Growing up in a creative household near the shores of Lake Michigan, Garrett Borns always dabbled in something. From his days as a 10-year-old magician wowing at parties and the prestigious Colon Magic Festival; to his adolescent aspirations in the visual arts at Kendall College of Art and Design; to his emergent success as a musical mainstay at Spring Lake’s Seven Steps Up — the pure West Michigan talent followed his own muse wherever it took him. So in 2013, when he ventured out to New York and later jetted off to Los Angeles, friends and family back home knew he was up to something big.
Renaming his musical project BØRNS, he quickly broke out, signing on with Universal Music’s Interscope Records and later landing a massive, platinum-selling hit in 2015 with his single Electric Love. He soon earned fans worldwide — including the likes of Taylor Swift who called his debut EP Candy an “instant classic.” After spending nearly two years on the road, Borns returned to L.A. last year where he recorded his second LP, Blue Madonna (due out Jan. 12).
Revue talked with Borns about the new album, his start here in West Michigan, and coming home after all this time.
What does it mean to you personally to return to West Michigan and perform for the first time in years?
Well, I think it’s a little past due. I’m really excited to get back and play. There always feels like there’s just such a great energy in Michigan. Every time I’m there, I’m just home. I can’t wait to be back and feel the Michigan love. It’s been way too long.
Now that you’ve been away from West Michigan for so long, is there anything you didn’t think you’d miss that you pine for now?
Yeah, there’s a lot of things. I think just the environment that I grew up in was just very serene and beautiful and calming. I feel like that’s always the state of mind that I go to when I need to drift off to my tranquil place. Just like, sand dunes and Lake Michigan, and family and friends. Every season has so much intensity there. I just can’t wait to go back for the holidays and hopefully get some snow.
I’ve got to ask about the time you spent as a young magician. Was that essentially your first introduction into public performance?
Yeah, it was. It was kind of my first experience as a frontman, putting together a show and having to keep people interested and keep people entertained. So it was always a challenge for me, and I always wanted to make my show better and better. I always liked the feeling of feeling nervous. I always really enjoyed that when I was younger. I don’t know, there was just this sort of electricity there. I think I learned to work with nerves at a young age. I feel like magic and music are kind of synonymous in a way. They’re both kind of this production of something from nothing. Like the illusion of sound and lights making you feel emotional. It’s all kind of a magic show.
Has spending so much of your life now on the road and onstage been inspirational to you, in its own unexpected way?
In a few different ways. Being in different environments all the time, especially touring environments, where there’s different languages and customs and traditions and people, and everything’s different. It’s always kind of keeping you on your toes and making your brain work differently. I like what that does to my thoughts. And also just performing a lot. I toured more than I ever have in my entire life these past couple years, and I just learned so much from it — as a performer, and where creative energy comes from, and how to keep the flow going and not burn yourself out.
Why did you decide to call the new album Blue Madonna?
Well, Blue Madonna is the name of this painting by this artist named Carlo Dolci and I was really fascinated by his paintings because they’re all portraits and most of them have the subject looking off and out into somewhere in the distance. Almost like they’re in a trance and they have a little bit of fear in their eyes. And in a way, Blue Madonna represents this lost innocence, and that’s kind of what the album’s about. There’s a lot of themes of love and supernatural phenomena and this lost innocence.
BØRNS wsg. Charlotte Cardin, Mikky Ekko
20 Monroe Live, 11 Ottawa Ave. NW, Grand Rapids
Jan. 28, 7 p.m.
20monroelive.com, (844) 678-5483