When L.A.-based singer-songwriter Borns (stylized as BØRNS) played KCRW DJ Chris Douridas' It's a School Night last month at Bardot in Hollywood, it was like attending a wildly anticipated prom. A line stretched down the block; inside, the crowd was wall to wall.
Playing in support of his recently released EP Candy and opening with its first single, the infectious and sunny synth-pop gem “10,000 Emerald Pools,” Garrett Borns (backed by a four-piece band) proved himself to be an accomplished showman, poised to become a bona fide star thanks to his Jeff Buckley-esque falsetto and charismatic stage presence.
Following a brief stint in New York, the 23-year-old moved to Los Angeles just a year and a half ago and has already been snatched up by Universal Music's Interscope Records. He appeared on Conan last week and is about to embark on a six-week tour with New York indie rockers Mister Wives.
“I was kind of floating around,” says Borns. “I came out here on a whim to clear my head, write music and meet some people. I gave myself a month to do that and that turned into a few more months.”
The Michigan native credits his bright and expansive sound to the vastness of Los Angeles. “There's so much space to fill here,” he says.
Borns refers to his first apartment in Los Angeles as “The Treehouse” a secluded spot in which he wrote his EP. “I felt like I could really sing at my full capacity and make noise at high decibels. I have never been able to do that to the extent of how I have done it out here, making music at all times of day and night. I've always shared walls with people before.”
While still relatively new on the Los Angeles music scene, Borns has been honing his performance skills for years. Back in Michigan, he played piano for his parents' friends at parties and was already a paid magician at just 10 years old. But he says he never sat around dreaming about stardom.
“I never pictured myself as a professional musician. I knew it was something I always wanted to do because it made me feel good, but I never thought I'd be living in California and doing all of this. But I wouldn't have it any other way.”
Borns laughs off prestigious terms like “star” and “prodigy” with a deferential, “Have you been talking to my mom?” But he concedes that even while in kindergarten, he stood apart from other students. In fact, at just 13 years old, he received a college scholarship based upon his sophisticated drawings and visual art. By age 14, he was studying at Michigan's prestigious Interlochen Center for the Arts' summer program.
He attributes his achievements to a dedicated mindset and commitment. “I always like surprising people and doing things at a young age and, I don't know, trying to do them at a higher caliber than what you'd normally think. I'm not saying I'm a virtuoso, but I always challenge myself.”
One of his recent challenges was the making of his “10,000 Emerald Pools” video in December, directed by Eli Born and released this week. Borns describes the shoot, most of which he spent immersed upside in a pool, as “probably one of the most taxing physically and mentally shoots I've ever done.” Not only did he truly suffer for his art, but also, “I caught a cold just in time for the Bardot performance.”