A jam-packed 20 Monroe Live welcomed Garrett Borns (more commonly known by his stage name “BØRNS”) Sunday night with 2,350 adoring fans.
The show began with Borns’s hit new song, “God Save Our Young Blood,” which was received with screams of adoration from the crowd.
This was Borns’s first performance in Grand Rapids since moving to Los Angeles in 2014. During a pre-concert interview with The Collegiate, he said it was “nice to be back and play for friends and family.”
He also said he was impressed with the city’s growth.
“I feel every time I come back there’s always a new brewery or cool clothing shop or coffee shop,” he said. “It’s constantly expanding.”
We sat in a dressing room for our interview, and the ‘70s-style light chocolate brown colored couch at the far end of the room and promotional club posters on the wall resembled a scene right out of a Borns video.
The Michigan native was once a Grand Rapids Community College student where he studied music theory and concert piano. He described his time at GRCC as having been valuable and was moved by his professors.
“I got a lot out of it,” Borns said. “I was studying music theory and concert piano, and I had a really amazing professor there, Dr. (Debora) DeWitt. She opened my eyes and ears to classical theory and just musicality and harmony. I still to this day think back on a lot of things that she’s taught me like whenever I go to the studio, so it was really nice to apply what I learned there because there’s so many and such talented musicians that go there and teachers.”
Borns also remembers having talented peers at GRCC.
“I just remember the kids in my classes were like crazy virtuoso pianists, and so I felt like I was kinda the rookie there,” Borns said. “But it was really nice to be around people that really make you have to, you know, work.”
Even though Borns wasn’t looking into becoming a classical pianist, his education at GRCC helped him with his music.
“Some of the classes I was doing were to be able to like conduct an orchestra, and at that time I was like ‘well that’s not what I’m trying to do’,” Borns said. “But now I’m like ‘oh yeah well that theory really helps with, you know, putting a band together and being able to communicate with string arrangers’ – because I had strings in my last record.”
Borns was thankful to have had the opportunity to learn those skills and be able to apply them to his music today.
“Knowing that vocabulary and those technical skills in music is, I think, really helpful down the road with collaborations,” Borns said. “And that’s what I found after moving to L.A. It was just a lot of different collaborations until I found the right collaborators.”
One of those collaborations was more recently with singer, Lana Del Rey, on his latest single, “God Save Our Young Blood.”
“She’s such a talented being,” Borns said of Del Rey. “Her whole aura is just Lana Del Rey. She’s pretty intense to work with, but a good intense. She really knows what she wants.”
Borns also gushed about Del Rey’s talent and musicality.
“To hear her voice through the microphone that’s like that’s it,” he said excitedly. “There’s no studio tricks to make her sound that sultry. She’s a really talented singer.”
Borns lamented not having a video for the single just yet, but is hopeful there will be one soon.
“I have to finish touring first,” he said. “I was trying to wrap up a bunch of projects first.”
For this North American tour, Borns teamed up with Plus 1, a nonprofit organization that connects artists and their audiences with other organizations for the greater good by donating $1 of every ticket sold during the tour to an organization. Borns and Plus 1 also partnered with GRID Alternatives to help bring job training programs on renewable energy technologies to disadvantaged communities.
Last night’s concert alone raised $2,350 for GRID Alternatives – a feat Borns is proud of.
“I think just because I’m playing shows that have a big outreach to a lot of people I want to be able to use sort of that platform and my voice to be able to benefit communities that don’t have sustainable resources and jobs and that creates jobs in those communities,” Borns said. “I want to use it for more than just playing music you know ‘cause there’s opportunities to do that and that way everyone can be involved with Plus 1, so hopefully I can just inspire people to be more aware.”
Speaking of inspiration, Borns also shared what inspires his music.
“I listen to a lot of older records,” he said. “I’m still discovering some of my favorite artists like the Beach Boys and George Harrison, David Bowie, Elton John. Those are some of my favorite songwriters. I’m always going back to those songs when it comes to getting inspired to write music.”
That’s not to say that he’s not up-to-date on today’s music.
“I like new stuff too,” Borns said. “I like what’s happening in hip-hop. Hip-hop is always just like what’s the newest thing you can do and that’s always intriguing to me.”
Borns describes his own music as futuristic and retro at the same time.
“I love making music that sounds like the future, (that) sounds like something that hasn’t really been done before,” Borns said. “I kinda like doing that with sort of nostalgic twists. I never want to make anything that sounds like purposely making a throwback. I want to make things that stand the test of time.”
His fans certainly appreciate that in his music. Concert-goer, Melanie Kats, 40, of Wyoming has been a fan for a long time.
“Ever since “Dopamine” came out, it was just amazing,” she said.
The overall feeling of Sunday night’s show was that Grand Rapids loves Borns. The show was spectacular with fans raving about it afterwards.
Super-fan Victoria Smith, 20, of Grand Rapids was fired up about the show.
“He was really good,” she said. “I got super excited when I learned about his concert on Facebook. I got super pumped. I’ve been hyped for a super long time.”