Electro-pop singer Børns, born Garrett Borns, is hard to pin down as an artist. Several years ago, the 26-year-old Michigan native went from the tundra of the Midwest to the (mostly) sunny skies of Los Angeles, where he lived in a treehouse and stole Taylor Swift’s mom’s heart along the way via singles such as “Electric Love” and “10,000 Emerald Pools.”
Flash-forward to 2018, and the gender-bending vocalist is on his second record, Blue Madonna, which features an opening duet with Lana Del Rey — “God Save Our Young Blood” — and an album cover that looks like it belongs in a Gucci ad campaign or an Anne Rice novel.
On September 18, Børns will bring his impressive pipes to Revolution Live in Fort Lauderdale. New Times spoke with him over the phone ahead of the show about his growth as a performer and the unusual spelling of his stage name.
New Times: Your vocal range is incredible, especially with that falsetto. Growing up, what vocalists did you emulate? Were you trying to go that high at an early age?
Børns: Yeah. In the beginning, I think it was Roy Orbison. He had a pretty high range. There were some female jazz vocalists I was into, like Billy Holiday, and Julie London, who I guess was a little more sultry. [And] Edith Piaf, who my parents played a lot of.
I guess the vocal-range thing happened out of necessity because I used to play in a lot of noisy bars in a band with some of my friends, and it was always so loud. Everybody was just banging on their instruments, so I had to sing at the top of my range to be able to be heard over the chaos.
Have you taken your talents to a karaoke bar?
I’m down for karaoke in Little Tokyo. Haven’t done that, but I think it’s time.
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What led you to stylize your last name with the slash through the o?
Good question. Well, I guess there are a few reasons. I think mainly the reason that I did it is
I didn’t really think too much about people thinking I was Scandinavian, but I guess it translates to "children" or "children's" or "kids," which is also a cool band name.
You said an interview earlier this year that listening to your first record, Dopamine, was like listening to a different person. What would you say is the biggest difference between that Garrett and this Garrett?
With my first album, I’d never been on the road before. I’d never played electric guitar live. I was just growing my hair out. Everything landed into this place when the album came out — my hair had grown out and I was wearing technicolor jackets — and the vibe and the persona just naturally flowed out of that.
Then I hit the road, and before I knew it, I had been touring for a couple of years on the first record. I think it was a crazy whirlwind and a crazy education — figuring out how to perform an entire album of songs, breaking my voice in, and having great shows and having terrible shows. It was a huge learning experience. By the time I recorded my second record, I just knew how to use my voice.
How do you measure success? At what point will say to yourself, I’ve made it?
I mean, it’s never a destination, I guess. I’m always reinventing my creative process to try to just challenge myself and think differently and write
I think that goes for a lot of performers. Everybody has a place they
What would you like people to know about you?
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I guess I’m always trying to withhold information from people.
Why is that?
I don’t know. I guess I like having secrets. I think that’s why I was so fascinated by magic as a kid. I think all kids are. When you have a secret, you have magical power. So hold... onto the secret. I guess that’s more advice. Boom. Just hold onto the secret.