With a glass of red wine in hand, artist BØRNS sat down for an intimate Q&A at Kramerbooks & Afterwords Monday night before his show at The Anthem Feb. 13.
As part of Kramerbooks’ Hidden Tracks interview series, writer and comedian Jose Lopez Sanchez asked BØRNS about life in Los Angeles and seeking inspiration from other artists. BØRNS, who is well-known for songs like “Electric Love” and “Sweet Dreams,” released his second album, “Blue Madonna,” last month.
BØRNS greeted the crowd in a soft spoken voice and joked about debuting a cookbook before delving into the artistry behind his work.
Here are some of the night’s most memorable moments:
1. Inspiration for the new album
The artist kicked off the night by opening up about his new album, titled after the classic oil painting by Carlo Dolci, “Blue Madonna.” BØRNS said he tried to base the album photography off Dolci’s portrait style, which features terrified-looking subjects gazing off into the distance with a glow on their faces. He said he is also a fan of Picasso’s blue period.
The album has a “sweet sadness” to it, but he said that inspiration also came from his vibrant neighborhood in Los Angeles.
“I lived in this very noisy little neighborhood that was filled with these chihuahuas and ice cream trucks and all of these murals on the sidewalks that were the Lady of Guadalupe and these Virgin Mary, really beautiful murals,” he said.
BØRNS said the idea for “Blue Madonna” formulated in his head after driving past this artwork on his way to the studio everyday. But it was also influenced by his tour after he released his first record, he added.
“There was a lot of disillusionment on the road of what it means to be a performer and a touring musician,” he said. “I feel like the next record was a little bit less enamored by LA and this bright and shiny new place with palm trees and stars on the ground.”
2. Art in the age of Instagram
BØRNS said he loves museums, but joked that instead of visiting some of D.C.’s best, he sat on Instagram on his day off.
He said art is “accessible” these days with archives on the internet, and that different artistic movements are taking place on Instagram.
“It’s really interesting to see all the different stylistic choices just on Instagram, because they’re all galleries,” he said.
When asked if he used the Google Arts and Culture app – where users can upload a selfie to have it matched with a museum painting – he said he hasn’t yet.
“I would probably be a weird jester of some sort,” he said.
3. No stranger to fashion
As an official ambassador for New York Fashion Week last year, BØRNS captured attention in a bright red trench coat by the brand Off-White. With costume influences like David Bowie and Prince, BØRNS is no stranger to fashion.
He said his mother taught him how to thrift shop at a young age and that he had an extensive collection of dress-up costumes.
“Everyday was pretty much Halloween for me. I liked being a character growing up, because it just made things more fun,” he said. “Even if you’re just going to the ice cream store being dressed up as Davy Crockett, you’ll have a different experience.”
BØRNS said he likes how different clothes make him talk, walk and feel like a different person.
“Now I just get to play dress-up every night on stage, so it’s not really changed,” he said.