By Cady Kuzmich
Clifton Park — Garrett Borns, the 24 year old Michigan native behind electro-pop act BØRNS, caught up with Your Clifton Park in between shows Thursday April 21, just about a week after playing Coachella in Indio California — a music festival which broke attendance records this year, selling nearly 200,000 tickets. BØRNS will be playing a much smaller venue May 4 — Clifton Park’s Upstate Concert Hall.
“It’s the kind of thing where you can never really prepare to be in front of that many people,” Borns said of the festival, adding “You just have to do it.” He noted, both large festivals and more intimate venues both have their perks. “You almost have to treat them both the same,” he said. “You’re still communicating with an audience whether it’s 100 people or 1,000 people,” Borns added.
After the release of his first studio album, Dopamine, last October, BØRNS has gotten a lot of play on local alternative radio stations and nods from other big names in the business like Taylor Swift. The album’s standout songs include crowd-favorites “Electric Love” and “10,000 Emerald Pools” — both packed with simple catchy lyrics. “10,000 Emerald Pools” is a dreamy ballad with a thudding bass and plenty of smooth full moon howling.
It might be hard to believe, but the young musician has been at it for decades already. He first began playing piano around age four while he was still living in Grand Haven, Michigan. He said he plays the ukulele, too, “if it’s available.”
He grew up listening to his parent’s records. “They had an eclectic collection,” he recalled.
Borns was particularly drawn to late sixties psychedelic music growing up, and still is. “I still listen to the music I grew up listening to,” he said, listing bands like The Turtles and The Zombies. Superstars like Michael Jackson, David Bowie and Prince have also inspired the young midwesterner. Our interview took place just minutes after news of Prince’s death broke Thursday, April 21.
“It’s always really disorienting hearing that news,” said Borns. “I grew up listening to Prince. He was part of my musical upbringing. [I feel like he was] part of the family. He was one of those artists who is an all around performer,” he added.
While the long-haired crooner is capturing the spirit of his pop-heroes on stage in front of thousands now, his earliest festival experiences were at bluegrass concerts as a kid in Michigan listening to what he called “rootsy music” with his parents.
When he was just 10 years old, Borns’ yearning for the stage led him to pursue a brief career as a magician. As Garrett the Great, Borns performed magic tricks at other kid’s birthday parties for about three years until at age 13 he began shifting his focus more and more to the world of music. Speaking of the years he spent dabbling in magic, Borns said, “It got me performing, being a frontman.”
These days Borns can be spotted in bell bottom jeans, psychedelic shirts buttoned just halfway and Elton John glasses while thousands singalong to his biggest singalong “Electric love” — the song he said he’s most proud of.
He changed the “o” in his name to “Ø” in BØRNS for stylistic purposes, not just because he appreciates Swedish music, though he does. One Swedish musical act he recommended to fans interested in expanding their CD collection is a band called Amason — a group which includes a keyboardist who has worked with Miike Snow. If Borns could tour with anyone, he said he would choose M83, a dreamy electro-pop group based in France.
The album title, Dopamine, is what he calls “the overall theme of the album — songs inspired by chemical reactions.”