Interview and Text by Akeem Johnson-Pierre & Mayillah Ezekiel
Michigan-born Garrett Borns, known to the world as BØRNS, has entered his Blue Period. In his sophomore album, he is exploring themes of youth and loss of innocence driven by hypnotic synth-beats that will have you up and dancing all night long.

Your album is finally out, and you’ve recently started your tour. How does it feel to see your vision come to life? Does the release of this second album feel any different from the first? Yeah, it felt a lot different! I didn’t know if I was ever going to be able to put out another album. It felt like I was playing the first record for so long that I wondered, “What’s going to happen after this?” I really wanted to make something that was my headspace at the time, and sort of a stamp of a moment in time. When you make an album, the sounds always remind you of what you were doing at that time. I was in LA for the whole creation of the record – I was living in this noisy neighbourhood with Chihuahuas barking all the time, ice cream trucks, Mariachi bands, and all these sounds that I loved, so I wanted to put that whimsicality into it. But long story short, it does feel a lot different and it feels really good!

Did the move to LA affect the sound of your music? I think so! Having sunshine all the time and palm trees… It definitely affected my first record for sure, because I was just so enamoured by [it], but I think the second record was more affected by all my travels with touring and wanting to make something a little more intricate. I feel like I grew a lot as a person and as a performer, so I wanted to show my growth as a songwriter too.

How did the Lana del Rey feature come about? How was it working with her on the title track? I’ve been a fan of her music for a long time and we sort of met virtually. She mentioned that she loved one of my songs on Instagram. We casually talked about collaborating, but I wanted something to naturally happen. I was working with her sister on a lot of the photography for the album. Chuck [Grant] is an amazing photographer and we’re also close friends, so [Lana] heard some of my music through her and mentioned that she would love to be on it.

Were you going for an Adam-and-Eve-in-the-garden feel, since the album does play with the themes of lost innocence? Sometimes, when you’re making something, you don’t really know what it looks like or sounds like until you step back from it and look at it in its entirety. I didn’t really even realize those themes were in it. In my neighbourhood, there were all of these beautiful Mexican-looking murals of the Virgin of Guadalupe, with light emanating from her. I was always seeing them when I was driving to the studio and I really loved it. I had “Blue Madonna” written down as the title, and then the album became what it is today.

As much as you take your production and songwriting to the next level, Blue Madonna is very much a cohesive project. How did you achieve this? I always feel like everything I do is so scatter-brained and doesn’t have a through-line. Again, I try to make as many sounds as I can and then try to put them into a playlist. I never arrange the songs until I finish them. I was in San Francisco with my producer and good friend, Tommy English, when we finally put all the songs in order and listened to it as a whole. It was wild! So, cohesiveness is always an accident for me. I’m glad people think it’s cohesive… For me, I’m like, “Aw man, none of these songs go together.”

What makes better music, new love or heartbreak? Oh wow, well both are very distracting and there’s a fine line between those two. I feel like new love is like a fantasy… I can write songs about the idea of fantasies really, really easily. You know when you meet someone, have a connection and then when you leave each other, you have all these thoughts like, “What if I said this?” or “What if we did this?” or “Man, did I completely mess that up?” You build all these things in your mind and that’s what I usually write about.

You put your all into creating Blue Madonna, what has Blue Madonna given you in return? I wanted to put something out that people had to figure out, and I know a lot of people enjoyed the first record! I didn’t want to put out anything too obvious. It was a lot of challenging myself with trying to write different things that I’ve never heard before and I wanted to play the whole album top to bottom at shows because I thought it would be kind of different. It seems like, as we’re touring and as people are getting to know the music more, people are connecting to the different songs. It’s pretty amazing to me!

How does it feel now to perform some of your older songs? We’re so comfortable with those songs that we can just dig into them so hard and play them so effortlessly. My voice can just hit those notes without even thinking because we’ve played them so much. New songs can be a bit daunting sometimes because before performing, I probably only sang them in the studio once.

How much of a role does fashion play in your life? I’ve always looked at it like, “What kind of character do I want to play?” Since I was very young, I’ve always dressed into different characters, and now that I’m performing, what you’re wearing is going to affect the way you walk, sing, and talk to people. If I’m wearing a suit, I’m going to sing and walk so differently than if I’m wearing something flow-y. I love all things Bowie and Prince – I love those androgynous looks. Alessandro (Gucci’s creative director) has been so sweet to me. I love his imagination and what he’s done for Gucci.

You’re known for being into wellness, so, health-wise, what are some of your tour essentials? I try to eat as clean as possible, especially when I travel! Having fresh fruits and vegetables is important. I eat granola with chia seeds and almond milk in the morning. Just being able to sustain yourself is important. I love matcha tea! You got to get your B-vitamins in because that’s the first thing to go, so you have to replenish them!

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