With his dreamy allure and looks, 25-year-old Garett Clark Borns (no, he’s not Scandinavian!) is a very promising singer and songwriter. His debut album Dopamine, featuring singles such as ‘Electric Love’, ‘10,000 Emerald Pools’ and ‘American Money’, put him on the indie pop stage and gained him millions of views on YouTube. Almost two years later, he is preparing for the release of his sophomore album, and he had a chat with us about songwriting, influences, style, and his childhood.
It’s so weird to think of you having a name that is devoid of Danish letters.
I know, tell me about it!
You must get a lot of people assuming that you’re Scandinavian, and not American?
Yes, sometimes I even fool myself.
You worked with Dagny on ‘Fools Gold’, she was actually on our list for 2017. What was it like working with her?
It was good, I think she’s such an amazing singer and performer. My friend Tommy who I’ve recorded everything with, he had a song with her, ‘Fool’s Gold’, and asked if I wanted to write a bridge for it. I talked to her on the phone, got the gist of the inspiration for the song. I sent it to her to see if she liked it, I guess intending for her to sing it in the end, but she ended up saying she really liked the way I sang it so she just kept it. I really love that song.
So you have your next album due in January – what’s the influence for that album been?
The influence for the album was, well, there are a few different influences I guess. First and foremost, it touches on supernatural phenomena and also the feeling of being mortal. I think this feeling of performing and being a persona on stage, feeling godlike but the complete flipside of that which is mortality. And then just external influences, I guess.
That sounds really interesting, and quite deep, quite heavy?
It’s not very heavy, I mean the songs are pretty light and easy to listen to, but- actually, I would want them to be almost weightless if I had to put a weight to them. I guess I want them to inspire open thoughts and a freeing feeling, rather than feeling weighed down.
You’ve said in the past, obviously you’ve had support from people like Jimmy Fallon and Taylor Swift which is crazy, but you’ve said you don’t like looking at the audience and seeing people and recognising them. How do you deal with that on stage?
It’s not that I don’t like it, I mean, I definitely am very grateful for people supporting me but I guess I tend to trail off into daydream land very easily so if I see someone, or something catches my eye and my thoughts I can be off in another world. It isn’t entirely bad, but I like to create my own universe when I’m singing and to be in that, so I guess that’s where it comes from.
So you prefer to lose yourself in what you’re doing?
Yeah, I guess so. Ultimately you’re performing for people and they’re listening, and hopefully having a similar being lost in the music feeling. But yeah, I guess any visual triggers can throw me off sometimes.
I play the clarinet, and when I see someone who I know during performances it really pulls me out of it. And music is such a personal thing, it must feel quite exposing to share what you do with everyone?
Yeah, for sure, I think the clarinet analogy was perfect.
What is it you like about electronic music?
Well, I guess the making of music for me comes from a mixture of electronic and acoustic instruments. And everything on my records are actual instruments, me and Tommy English who produces the record, we play most of the instruments on it. I do like to have a human feel, human error is a beautiful thing, so I like to mix that in with electronic sounds, but I’m really into all sorts of instruments. They all have a spirit to them and they bring a different texture to the music. Like I have an old toy piano, and also I’ve written songs on an omnichord which is like an eighties autoharp, every instrument has its own personality that brings out different tones.
Ever since you’ve been doing music you’ve had quite an androgynous look and sound to you, and it seems like something that you don’t shy away from, or try to change.
I don’t put too much thought into it, I think it’s just naturally who I am. I feel like masculinity for me is not really overthinking masculinity, or not trying to fit society’s traits of masculinity. I think we’re in a place now with music and culture and everything that people are willing to accept more things that are considered “taboo” or whatever. I’m never trying to make it seem a certain way, I guess it’s just my way of doing things.
And I guess now there’s not so much emphasis on gendered clothing.
Right, definitely, the pioneers of that were like the glam rock guys.
Especially if you look at David Bowie’s clothing choices, and his alter egos. Is he someone who influences you in your music or style?
Yeah, absolutely, I think both him and Prince have completely created their own universes of songwriting and performing and fashion, and I think they know how to mix their influences so it becomes something completely unique. I think that’s a place I want to come from, I’m always interested in the origin of something, the origin of words, instruments, melodies, and I think that was a big influence on my last record, looking back and seeing where these things started. Electronic instruments for one, they all boil down to a theramin, back in the twenties a Russian engineer accidentally made one, and that evolved over time to a synthesiser and those are so heavily prominent in music.
Having grown up in Michigan, do you think it had an influence on your music taste and sound?
Yeah, I think so, I had a good amount of artistic solitude as a kid. I think it’s good when you’re young to have the feeling of boredom, just because then you have to make your own entertainment. I was always striving to entertain myself, and I grew up with a big backyard so I had a lot of time around the woods, nature, fresh water, and I think that influenced me as a person, that’s where my peace of mind comes from.
What can someone expect from your live show?
Hopefully very pleasing tones, my guitarist plays the guitar in a very atmospheric way so it fills the room with a very warm sound. I guess I just hope it feels good to listen to, and it’s a pleasurable experience if all goes well.
The music video for ‘Faded Heart’ is out now, check it out below: