response been so far?” I ask him. He smiles. “It’s been really good!” BØRNS did a headline tour in the US right when Blue Madonna came out, and this is the first time he’s playing the new album in Europe. “It’s always interesting to see how people will react to new music,” he says. “A lot of people have been singing along, so I can tell that they are into the vibe of the second album… It’s been really nice.”

Erratic Behavior

One thing about the album that’s very striking, is the collaboration with Lana Del Rey. “That happened because we are besties!” Garrett laughs. “Well, I don’t really see much of her actually. She’s always on the road, or I’m on the road. But we always try to catch each other in LA and talk about new music.”

He’s loved Lana’s music since Born to Die and the two have been wanting to get in a room together ever since. However, it wasn’t until BØRNS was finishing up this album that they actually ended up in the studio. “It was so nice! I like it when things happen naturally and are not set up by the label or something like that… It just seems more real,” he recounts.

I tell him that I read somewhere that he does the weirdest things while working in the studio. “The weirdest things?” he asks, as if he’s Jon Snow and knows nothing. “Lying on the floor, making weird sounds, …” I specify. Garrett starts laughing. “Yeah, there’s a bit of erratic behavior. Sometimes I feel like I have to get these words and ideas out of me and sometimes that means I need to do some voodoo to myself. You know… let the spirits out.” He notices that I don’t quite understand. “It’s so hard to explain! Anyway, that’s why the studio is behind closed doors, so nobody can see my crazy behavior!” So, did Lana Del Rey see his crazy behavior? “No, I was pretty well behaved around Lana. I acted like this…” He puts up a serious face and pretends that he’s taking notes. We burst into laughter.

Music = Magic

YouTube comments suggest that BØRNS is the baby of Gotye and Lorde, with Lana Del Rey as the surrogate mother. Or even better: that BØRNS is the love child of Michael Jackson and Zac Efron. I decide it’s time to ask about his real parents. “I grew up in a pretty relaxed midwestern family,” he begins. “We lived in a house with a nice big backyard, like woods. My parents were very creative, loved music, and let me do my thing – because I always wandered into different scenarios.”

I refer to his past as a magician. “Yeah… I wanted to be an entrepreneur at a very young age and facilitate my artistic endeavors. So I had to figure out how to make money. Magic was one of the things… I just loved performing,” Garrett elaborates. “I found this shirt at a thrift shop that was made of this iridescent material. I wore it every weekend when I performed magic at the tables of a restaurant.” He thinks back to it as a great learning experience for him as a performer. I wonder if he sees music as a form of magic. “I think they’re very alike,” he confirms. “Music is this invisible thing that makes you feel really intense emotions. There’s a lot of magic in that.”

Fan Art

BØRNS also has a history in visual art, he even got a scholarship for it once. “I love drawing,” he responds. However, he never really has time to do it as much as he would like to. “Occasionally I draw people at airports. Really quick sketches, like cartoon versions of them.” He thinks it’s a fun way to turn your mind off. Speaking of visual art, I bring up his newest music video for “We Don’t Care”. He tells me those visuals were all made by fans. “At shows I always get amazing portraits or paintings, also through Instagram and Twitter. I wanted to turn that into a collaborative thing. My fans sent in some really amazing art and we got to mess around with them with a green screen.” The fun project turned out magnificent.

Gucci Gang

“Let’s talk fashion,” I suggest. As I ask him about Gucci, he points at my bag. “Gucciiiiiii,” he shouts. “Gucci gang!” We laugh. His Gucci adventure began when he performed at Jimmy Fallon’s show three years ago. He wore some Gucci apparel, something from the new line. Alessandro Michele had just recently become the new Creative Director then, and he was starting to put out these new ornate things – which perfectly matches BØRNS’ musical vibe. “Before I knew I was flying to Milan to meet Alessandro! He’s such a humble and down-to-earth person, whereas what he creates is so bright, vibrant, crazy and bold.” And so Garrett got to wear Gucci on his next tour.

High School Hate

I compliment Garrett on his style and tell him that I think it’s very androgynous. “Yeah. When it comes to clothes, I don’t really think about genders. I just wear whatever feels good! It’s interesting… If you wear something and you feel good in it, you kinda just own it.” He continues by explaining that clothes aren’t there just to keep us warm or to cover us up, he thinks of them as artistic pieces. And that’s exactly why clothes shouldn’t be gendered according to BØRNS. “There’s also no genders in the other arts. If you’re looking at a painting, you don’t wonder if it’s a male or a female painter. It’s like… who cares?!”

I love him for thinking like that and I know I’m not the only one. Nevertheless, Garrett did have people reacting in a negative way to his clothing when he was in high school. “I was always trying to wear interesting things that made me feel different, I was trying to express my personality at a young age. I definitely got a lot of hate for it back then, but I think people are starting to catch on.” People now realize that he’s just doing his thing. “Hopefully that inspires other people to do their own thing too,” he concludes.

“Hello-goodbye”

To all the boys reading this: sorry if BØRNS’ open mind and androgynous clothes got your hopes up… Garrett finds himself attracted to women only. With a big smirk on his face, he says: “I’m cursed with being very infatuated with the female species. That’s where all the songs come from. For better, for worse.” To all the ladies reading this: it’s your lucky day, Garrett is still single!

But dating on tour isn’t that simple. “Touring is kind of another wavelength. You have to become okay with abandoning things in a way. You go to a city, you play and then you’re gone. It’s a very “hello-goodbye” way of life. It can be hard. It can definitely be hard,” Garrett explains. “But it’s also pretty exhilarating. Since I’m traveling so much, I meet a lot of people on the way. I keep in touch with them and then rekindle relationships.” Both sides of the coin!

BØRNS’ tour manager walks in. It’s almost time for Garrett to go on stage, so I ask him one last question: “Do you have a routine before you go on?” He says he likes to do some vocal warm ups and says that he will definitely need warm ups today, as he’s feeling a little tired. “We were just in the Netherlands… It was a nice night. I was up late and hanging with everyone. We were curling with our suitcases in a garage and then it turned into riding our suitcases. Everyone was falling off, and we were drinking… And it was very dangerous.” He clears his throat.  “Anyhow, you were asking about rituals. I like to listen to music… Sometimes trap music. Or I listen to Cardi B, or Vince Staples, or A$AP Rocky.” It’s more of the hip hop world, but sometimes Garrett listens to old soul music or old garage rock. “Depends on the mood!”

BØRNS in a Dress

Before we round up, I ask BØRNS if he wants to fill in our “Enfnts Terribles Friendship Book”. He gets all excited. Picking a marker is easy, but coming up with answers is hard. I suggest he just writes down whatever comes up in his mind first, but he keeps struggling. The tour manager reminds us again that we really have to finish the interview, but Garrett tells him that he loves filling in our little questionnaire. “What’s my favorite animal, Matt?” The tour managers hesitates. “A dog?” Garrett isn’t convinced, but then suddenly his face lights up. “Myself in a dress! Or myself in platform heels!” We all laugh.

Garrett calmly finishes filling in the Friendship Book and even takes the time to teach me how to make self portraits as beautiful as his. He hugs me when we say goodbye and I realize… It’s impossible not to love BØRNS.

Photos by Dries for Enfnts Terribles
“Enfnts Terribles Friendship Book” template by Chrostin

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