By Shannon Carlin
First, Garrett Borns gets a Twitter shout-out from Taylor Swift for his “instant classic” sound that leads to more than a few of her 51 million followers checking out his debut EP, Candy. Shortly after, he’s exchanging whale puns with her over DM.
“Oh yeah, those are real,” Borns told Radio.com over the phone with a laugh, clearly answering the question the world’s been dying to know. “Why wouldn’t she be writing whale puns?”
Borns —who performs as Børns with the “ø”—finds the whole reporting on his private messages with Swift rather funny, since all they proved was that she is as nice as we all imagined and has a penchant for marine mammal wordplay. But Borns says her recent hack attack does have him thinking about what he should and should not post. Luckily, he already errs on the side of caution, choosing to speak with people face-to-face instead of through a screen. He doesn’t want some embarrassing comment to come back and haunt him when he’s 70 years old. “It’s weird, I notice people favorite-ing tweets from two years ago,” Borns says. “You forget that those posts will be on the internet forever.”
Before he was shaking off all this Swift-related drama, Borns was getting noticed solely for his music, which like Swift already said, sounds like classic radio friendly pop with a twist of Oracular Spectacular-era MGMT. His single “10,000 Emerald Pools” is a lazy, hazy track named after the Las Vegas address where his producer’s mom used to live. “They actually put that house up on the market, but since there is a song written about it, it should go up in value,” he jokes.
The video for the track forced Borns to see how long he could hang upside down while holding his breath underwater. “After awhile you stop knowing which way is up,” he said, noting that the physical aqua-batics he performed in the clip are not that different from the intensity one experiences when they’re in love. It’s that kind of death-defying romance that Borns sings about on “10,000 Emerald Pools” claiming he’ll “dive down deeper,” even “10,000 fathoms, under a tidal wave/ It can never pull me away.”
The California by way of Michigan singer’s four-song EP is filled with love songs, from the mouthwatering sweetness of “Electric Love” to the reincarnated romance of “Past Lives.” “I don’t usually go around telling people I’m a romantic,” he says. After a pause: “Oh, but I’m a romantic.”
He doesn’t go around talking about the inspiration behind these heartfelt tracks either, owing it simply to a muse that may or may not be real. Instead, Borns prefers to talk about how location inspired his sound, specifically the Los Angeles treehouse he lives in.
Borns creates his sunny melodies in an literal treehouse he rents through Airbnb that has now become a sort of permanent residence. It has no plumbing, an outdoor kitchen, and gets its fair share of raccoons, but the unguarded space allows him to “relax and listen to what’s really going on.” It also separates him from the L.A. scene. “Trying to stay up on what’s cool is hard, it may be cool one day and not the next,” he says. “Not that being cool is important.”
Perhaps Borns believes this because he is already pretty cool, managing to stay mysterious in an age where privacy doesn’t seem to exist. He prefers to let his listeners find their own meaning to his music and likes that some people don’t know whether Børns is a band or a solo artist. He doesn’t even mind if they mistake him for a woman, which happened to him recently on a flight. “The guy said, ‘Wait is that the band with the girl singer?’ And I said, ‘That’s me!'”
Borns is also a person who’s never actually paid for a guitar, preferring to borrow instruments from friends. He finds that there’s something special about using instruments that have already been broken in. “I also like the pressure of only have a few days to use it,” he said, noting that he never steals the instrument, but does end up using it far longer than expected. If he had the chance he’d want to borrow Elton John‘s piano, saying, “I can imagine just the magic of those classic songs he’s made.”
There’s definitely a little magic in Borns’ music, but that’s thanks to his previous gig as a magician. At 10 years old, he lined up gigs at local children’s birthday parties and according to Borns, this isn’t as odd as it sounds, being that he grew up not too far from Colon, Mich., which carries the distinction of being “The Magic Capital of the World.” He’s even spent some time at the city’s Magic Get Together Convention. “You ever see a bunch of people pulling rabbits out of hats?” he asks. “It’s a weird world.”
Weirder than the music business?
“Both have their share of interesting weirdos.”
Borns wants his upcoming tour with the band MisterWives, which kicks off Feb. 26 in Philadelphia, to be a magical experience for music fans of all ages, complete with a piñata every night. As he ticks off a list of possible fillers: flowers, candy, confetti, it’s the prospect of filling it full of glitter that seems to get him most excited.
“I like the idea of just glitter being stuck everywhere and people being like, ‘Where were you last night?’” he said. “At a Børns concert.”