Following the release of his 2014 Zebra EP, the industry has been eagerly awaiting his next project. Last week, AFROPUNK had the pleasure of speaking with 24-year-old rising R&B star, Gallant a few days before the release of his new album, 'Ology', which is already being hailed by music critics as a masterpiece. Between his soulful voice, abstract soundscapes and deeply introspective songwriting abilities, Gallant's appeal is far reaching.
If an 'Ology' is a subject of study, then this project is undoubtedly Gallant's mirror image. Despite his success, Gallant appears to remain humble amidst the noise. We anticipate that the buzz is only going to get louder from here.
By Ayara Pommells, AFROPUNK contributor
AP: Thank you so much for taking the time out I know that you are super busy right now. . .
Gallant: No not at all. Thank you.
AP: No problem, well congratulations on the release of the stream of Ology!
Gallant: Thank You.
AP: Are you nervous about the release on the 6th? Gallant: Yeah. Definitely. I mean I was nervous once it was officially finished which was like not even a few days ago (laughs). I am definitely interested in seeing what people think, and it’s a body of work I spent a lot of time on and it was really difficult so hopefully it’s well received.
AP: How long did it take for you to create Ology? Gallant: I think about a year and a half in total. Maybe a little bit longer.
AP: The album isn’t loaded with a lot of guest features was that a conscious decision not to include a bedload of artist on the album?
Gallant: Ah no. I think it was just kind of a product method I did a lot of the album kind of myself. Definitely, in terms of the writing but even the production I only worked with one or two people maybe at a time, but I think I’m not sure exactly how it works. But I guess where someone would be sitting at a desk and say “you know you should get so and so on this song or so and so on that song or this would be a good look.” I guess it just wasn’t really put together that way and the Janae thing kind of just happened because I kind of got introduced to Jane organically. We were literally just vibing she was coming to the house chilling, and it kind of happened just completely unplanned and unconventional.
AP: Awesome has been credited as being contemporary R&B but who were more of your more traditional influences music wise?
Gallant: I would say I was grounded in a lot of 90’s R&B and you can call that the BabyFace or the Braxton or the Tony Braxton. Even like the Sade and the Seal and I kinda tried to run away from that, and then I was listening to what my friends were listening to. Some Progressive type, Alternative Rock. Lots of it. Everyone was into the Emo Rock and what attracted me to that was just the raw honesty. You know? Their lyrics and then you had people like Incubus writing poetic lyrics that are describing surroundings, all of that was just really inspiring together, so I guess it’s what I try to do. Just in terms of being honest with what inspires me. I think of everything and hopefully, what comes out is just like a kind of disorganized mashed together version of everything I loved over a point of time.
AP: Now you mentioned Seal you have performed alongside Seal what was that like?
Gallant: I mean, it was like surreal for sure. I have no idea how or why he agreed to do it and I was just shocked that you know when I first met him he mentioned a song and said he said he loved the song. Just the fact he heard it was shocking to me so that a week later after that just be sitting in a room chilling with him was completely surreal. Definitely, would have never thought that would happen.
AP: Did he give you any pearls of wisdom?
Gallant: Ah (laughs) not really he’s kind of just he leaks wisdom just by kind just being who he is, you know? I could see that he was confident. I could see that he wasn’t really concerned with other people’s judgment or opinions. I don’t know… he had this crazy balance of stoicism and lightheartedness that I just really admire. Obviously, he is a legend, and he has to know but yet there’s so much humility in everything that he said, and everything that he did so just standing next to him was an honor.
AP: Do you think there will be any further collabs in the future with Seal?
Gallant: Ah yeah I think so for sure (laughs) definitely, I hope so.
AP: Now whenever an artist breaks out there is always a million different comparisons to artists who are already established, have you heard any surprising ones or overly flattering ones?
Gallant: Any surprising? I think somebody said when I first put my music online when I was kind of releasing, self-releasing EP’s I think someone called me a white - someone said I sound like a white Usher. . .
AP: Wow! What?
