It's BØRNS, which, if you google the pronunciation of the word, sounds like bounce. Or, depending on what search result you click, might also sound like fence.
But it's "Borns." Garrett, not Jason, BØRNS, and yes, I managed, in the 15 minutes I was fortunate enough to share with him over the phone, to refrain from using that terrible joke.
It's BØRNS because he's enigmatic and he likes the way it looks when you write it and he's mysterious and he's somewhat tight-lipped and he's mysterious and he's reserved and he's collecting thoughts and stories and songs and lyrics and moments; storing it all up, saving it for the day when he has a moment to himself to write.
And, when I spoke with him, he sounded awfully sleepy.
But touring to promote a hit record, Dopamine, released last October for nearly 18 months will do that to you. Sure, he's only 24. He's got youth on his side. But, he needs a break.
But not before he gets to New York City's first-ever Meadows Music & Arts Festival. Which is only after he goes down and plays a show with The Lumineers in... Arkansas.
Jamison Hackelman: Coming up on a year since Dopamine was released. You’ve got glowing endorsements from Taylor Swift and the late legend Prince, where are you at mentally right now having had time to watch your stardom kind of erupt, the success of the record, and being on the road for, what, 18 months?
Garrett Borns: Yeah, just about. I mean, it’s kind of hard to even put it into perspective. I can’t tell if this has been the longest year of my life or the quickest year. The amount of ground traveled and shows played, I never thought I would be capable of doing that. It's been a wild one for sure.
JH: The historical significance of The Meadows is definitely downplayed. And no, there’s not a lot to it. It’s a music festival, but the lineup is so interesting. What’s it like being part of the first-ever of anything in New York City, and how do you feel about the company you’re in?
GB: Well, I’ve never played a festival like this in New York, so it’s very exciting to be a part of that, and the lineup is pretty extraordinary as well. The Weeknd, 1975, Pretty Lights―it’s all just amazing music. So, I’m stoked to be in a lineup that of artists that I really look up to.
JH: Are you going to take any time for yourself to enjoy the first day of the festival? Any acts that you’re not able to see because of your performance on Sunday that you wish you were able to see?
GB: Well, um. Yeah, I mean, I’m not gonna be there Saturday, I’ll probably be able to see some performances Sunday night, but not Saturday unfortunately because I'm still in tour.
JH: Where are you going to be on Saturday?!
GB: Um, in Arkansas. Rogers, Arkansas with the Lumineers.
JH: I wanna talk a little bit about Girls because the show’s Music Supervisor, Manish Raval, did a really masterful job with “Past Lives.” And I always love moments in TV shows that use music so well because so many of them miss the mark, but when it hits, it’s devastating.
This is one of those gems that kills me, and I’m not even a particularly big fan of the show.
How do these kinds of moments resonate for you? It’s one thing for a song to have great influence because of its own merits, and "Past Lives" is a gorgeous song on its own, but as an artist of one medium, how do you feel when you get to see how your art is used to shape and influence other mediums like television?
GB: Yeah, absolutely. I didn’t see it until it was on the episode. It was pretty crazy to watch. Tommy English, who I made that song with and did that record with, we both kind of got chills. That was a very early song in our repertoire together.
And it was wild to see that come full circle and watch it in an emotional visual piece. I mean, I’m a huge visual person, for lack of a better term. I studied filmmaking, and I think when music goes with the visuals and they marry in this kind of effortless way, there's just nothing like it.
JH: I’m generally just sort of late to the game when it comes to music, but when I get into it, I latch onto it for days on end - same album, over and over and over. Some artists love their own work, some artists are endlessly critical of it, some artists draw influence from other contemporary artists, others only speak with the dead. I wondered where you fell on this spectrum?
I can’t tell if this has been the longest year of my life or the quickest year.
Are you someone who can hear your own songs and appreciate them for how they've grown outside of the creative process―like some of these really great remixes of "American Money"―or do you move on beyond it quickly because of the lengthy touring process, not wanting to be in the same conversation with yourself?
GB: When it comes to the fact that you’re touring, I seldom ever heard those songs. I never listened to it because I play them most nights of the week, but whenever I did ever hear a recorded version randomly, I was always surprised at the kind of evolution in the live process.
Over time it almost has a second life, and it grows up, and it matures, and different melodies come out, and we play the song so much differently than how it sounds on the album. There’s also the interpretation by the rest of the band, because Tommy and I worked on that album together, and the band is just more of a live show.
So, yeah, it’s always crazy to go back and reflect, and I approach manipulating my voice on a microphone completely different than I did when I made this album.
JH: From interview with WWD on your Coachella Performance “I’m always in my own little world.” Can you take us into that world for a moment? Where your head is at? Can you articulate what kind of headspace you're traveling in.
GB: Currently, the headspace I’m in, is just getting ready for the next album. This is the last tour for this record cycle. I’m so stoked to get back into writing mode. And I’m already in it. I’ve been kind of compiling and collecting over the past year on the road just song ideas and inspiration and listening to other music and seeing other shows. It’s been a huge learning process this year. My headspace is just getting back into the creative flow in the studio.
JH: What have you been listening to most recently?
GB: Most recently? The new Frank Ocean. And actually, I've been going back into older classic 70s songbook of Paul Simon’s older stuff and even live Bowie recordings. He had some of the greatest live albums. It's kind of all over the spectrum.
JH: I'm sure you get asked about the treehouse all of the time, but I do want to hit on the tree house only because of how that living space sits in stark opposition to what any New Yorker experiences. How long have you been living in the treehouse? Are you still there?
GB: No, I haven't called the treehouse home for a while, but I still reside in LA. That's where I call home at the end of the tour. That was a definitely an inspiring little abode.
JH: Will you ever try to recreate it in any capacity, or was it this just one-time thing?
GB: Um yeah, it was kind of like a childhood dream come true. Just play electric guitar in the treetops all night?
JH: If you could just pick up that treehouse and plant yourself in one of the 5 boroughs would you? And where? Queens, The Bronx, Staten Island, Manhattan, or Brooklyn?
GB: Oh, man. I don’t think I could do it.
JH: Oh, it's definitely not feasible! BUT IF YOU COULD, WOULD YOU!
GB: I don't know. I kind of couch-surfing. I lived up in Harlem for a bit near the Hungarian pastry shop. Those were some really great memories living up there.
Make sure to catch BØRNS on Sunday at The Meadows. GA Tickets for Sunday are sold out, so you've got to grab whatever you can right here.