Gallant arrives to our interview inadvertently sporting Bonnaroo camouflage. Crisp, tan pants; Adidas sneakers in varying shades of off-white and light brown; a light, dusty rose-colored shirt—it’s as if he took cues from the grounds’ constant kicked-up dirt and the matted hay we stood upon, and then, you know, made it fashion. He insists he’s not a trend-forward kind of guy, though he’s flattered I think he is. As he tells me below, he’s more about the classics. And this applies to his musical tastes as well.
Currently on tour with John Legend, the 25-year-old phenomenon has done duets with Seal, Elton John, and Sufjan Stevens, finding himself naturally attracted to styles that transcend generations. Plucking influence from ‘90s R&B, alternative, and electronic genres, Gallant fuses it all with raw emotion and a good dash of his signature falsetto. As we settle in among the hay bales at the ‘Roo farm in Tennesee, Gallant opens up about being a young old soul, the simple pleasures he enjoys in life, and Brandy.
If you had to choose one item of clothing to wear every day for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Honestly, I’d wear just a solid white T-shirt. Just stick with the classics.
What’s the last great thing that you read?
The last thing I read was Dreamland. It’s about the opiate epidemic in America, the permeation from Mexico into the United States, and how it’s affected our lives just in terms of black tar heroin. And then it mirrors that with the pharmaceutical industry in America, and how they’re basically doing the same thing.
Are you mostly into non-fiction then?
I’m definitely a non-fiction guy, I don’t know why. I love movies, but when it comes to reading, I like to really be informed. And then if there’s a cool little storyline, like a narrative that drives it home, that’s fun, but I read more non-fiction than fiction.
Do you have any phobias?
Yeah, I’m claustrophobic. I’ve gotten over a lot of it, but I’m still a little bit cautious.
I used to be scared of elevators.
Yeah, me too. Really bad. And I moved to New York, and I had to deal with that. But yeah, elevators are not the most peaceful things in the world. There’s just a lot that goes into it, like the height, and then where you are in the building, then the no-reception thing.
Is flying a problem for you then?
I actually like flying. I don’t mind flying. I’m not really afraid of heights, it’s mostly just the really, really small spaces. Like if I was flying in a little tiny pod… that would probably freak me out if the windows were shut.
If you could pick any famous person, dead or alive, to be your roommate, who would it be, and why?
I’m on tour with John Legend right now, and I feel like John and I have very similar personalities, and so in an alternate dimension where we both needed a roommate, we would probably make a decent roommate situation.
And hopefully, Chrissy would come and make all the food.
Something like that would be a plus for sure.
When are you most relaxed?
When I’m at home in L.A. Just takin’ it easy.
What’s your favorite thing about being at home?
The stupid mundane things, like waking up every day in one place. Not to say I don’t love touring, I do, but there’s just something about building, about putting roots down in one small area. You wake up, you have your breakfast spot that you go to, you have your car parked outside, you have your TV there, and you go to the same place at night. It’s just a cool thing that people take for granted.
If you had to live in a past era or decade, what would you choose?
Maybe like an alternate version of the ‘70s, one not so socially backward. I could also live 20 years ago—that would be fun, to be a teenager in the ‘90s.
What is your favorite driving music?
When I drive at night, Brandy has this song on her Never Say Never album called “Put That on Everything.” I think that’s perfect driving at night music.
Are there any hobbies you’ve wanted to try?
When I was a kid, I always wanted to be a voiceover actor, like do voices in cartoons, so I’m trying to explore that. That was my number one dream as a kid. When I thought about it, I was like, "That’s awesome." You’re breathing life into these characters. It doesn’t even have to be super cartoony, just be, like, a human, like regular life.
You always gravitate toward working with old souls in music—why do you feel like they identify with you or you identify with them?
I honestly don’t know. I know that I have a list of artists that have really inspired me over the years and they tend to skew toward that demographic. It’s very serendipitous that a lot of the time, paths cross that make it possible for me to meet with these guys and collaborate with them. And I’m just happy and grateful that when I’ve said, “Hey, I really admire you, and I really appreciate your music, and you’ve contributed so much to my musical palette and my growth as a human being,” they’ve just extended their hand back.
How did you get exposed to those types of artists when you were younger?
The culture waves at the time. I remember when I saw a Seal music video on TV for the first time, or when I was obsessed with The Lion King soundtrack for a period of time. It was just stuff that found me. I didn’t even really have to be fed it…
And you just had to dig a little deeper.