The push-and-pull that drives Gallant’s music is like a pendulum swinging back and forth between genres and influences. His combination of muscular vocal acrobatics and sonic unpredictability has attracted universal tastemaker praise and a growing fan base. Complex championed the Los Angeles-based singer and songwriter as “The R&B game changer,” LA Times claimed, “Precise writing of Frank Ocean, big vocal runs of Sam Smith,” and NME predicted, “the voice that will redefine R&B,” while Entertainment Weekly, The Fader, Billboard, and more have shown support. Sir Elton John summed it up best saying, “Gallant is gonna be huge.” In addition to performing at Coachella and SXSW in 2016, he collaborated live with Seal and Sufjan Stevens and sold out his first two NY and L.A. shows. However, the artist continues questioning, learning, and progressing on his full-length debut, Ology [Mind of a Genius/Warner Bros. Records].
“I was knowingly trying to dig deep,” he explains. “I wanted to be more vulnerable and honest. I asked myself, ‘What can I say that’s almost too uncomfortable to share?’ The process felt like this analytical dissection of myself, but I wasn’t going to find any solutions. Ology references this constant pursuit we all experience without any starting point or conclusions.”
Gallant has been on this pursuit since junior high. Growing up in Columbia, MD, he began tinkering on his computer and making songs after school inspired by everything from nineties R&B to classic jazz and blues. Rather than write in a journal, the music collated his feelings and emotions. He’d rarely share it with friends though. While attending NYU, he enrolled in summer school, so he could graduate early. Post-graduation and countless hours of meticulous practice later, he was finally ready to share his songs to the world at large.
“I was still approaching music as a means to learn more about myself,” he goes on. “I started pulling from more influences, getting more skilled at the computer production-wise, and growing as a writer. When I got out of college, I felt like I had to define myself by a body of work.”
His first online release “If It Hurts” would establish him in the blogosphere, while 2014’s Zebra EP landed him on Spotify’s viral charts and at the top of HypeM. Signing to Mind of a Genius in 2015 and relocating to L.A., he dove into creating what would become Ology with co-producers such as Stint. The first single “Weight In Gold” enjoyed its world premiere on Zane Lowe’s Beats 1 Radio show as the introductory entry in the coveted “World’s First” segment. In less than six months, it accumulated over 6.5 million Spotify streams.
Tempering an airy atmosphere with chopped-up blues guitars, “Weight In Gold” gives way to an impassioned and infectious croon reminiscent of a gospel transmission from the furthest reaches of outer space.
“I was opening up a little bit more, so I decided, ‘Fuck it. I’ll scream on the chorus,’” he admits. “The lyrics fizzled down into my brain. It’s one of the most vulnerable pieces I have.”On the intoxicating follow-up single “Bourbon,” his fiery falsetto takes hold and transfixes. “I wanted to create a hurricane-type storm of vocals,” he says. “It’s one of my darkest songs, which makes it really special.”
Then, there’s “Skipping Stones” where Gallant trades vivid and vital verses with Jhené Aiko over a backdrop of horns, heavenly keys, stirring strings, and a jazzy beat produced by composer Adrian Younge.
“We recorded it all to tape,” he recalls. “We wanted it to be imperfect. It defines the umbrella on which most of the album falls under: feeling lost and longing for something you can’t obtain. Jhené is an amazing person. I’ve always admired her work, and she killed it.”
As Gallant continues on his search, he leaves a message on the path. “If people can hear I’m not doing this to feed any ego or serve someone else, that’s all I want,” he leaves off. “I’m trying to create a photo album I can look back on to see where I’ve overcome challenges. I’m using music as a means of self-discovery.”