With her 51-plus million Instagram followers, a vote of confidence from Taylor Swift can go a long way. And apparently even more so when it comes from her mother, Andrea. Case in point: Ever since the Swift matriarch recommended Garrett Borns (known by his stage moniker, BØRNS) to her daughter, he's been popping up everywhere: on The Tonight Show, at a slew of music festivals, and, most recently, on his own world tour. But it wouldn't be fair to attribute all that to the power of the Swift clan, as BØRNS is a unique talent in his own right. With a high-pitched falsetto, disco mentality, and a sartorial aesthetic that calls to mind David Bowie, the 23-year-old is one to watch. We sat down with him in advance of his show at N.Y.C.'s Music Hall of Williamsburg to discuss his influences, his prior stint as a magician, and his glorious, free-flowing mane. Here's an excerpt from our conversation:
Some people might assume you’re of Scandinavian descent because of the “ø” in your name, but you’re from Michigan. Why style it that way?
"I like a lot of music that comes out of Sweden, like Lykke Li and Miike Snow, but I just did it because it looks cool. It also makes it easier to find "BØRNS" via search engines and hashtags."
Who else did you grow up listening to?
"The music scene in Michigan is really folky and bluegrass, but my parents played a lot of disco. They really liked to dance."
You recently moved to L.A. Has living there had an influence on your sound?
"I think the environment definitely had an impact on me. When I first moved, I found a place in the Hollywood Hills on Airbnb—it was a like a magical treetop sanctuary. I was planning on staying for a month, but I ended up staying for a year."
Speaking of magic, you used to practice as a kid. Are you still honing your skills?
"I still love it. When I was growing up, there were a few musicians who would have regular gigs at restaurants, and I always thought it was so cool and unexpected how they would spontaneously perform. Being the ambitious kid that I was, I got into it and really studied it. I was so inspired by it. It's pretty far-out."
Is it something you're planning on integrating into your performances?
"I would like to. It would add a little nuance."
Do people ever mistake your voice for a girl's?
"A lot of people think I'm a chick. It happens the most at airports. The flight attendants will always say, 'Have a nice flight, Ms. Borns.' It must be the hair."
The hair is pretty great. How do you maintain it?
"I don't try to battle it—I just embrace it. I started growing it as soon as I moved to L.A. because I couldn't afford an expensive haircut. Then I just kind of ran with it."
Watch the video for "Electric Love" below, and buy Dopamine for $7 on the iTunes Store.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.