Børns glam, sunshine, and ‘electric love’ npr how can you get trichomoniasis if no one cheats

Hey, y’all. From NPR, I’m Sam Sanders. IT’S BEEN A MINUTE. Today, I am very excited to share a conversation with you that I had with a musician I have been a bit obsessed with for a few years now. He goes by BORNS. And I first heard of BORNS back in 2015. I was watching TV, and this commercial for Hulu – the streaming service – this commercial came on. And then I heard this song that almost made me jump off the couch.

SANDERS: That song is called Electric Love, and it really put BORNS on the map. So a few weeks ago, my colleague Anjuli and I – we went to his studio. We drove to this quiet, almost suburban neighborhood a bit north of downtown LA. We pulled up to this cute little white house with a big old green yard. And Tommy English, BORNS’ producer – he was there to greet us.

SANDERS: So since BORNS first kind of hit it big in 2015, he has toured with The Lumineers, and Mumford Sons and Lana Del Rey.

And she is actually on his new record. So in spite of his ascendant career and that really big, shiny falsetto voice, BORNS is just 26, and he is still very shy and very reserved. But he makes for a wonderful conversation once he opens up. All right, we cover a lot of BORNS’ story – how he made it from small-town Michigan to performing at Coachella twice. OK. Enjoy.

BORNS: Yeah, it was fun. I mean, my dad is, like, a branding and advertising agency, and he taught me a lot about, you know, branding yourself and, like, being an entrepreneur and, like, having your logo and how to really put together, like, your thing to sell yourself with. So it was really fun. It was really, like, educational as a kid, I think. Yeah.

BORNS: Yeah. I mean, I think I just – I wanted to naturally progress and, like – and feel good about what I was making and collaborate with people that I was inspired by. And I found new management out here, and that completely changed the game for me because they actually knew what was going on in the music industry. I had a very green manager beforehand.

BORNS: Yeah, and how, like, it was arranged. And I felt like – I remember there was just, like – it felt like it was, like, always sunny. There was, like, so much sun, like, coming in through the windows, which is really nice because, like, a lot of times when you’re making albums, you’re kind of in a cave, you know?

BORNS: I mean, it’s kind of, like, a lot of, like, making tea and, like, breaking down the songs on acoustic and trying to, like, figure out lyrics and stuff. It’s always funny finding, like, earlier versions of the songs that you wrote later, you know?

BORNS: Normally, it’s kind of, like, a melody with a lyric that doesn’t really make too much sense – sometimes, you know? And then you’re like, what is this trying to say (laughter)? And then it’s, like, fitting different words in there, you know? It’s like – it’s always kind of a puzzle, but…

BORNS: And yeah. And it was just like – it was a beautiful room, and it feels really big. And I just remember being out there and being like, wow, this is a really big room – and kind of just in my head, I think, most of the show. So in a way, I kind of agreed with her.

SANDERS: In some interview, you said, quote, half the time when I first run onstage, I can’t look directly at the audience just because of self-consciousness. Sometimes you feel like the man, and sometimes you don’t. But sometimes that self-conscious energy is good for the show. It draws people in more. That’s so, like – what is your – like, how do you get in the right head space for a show? It seems like you’re saying that you’re kind of an introvert.

SANDERS: I mean, it’s so interesting because, like, in so many ways, you are an indie artist in the typical sense of the word. Like, you came from a small town, came to LA, tried to make it. You’re doing it. But, like, when you’re on Hulu, when you’re on Southwest, does it kind of change the nature of an indie musician?

ENGLISH: I mean, to me, like, the difference that kind of – what you’re talking about, too – I think, like, the difference in the type of artist you are is you do whatever you want, and these opportunities kind of come to you just based on what we do whereas, you know, there’s other artists perhaps that write hoping to get a commercial sink or write specifically to get on radio. And it’s a decision you have to make, whereas these things just kind of happen to you. You know, you’re just trying to make – do your own thing, and then people come knocking.

SANDERS: So a lot of the lyrics on the most recent album, it’s either talking about the greatest romance ever or, like, the worst breakup ever. And I can’t tell. Like, there’s lyrics about a love interest. And it feels like by the end of the album that things are falling apart. (Laughter) Are you singing about one relationship, multiple things, an idea of a relationship? Because, like, a lot of these songs are love songs.

BORNS: Yeah. I mean, there’s definitely the theme of love. And some of the things that I have, like, relationships with aren’t even necessarily, like – some just, like, love relationships – like, some of it is just, like, the relationship between you and a time in your life, you know? Or just, like, you and the time period that you live in. Like, there’s one song called Bye-bye Darling that’s kind of coming to terms with saying goodbye to things that might seem old-fashioned because we’ve progressed so much, you know, technologically and even the way that we interact.

BORNS: And, I mean, Bowie. It’s always interesting hearing these, you know, these singers with really long careers and how their voices changed over time, you know? And like, they adapt little things in their voice for certain records. And, like, it’s just – I think Bowie – like, he transformed his voice into different characters. And I mean, Prince did that, too. He had so many characters in his voice. It’s really inspiring.

BORNS: Yeah. I mean, it’s – I think it’s constantly changing, yeah. Ever since I’ve recorded my voice onto something, I’ve been constant – it’s just changed over time. And I think just with all the shows that I’ve played and everything, I’ve been able to sing longer and, like, it has more stamina now.

SANDERS: All right. That was BORNS. If you need more of his music, he’ll be on tour this fall. You could catch him in your hometown. Thanks to BORNS and his producer Tommy for hanging out with me and Anjuli a few weeks ago. The two of them are so gracious even when we stuck around the studio for, like, two hours. So I figured to go out of this interview, we could play a little bit of Borns at his piano at the end of our interview in that backyard studio. He hopped on the keys and just started singing the song Supernatural as we were about to go.

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