It’s a hot but bearable day at Bonnaroo in Manchester, Tennessee. In years past, the fest has been known to coincide with searing temperatures, storms that create slick mud fields, and choking humidity. This year though, it’s picture-perfect, and the farm (as it's known) is in bright spirits all around, with fields pockmarked by half-naked bodies lazing about on inflatable lounge bags.
And so, when Gallant arrives to our interview, we decide to eschew the frigid press tent for the Tennessee sun, and settle at a picnic table tucked beside a wall of hay bales. The singer-songwriter is polite and collected, almost unassuming with a casual but smart outfit that mirrors the farm’s colorway (tan adidas, pants, and copper accents on his watch). It becomes easy to forget, as we shoot the breeze on things like the Nintendo Switch and bowling, that he’s done duets with Seal, Elton John, and Sufjan Stevens; that he’s on tour with John Legend.
This is all even more impressive when you consider that Gallant is only 25 years old, and that his debut album, Ology, was released in 2016. His raw talent is astounding.
Borrowing from an array of genres, from RnB to alt-rock, he sprinkles in a blend of bold vocals with his signature falsetto, most famously on wildfire single “Weight in Gold.” The result is a sound that lies suspended in time, a sound that does not belong to a generation – least of all his own. It at once sounds warm and retro, future-forward and exciting. And it’s gotten him noticed in a very short amount of time.
As we learn in the conversation that unfolds, Gallant is an old soul at his core. Oh, and he really (really) loves beer.
Are you a beer drinker?
I am. I drink a lot of beer.
You went to school in New York – are there any beers that are native to New York or the East Coast that you’re particularly fond of?
When I was in college I really liked Brooklyn Lager. Every time I take a sip of it, it reminds me of the good parts of being drunk in college. I could never afford to drink Brooklyn Lager every day when I was trying to go hard, so I don’t associate it with getting trashed, ya know? But when I was feelin’ fancy and had a couple extra dollars, I’d get Brooklyn Lager and socialize and it was fun.
I don’t have any set rules, but if the vibe is right to drink some stuff before, I’ll do it.”
Are there any West Coast beers now that you’ve moved to L.A.?
Yeah, I drink a lot of wheat beers, like a Hefeweizen. I think right now, I’d probably go for a Golden Road Hefe, which is good, but there’s one that’s even better… Allagash. Allagash White.
Do you remember your first beer?
Yeah, it’s boring. It was a Blue Moon, but I was, like, a teenager. Everyone thinks their first beer is disgusting. I was like, “Ah, this is gross.” But now, Blue Moon is like lemonade.
It seems like you’re a bit of a connoisseur.
I mean I enjoy a Coors Light, too. If I’m goin’ bowling.
Nothing wrong with a PBR.
Exactly. I mean, last time I was in Nashville I had two Natty Lights, tall boys. That wasn’t too long ago.
With all the travel you do, what’s been your favorite festival?
Well, that I’ve played; I would probably say Byron Bay Bluesfest in Australia. For American festivals… I had a lot of fun last year at South By Southwest, but only because I packed in a lot of shows. I’ve been to South By Southwest before and I just never really got the same feeling that I got last year. I didn’t really recognize the scope of it, the scale, until this last time.
Same, I was shocked at how much was going on simultaneously.
Exactly. And then tech stuff too, everything.
Do you drink ever before performing? Or after?
I don’t have any set rules, but if the vibe is right to drink some stuff before, I’ll do it. If the vibe is a little more heavy-handed, I will probably abstain.
Do you have any pre-show rituals at all?
I like to take it easy. Play some video games. Right now I have the Nintendo Switch, so I’ve been playing Breath of the Wild. It’s really good. Like, way better than I thought it was gonna be. You won’t wanna play anything else. You’ll always want to be on that system.
What about T.V. and books? What are you watching and reading?
My favorite show right now is House of Cards. I’ve tried three times to finish the first episode of the most current season that just came out, but I haven’t been able to just get into it. It depends on what character you like – for me, the previous season was tough. I’m just not a Robin Wright type of guy, to be honest with you. For books, the last thing I read was Dreamland. It’s about the opiate epidemic in America, and just permeation from Mexico into the United States… and then it mirrors that with the pharmaceutical industry in America and how they’re basically doing the same thing.
You’ve collaborated with some of the most legendary names in music, how does that happen?
I’m just lucky, I think. I reach out to them, even if it’s just to say thank you, because I appreciate what they do. Even if somebody’s manager is in town, I just really wanna be able to say, “Hey, you meant so much.” Just to have that opportunity to be in the same room, for me, for personal reasons, I feel like it’s really worthwhile. So when we can actually from there do something creative and real together, that’s just the cherry on top.
Are there any notable musicians who you’ve bonded with over beer?
I did this jam at Okeechobee with Michael McDonald. The music director was out of the room, and him and me were just trying to figure out the parts of this Marvin Gaye song we were playing. We had this very normal, very oddly normal conversation.
Thanks to Chris Allmeid for the header image.