BØRNS Finds His Freedom in the Music

BØRNS Finds His Freedom in the Music

The rockstar gives V an exclusive peek at his Coachella experience and opens up about recording his sophomore album 'Blue Madonna.'

The rockstar gives V an exclusive peek at his Coachella experience and opens up about recording his sophomore album 'Blue Madonna.'

Text: Jake Viswanath

BØRNS is intoxicating. This was proven when the effortless strutting drumbeat of his debut single “Electric Love” hypnotized us for the first time back in 2014. And it was proven once again four years later at Coachella, where fans from across the country were pulled into a trance and shouted the chorus word-for-word like a loyal church gathering during his set. “Just the shuffle beat itself is very primal in a way, I feel like that just gets people going,” he says. “And something about the war cry in it is kind of… it’s a sing along that everyone can relate to. Everyone is feeling freaky out in the desert, so who doesn’t want to feel electric love in the air?”

With his sophomore record Blue Madonna, the main focus of his performance, BØRNS further embraces his hypnotic power, expanding his blend of artful electro-pop and smooth glam rock with a fuzzy yet cinematic filter—and the use of some unusual instruments in pop music, like the omnichord and theremin. "I was listening to a lot of the Beach Boys and Bowie records. Those instruments weren’t as crazy on those records because those were before much electronics entered into music." Already, it's a natural starting point for creating his next album. "I definitely want to do more with strings. There’s this really beautiful string arrangement that I tuck into the songs that are actually almost hidden, but if you listen to them, they’re really beautiful. I want to do some more stuff with just strings, and that’s it, nothing else covering them up."

At times, Blue Madonna is an album of contrast, soaking melancholic lyrics with jubilant melodies to create the sound of sweet sweet depression. At other points, it’s simply the sound of Garrett Borns confidently coming into his own. Both perspectives were natural transitions largely caused by the singer learning the realities of the road, even from just a taste of fame.

“I think just performing and having all these experiences that I had for the first time, I didn’t even know what I was doing,” he reminisces. “The more you practice something, the more you are aware of what you’re doing. There’s this innocence that I’ll just never have again as a performer, but I was discovering new ways of doing something so I guess look at everything brand new now.” The best material from many artists come from a place of sadness, but he veered from going to that place while writing—at least intentionally.  “I don’t really know what emotions are going to come out in songs when I’m writing them until I step back and listen to them as a whole.”

For most new artists, touring life opens up a whole new world for them, and the impact on their psyche widely varies. Understandably, it hit Borns enormously, especially when you consider that he lived in a treehouse before he made it big. “It wasn’t completely removed from society, but it was enough removed where I could sit and meditate in my own thoughts and figure out what I wanted to do in that time of my life, just the music I wanted to write,” he explains. “I had a lot of realizations up there. I think it’s always important to have artistic palaces in a way.”

Perhaps his time on top of the woods brought some clarity on his aesthetics as well. Borns just might be as known for his expertly curated visuals and gender-bending fashion as much as he is for the actual music. “I think it’s just a word, it’s just some way to describe something,” he says about that "gender-bending" label. “I think there’s just a sense of freedom that I like to have in performing and creating, having no boundaries.” His journey led him to famed Italian painter Carlo Dolci, who created the iconic painting that gave Blue Madonna its name and inspired the royal yet eclectic feel of his aesthetics this era, helmed in part by Lana Del Rey’s sister Chuck Grant. “I felt she really captured the colors and the mood accurately… Just in my neighborhood in LA, I saw all these depictions of the Virgin Mary. It was this psychedelic image that stuck in my brain whenever I was driving to the studio.”

Fittingly enough, he kept his collaborators in the Grant family as Lana is the only featured guest on the album, lending her smokey vocals to a fittingly entracing duet “God Save Our Young Blood.” “We had been talking about collaborating for a while,” he explained.  I just wanted it to happen naturally, you can’t really force these kind of things. I had a few songs that, when I was writing them, I was picturing her on them. As I was wrapping up my album, I showed a few of the tracks to her and she really liked them, so we got in the studio and got her on them. It was really inspiring. Her voice is amazing so it was awesome to put both of our voices on the track.”

Festival crowds, especially ones as historically unpredictable as Coachella’s, can be hard to win over, but BØRNS is securing the hearts of music listeners across the board—look at his live shows for proof. “Hopefully I inspire people just to lose themselves a little bit,” he says. “That’s what I enjoy doing on stage: challenging myself with a new territory, like performing differently, moving differently, singing differently, just let people know that it’s okay just to do something that they’ve never done before.” 

Flip through BØRNS' photo diary from Coachella below. 

BØRNS walking to stage at Coachella (Photo: Ricky Alvarez)

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