When R&B singer/songwriter Gallant dropped the single “Weight In Gold” last summer, the song seemed to have appeared out of nowhere. It wasn’t the musician’s first song or project, but it definitely snuck up on people.
He wasn’t a secret to everyone though. Indie rocker and music critic favorite, Sufjan Stevens, hired the 24-year-old to open for him on his North American tour. Soon thereafter, Gallant skied to the top of “must watch” list and players like Apple and Spotify pronounced him the next breakout star.
This year Gallant has performed at South By Southwest, Coachella, The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon and he’s playing the Austin City Limits Festival this Saturday.
Art&Seek met up with the rising star 24 hours after he performed at the White House for South By South Lawn and just hours before a performance Dallas’ Trees. Hear Gallant share a bit about his personal ambitions, how his home affects the production of his music and why doesn’t yet consider himself a “musician” in the play at the top of the page or read the transcript below. (Also! See our photos from the first weekend of the ACL Music Festival here!)
Photos: Hady Mawajdeh
Gallant, you’re originally from Columbia, Maryland, but you live in Los Angeles these days and I am curious about how home affects the production of your music.[
GMy home affects my art by simply existing and allowing me to feel very calm and to feel at peace. Also L.A. is a driving city and the freedom to get into a car and drives gives me that feeling that I can do anything and that’s really important to me. I used to live in New York. When you live in NYC, you’re sort of relinquishing your power to a bunch of different forces. You’re always surrounded by crowds. People are always carting you from one location to the next. And you never really get that feeling of solitude and peace that you get when you’re in the car by yourself. It’s like being in the bathroom. No one can judge you there. You know? You can do whatever.
When did you know that you were a musician? Was it after the first EP or as a kid?
GI don’t call myself a musician. I would love to one day be able to call myself a musician. I mean I write songs and I make music so I can work through different problems and to become a better human being and that’s always been my goal.
Is there a reason you don’t call yourself a musician?
GWell, I guess by trade I am a musician. But I have been playing with a band for the past year-and-a-half and all of those people are so talented. They are incredible musicians and to have an ounce of their knowledge would be just great.
Are you creatively satisfied?
GI don’t think I would ever say I am creatively satisfied. There’s always a next thing. Even if that spark isn’t there, you always know that it’ll come in a couple days or a couple months or a couple years. But I really don’t know if it’s possible to be creatively satisfied.
There are a lot of R&B acts doing music that has touches of EDM and dance music these days. Can I ask what makes you different?
GWhen I was in college I really resented the fact that people who wanted to be in in music had to think about it in this music industry way. So I would hate to even think that way about what I do. The same way I would hate to wake up and make a check list of all of my personality traits. I don’t want to conflate who I am in any way.
I’ve noticed that with the music that you put out that you’re not always front and center. Back on “Zebra,” you were actually very hidden. The music was often louder than your voice. That happens on “Ology” too. Why is that?
GThe EP I put out was called Zebra and it was really setting a scene, like painting a picture. I was trying to accurately portray how I was feeling, but I wasn’t necessarily trying to have anyone hear what I was saying. I didn’t want anyone to listen to me. I was just trying to get it out. That’s always been how I approach music. It’s not a beauty competition. It’s just me trying to work through anything that I can work through. So, it really didn’t matter to me if certain things were audible or not.
The album “Ology” is a lot more carved out. I think that to some listeners it might seem more confident, because I am more at the forefront of a lot of it, but that’s just not my focus. I am not about being front and center or about being heard.