Gallant: Which is interesting. I’m not white, so I guess they didn’t know that and (laughs) . . .
Gallant: Just assumed that based off how they music sounded or something. That was something I didn’t know what to think I mean it was just odd. So I guess in general in comparison hopefully if it somebody that see you know is known for honesty in their music that you know, has a message I’m honored to be compared to them, to someone like that.
AP: Awesome, now your pen game is impeccable, is there someone, in particular, you would like to write for or with?
Gallant: You know? That’s a tough question because I really try to write for people before, and I’ve tried to write with people for this project and both areas it never works for me so far. I guess I’m just not cut out for that just yet but maybe in the future I’ll be a little bit better at writing for other people or collaborating lyrics with someone in the room.
AP: How do you accept the producers you work with or do they come to you?
Gallant: At first it’s a little bit of both and your just kind of experimenting but for me, at least. I haven’t released that much work which is just for this album and the EP that I put out a couple years ago. The common threads was that I worked on basically the entire album together with a really good friend. You know? The first one was with a really good friend Felix Snow. It just kind of felt right felt organic. It wasn’t any A&R pitched together kind of project, and the same thing happens now with STINT who is a really great friend of mine. He is super low key he keeps it under the radar. I guess authenticity and friendship aspect of who you are working with and making it more about getting something and not doing a job is usually what works when it comes to selecting a producer?
AP: Have you had any starstruck super fan moments since you been performing and releasing music?
Gallant: Ah yeah. I met Babyface and I was definitely star struck, I was star struck meeting Seal. I mean I was star struck going on tour with Sufjan Stevens, and I’m sure every time I meet someone that has inspired something it’s surreal. It doesn’t feel like it’s real and to be reminded in any capacity that this is a human being who sang exactly what they wanted to sing, and you can do it too as long as you're honest. It’s a very humbling and inspiring message to keep around in your head?
AP: Tell us one thing about you which is a guilty pleasure thing so it can be a thing something you like to do or watch or that guilty pleasure album you have?
Gallant: I watch a lot of CNN, I am actually watching CNN right now, and I don’t know what it is . . .
AP: Oh you’re a news junky (laughs)?
Gallant: Yes. It’s very strange because I don’t know why. Definitely, during an election year. I’m very into politics. I’m just kind of glued to it but CNN, in general, I just like watching it.
AP: Does it never depress you watching the news constantly?
Gallant: You know? It definitely does. Sometimes I’m like wow, especially during a tragedy or something it’s like the 24-hour news cycle keeps going so it’s like at that point, I’m like "o.k I need to change it to cartoons or something." But that’s definitely a guilty pleasure I shouldn’t be doing that. And also, I play a lot of board games with friends.
AP: Ahhh! What’s your favorite board game?
Gallant: Settlers of Catan, I played it last night it’s a strategy game, it’s ah you know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.
AP: (laughs) I will have to check it out, Ok Ology drops in a couple days, what are you most hoping listeners will get from the album or will take away from listening to your music?
Gallant: I hope that they hear that there wasn’t any ah I hope that they get that it’s obvious that it’s just me and a friend. I hope it doesn’t seem like I was trying to do it for any specific purpose or for any type of listener. Honesty is very important to me, so I really hope that the solitude and the honesty and the lowering all my inhibitions trying not to worry about anyone judging me all shines through, and they hear that it’s just a pure emotional release
AP: Last question what are you hoping for follows the release of Ology a few months a year down the line where would you like to be?
Gallant: I would like to be finished with my project, and hopefully, I’ll look back at Ology and see it like it’s a photo album, and there are some things that I, challenges that I faced or hurdles I jumped over or whatever it maybe. And I will look over it proudly and whatever I worked on and completed at that time is just as honest and takes it even further.
Come see Gallant live at AFROPUNK BROOKLYN 2016.
*Ayara Pommells is Owner of UK website Rawroots.com and a music writer for Soultrain.com, Artistic Manifesto, SheMovement.com & AFROPUNK.com . Follow @YahYahNah.