Kevin Garrett Toronto

Interview: Kevin Garrett on Canadian fans, ‘Hoax’ and writing for Beyoncé

(By: Angela McLean)

No ‘hoax’ here — Kevin Garrett is the real deal.

The indie pop singer-songwriter may not be a household name (yet), but his work speaks volumes. Garrett’s debut 2015 EP ‘Mellow Drama’ introduced the world to a soft-spoken artist with a lot to say through his music. Another EP, ‘False Hope,’ and several singles later, he shared his eagerly anticipated debut LP ‘Hoax’ earlier this year. The result was a beautifully heartwrenching tale of a seemingly hopeless romantic.

We sat down with Kevin ahead of his recent Toronto show — part of Canadian Music Week’s packed music lineup — to chat about being back in the “6ix” and visiting the “5,” reworking music from his college band and sharing an album credit with Beyoncé.

Kevin Garrett in Toronto - RUtv News
Kevin Garrett backstage before his show at Toronto’s Radio (formerly Adelaide Hall) on May 9, 2019. (Photo credit: Jazmin Eusebio for RUtv News)

Welcome back to Toronto! How does it feel to be back performing for your Canadian fans?

I did Montreal just before this and I love Toronto. It’s the first place where I really—not Toronto itself, but Canada—really did a lot of extensive touring with James Vincent McMorrow.

You’re currently touring in support of your debut album ‘Hoax’ and you’ve said that you want people to listen to it from start to finish. Is that something you do regularly as a music listener?

I don’t do it as much because people don’t put albums out anymore. Like yes they do, but it’s built around singles. I want people to listen to this album [in full] because I put way too much into the arc of the whole thing for it to just be listened to in segments, unless you’re like so sad that you can’t get through it. I tried really hard to tell a story that’s bigger than just one four-and-a-half-minute song.

A few songs on the album were written in your teenage years, and “Faith You Might” actually came from your college band. Tell us about the process of revisiting those old songs.

The goal was always, can we breathe new life into these things so the ideas don’t feel stale? I wrote “Telescopes” when I was 14 and “Faith You Might” when I was 20. I think I did my job because the songs hurt me when I sing them, so we refreshed them enough to where if it’s still impacting me then hopefully for the people who are hearing them for the first time ever they can resonate with them as well.

Kevin Garrett on stage in Toronto
Kevin Garrett performing at Toronto’s Radio (formerly Adelaide Hall) as part of his ‘Hoax’ tour and Canadian Music Week. (Photo credit: Angela McLean/RUtv News)

Are there any songs that fans would be surprised to know almost didn’t make the cut for ‘Hoax’?

We went into the studio with 13 songs and tracked every single one and they all made it. I mean there wasn’t only 13 songs that I had written with the album in mind, but the other stuff I really love and I think will be on some future project or however they want to come out.

So, we may see some of those “lost tapes” someday?

I never delete anything. I’ve not been the type of artist to write for output. Songwriting for me is an examination of emotion and experience. It’s my job, but I don’t want it ever to feel like my job because that’s not the reason I started making music. The reason I started making music is because I couldn’t articulate things to myself — let alone anyone else — and these songs are my attempt to try and at least turn a corner from myself.

Is there a song that has an unexpected story behind it?

The song that ended up on ‘Lemonade,’ “Pray You Catch Me,” I had all of the lyrics written and it was a matter of piecing them in the right place. With ‘Hoax,’ the song “Worn” was similar to that where… Oh, here’s a fun fact: I wrote “Worn” in Mississauga. In the “5” — is that what you call Mississauga? I sat in the back of my friend’s little studio on my phone and just wrote all these words. When those moments happen — because they don’t happen very often, where it’s the words first — I really try and live in that world because it’s to me some of the best lyric writing I’ve done.

Speaking of “Pray You Catch Me,” how does a song that started in your bedroom end up in Beyoncé’s hands?

I really don’t even know! I had a friend who was working at Roc Nation so I’m fairly certain that that’s the conduit. But it was a very lucky thing because she goes through so many songs to just pick the ones she even wants to record, let alone feature on the album. And now it’s a Grammy nominated thing!

A reader messaged us and pointed out that you’ve released a number of collaborations with artists like KINGDM and Rudimental that are completely different from the sound you’re best known for — a.k.a. they’re upbeat. Is this a sound we can expect from you in future projects, or more of a reflection of the artists you’re collabing with?

I think it’s all situational. I would like for more collaborations like that to happen because I just like those kinds of artists. I think this album has some moments where it’s like, OK, we’re moving! — definitely more than the two EPs did. I’ve always sort of lived in this 87 BPM kind of world because I guess that’s just where my internal rhythm lies. But yeah, I hope I can create more where it’s like, oh yeah, I can dance to this. I think you can be heartbroken and dance.

A lot of people are creating their summer playlists right now. What are some tracks or artists you expect to be on yours?

Winnie Raeder. She has a song called “Don’t You Dare” and I don’t think a song has ever spoken to me the way that song does. Obviously it’s very situational and what you’re going through at the time, but that song is working for me. There’s another girl named Wens and she has a song called “Take” that is fantastic. Also, JP Saxe — a Canadian!

Kevin Garrett’s debut album ‘Hoax’ is available now.

(Header image: Angela McLean/RUtv News)

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