Interview: Gallant on touring with John Legend, 'Ology' and musical beginnings
Courtesy of GallantVEVO

Fueled by his passion for self discovery, Gallant didn't enter into the world of music seeking fame, but lately it's been coming after him like a runaway train. His praises have been sung by Billboard, The New York Times, NPR, The Grammy Awards, Forbes, Pandora, and Spotify, as well as by major artists like Elton John, Seal, and Quincy Jones. Through it all, Gallant has kept his focus on the music and his demeanor thoughtful and genuine.

Currently touring with John Legend, Gallant will be heading to the Greek Theater Berkeley this coming Saturday, May 27th. At the time of this writing the show had already been sold out. Gallant took a moment to chat to AXS about the tour, the meaning behind the sad face that adorns the cover of his debut LP, Ology, and about how he got his start in music.

AXS: You've begun your tour with John Legend, which seems like such a great match. How's the tour so far?

Gallant: It's going great. This is my fourth tour in the states, but I'm still going to places that I've never been. It's really great to see new faces and see how the new audiences react to something that they haven't heard before. And touring with John's camp couldn't be more fun or more easy.

AXS: The two of you announced the tour on a facebook Q & A, and you did a duet together for it as well.

G: That's right, we sang a version of "Overload" from his new album.

AXS: In your own shows you often pull fans up onstage. Have you been doing that this time out?

G: No, not this tour, but that was fun during the headline tour.

AXS: It's so good to see you so deservedly well; you're obviously in music for the right reasons. You're not just out there going for fame. You've said on many occasions that music is your way of handling emotions, of expressing them, and that that is your true goal.

G: Thank you, I'm glad it comes off that way; I would definitely lime to think that I'm in it for those reasons.

AXS: It seems to strike a nice balance for you, as you're not necessarily talkative about your emotions otherwise.

G: Yeah. I grew up in Maryland, in Columbia, and I was on the quiet side. just kinda did my own thing. I think I gravitated towards music not really for any reason other than it was the easiest form of therapy. It allowed me to communicate with myself and communicate with others a lot more easily. It was just something that I started doing out of necessity; it got out of control and I haven't stopped.

AXS: Your performances are definitely not quiet. Your performances really amp that expression up, take for instance your appearance on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. A lot of artists go on the show facing forward from behind the mic, but you did a whole dramatic scene in that living room.

G: That was an interesting one, 'cause I felt like the living room setup was closest to where I was mentally when I was creating it, so it made sense that that would also be where the most honest performance would come out of. Plus that was my first TV performance so was trying to think of doing things [in such a way that it would] help me get the most out of the performance, of what I was going for.

AXS: Jimmy Fallon may have been your first performance, but by now you've been featured on so many things, and of course with the support of a lot of major artists. You did a performance of "Weight In Gold" with Elton John. That was really something special.

G: Oh, yeah. That was very surreal to be able to be onstage with Elton John. Even the chance to meet him initially was crazy. I'm just really honored that he was listening at all.

AXS: He was visibly so happy to share the stage with you too. It's great how this all started for you as a means of self discovery, really as just a kid in middle school, and it meant enough to you to consequently study music in college, at NYU. What led you to that decision? Take me from where you were in middle school, just getting your feelings out, to saying, "Ok, this is my passion; this is what I'm gonna do."

G: I think it's weird because when I decided I was gonna go to New York University I chose to study more of the cultural and theory based things around music, just to get a little bit of context, and maybe that was the time when I said, "I'm gonna take this seriously," but after living in New York and after dabbling in the different industries within the industry itself, the songwriting side and the business side, I realized that it wasn't for me. I decided to just focus on what fueled the passion in the first place, which was just making music specifically to help myself get over A, B, C, D, and E. Around that time I ironically doubled back into the music world, just after putting things on the internet, with no intention of anyone hearing it. In a weird way I made the decision, and made the decision firmly, not to pursue music as a career, and then through that decision it kind of catapulted me into the current situation.

AXS: Music came after you.

G: Exactly.

AXS: You have a sad face painted over your photo on the cover of Ology. What is the sad face all about?

G: When I was in New York I was working on that EP [Zebra] that I put up on the internet. It was revolving around overall depression, [which] really is what I was struggling with a little bit. My own critique of what I was doing was that it was explaining it and it was brooding, but it wasn't really getting to the psychology behind it, [or] helping to work through it. I started the album process with the cover art, to highlight that two dimensional emotion. Then I wanted to put myself behind it, to dive more into the humanity behind it, not just focusing on the sadness element. In another ironic twist, I was trying to get away from the sadness and it ended up becoming almost emblematic of the project because that image is [on the cover]. Really it was supposed to symbolize me working through that emotion more than anything and not necessarily glorifying it.

AXS: Do you feel that you've been successful at working through that emotion through your music?

G: Oh, yeah, absolutely. It's definitely in the rear view for me at this point.