Let’s talk about your new music, you’ve put out a couple of singles so far, and both sound a bit dreamier than the Dopamine album, whilst still retaining that funkiness that your last record had. What inspired this change of direction?
It wasn’t much of a decision, I think after touring for 2 years on and off for ‘Dopamine’, I learned a lot about performing and how I use my voice as an instrument. I think I’ve grown, my songs just sound different now. It’s always going to be coming from me, I feel like I’m writing the same song over and over again. But hopefully from an outsider’s perspective they sound different.
The cover artwork for your single ‘Faded Heart’ ties in really well with the lyrical references to galaxies and the universe in the song. How involved are you in designing your cover art? Do you have a vision of what you want it to look like before a shoot?
All of the artwork for the singles and the album were inspired by a mixture between this photography from an artist named Carl Von Vechten, who shot all these Harlem Renaissance photographs of jazz singers in the 20’s and I just loved those photographs. And also this painter called Carlo Dolci who did these religious paintings and I loved how he conveyed the feeling of looking off, my gaze in the photos show that I’m almost fearing something and I’m very small and feeling mortal. That’s what I wanted to convey in those photos.
Speaking of photoshoots – you recently did a little photoshoot with Connor Franta, how did that collaboration come about and where did you shoot the photos?
I think it just came about from the Internet, the Interweb… We shot them in downtown Los Angeles on this train platform, near Chinatown. He’s a talented guy!
Lana Del Rey described you as ‘the most stylish man alive’ on one of her Instagram Stories earlier this year – how did you two meet and become friends?
We’re both fans of each other’s music and I’ve been shooting a lot with her sister Chuck who’s an amazing photographer and videographer. Chuck actually shot all of the photography for my next album and we’ve collaborated on some video projects, so I’d often bump into Lana when we were shooting and we became good friends, I’m definitely a huge fan of her as an artist and visionary.
Following the release of the new singles ‘Faded Heart’ and ‘Sweet Dreams’ – can we expect a new album or an EP next year?
It’ll be a full album which comes out in early January!
It’s been over 2 years since ‘Dopamine’ was released – how do you reflect on that album now? Would you say that you’ve evolved quite a bit as an artist and as a person since then? Or do you feel like you still relate to that older version of yourself?
I was experiencing the feeling of having an album done, knowing it’s finished and wanting to put it out there, and that’s the feeling that I think will always be with you. There’s always the thought of ‘How are people going to interpret this?’, and if they’re going to like it. In terms of looking back on the first album, I feel like I was such a completely different person, I had just moved to LA and I was a wide-eyed young lad. I still feel like I have a lot more to write about, I felt so much younger then.
Growing up in Michigan, did you feel quite isolated from live music?
Believe it or not, there’s quite a lot of music in Michigan! I definitely felt like I had access to it, a lot of my friends played music, there’s a lot of amazing musicians there. Some of my friends are in a band called Vulfpeck, they’re from Michigan originally but they live in LA now, they’re the craziest boys I know.
One of your songs that really stands out, both in the live context and on the record, is ‘Fool’ from your debut album ‘Dopamine’ – what was the writing process like for this song?
That song came out pretty naturally! It was written on acoustic guitar first and then the full arrangement came out with a sort of Motown feel. I don’t have too much of a recollection of writing it, it just happened.
You were also featured on Dagny’s single ‘Fools Gold’ last year. How did that collaboration come about?
My buddy Tommy English produced that track and I record with him all the time. He’d just recorded it the day before and they needed a bridge for the song, so I called Dagny and talked to her about the inspiration behind the song and what she wanted in that part of the song. I just sang something on the track, thinking that she would be recording it over it later along with her voice, but I guess she liked the way I sang it so she just kept it as it was!
Finally, what new music are you loving at the moment?
MGMT just put out a really great single – ‘Little Dark Age’ – that song is a jam! The new Tyler The Creator album is really good. Other than that I’ve just been listening to Miles Davis albums really…
‘Sweet Dreams’ – the latest single from BØRNS is out now! (via Interscope Records)