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Upfront: Gallant

Exceeding expectations

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Christopher Gallant’s origin story is somewhat unremarkable; he was just a teenager who found solace in making music. What is extraordinary though is what happened next. Propelled by a desire to pursue a career in music despite being told he’d fail, he moved to LA and released Zebra, an EP that got him signed and ultimately changed his life. Before this he studied at NYU where his professors told him that he would never succeed as a musician and that his songs were mediocre. They were wrong.

When I ask him about this, he relaxes back into his chair, looks up and casually says, “My music was bad music and my music arguably still [is].” It’s a statement that he delivers with earnestness rather than self-deprecation but I’m unsurprised. Gallant has built a career on sincerity; from his lyrics to his art direction everything is purposeful. His rise to fame so far has seen him nominated for a Grammy in the same category as Beyoncé and Rihanna, named on the Forbes 30 under 30 list, and praised by the likes of Seal, Sufjan Stevens, and Elton John. I was nervous about meeting who I thought was going to be a very serious person. It quickly became clear he wasn’t the stoic R&B singer many make him out to be but a subdued and considered 25-year-old. You’d be wrong to confuse this with indifference because if I learnt anything about Gallant it’s that he’s hungry for what comes next. “I am excited,” he said about his current success “[but] I genuinely feel like there’s more to be excited for in the future than right now.”

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When you were younger, you rebelled against R&B because it was too close to what you thought you were supposed to be. What was that inner conflict like?

Everyone has a tinge of insecurity when they’re a kid. They don’t want to be what everyone expects them to be and that expectation is a big part, for some reason, of your everyday actions. I did try to rebel because I didn’t want to fit into a mould that I thought people were trying to fit me into.

You’ve worked with many amazing artists—one of them being Seal, who you’ve said is one of your heroes. You filmed a performance with him for your YouTube series ‘In The Room’. At the end of the video he turns to you and says, “I’m your biggest fan”. What was that like?

That was crazy. I didn’t want that in the video. It was surreal. Just to meet him was a really big event for me and to work with him and have a relationship with him of any kind where we can keep working together is really cool.

You left New York after lots of things weren’t working out for you there. I’ve heard a lot of stories about New York chewing up and spitting people out but nothing quite as poetic as a gust of wind sweeping subway dirt into a McFlurry you’d bought to get you through a bad day.

[Laughs] That is true, that was actually the last straw. I was really upset.

Can you still eat McFlurries?

Yeah, I can. I had one just before I left Los Angeles for Australia. It was a regular sized Oreo McFlurry because they ran out of the snack size. It’s so weird that they ran out of the snack size, like couldn’t you just put less into the regular size cup?

The soft serve machine at McDonald’s is a constant source of pain for everyone


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When you were studying at NYU some of your professors told you that your music was bad.

All of them.

Have you spoken to them since blowing up?

Oh yeah, I see them quite frequently and it’s cool. It’s one of those things where my music was bad music and my music arguably still [is]. I used to write music in the exact same way [with the] same type of lyrics. It’s all in the execution and that only varies because I was a different person back then. I don’t have anything against those professors I think they were just being as honest as they could be. I don’t even get any sort of sick pleasure from that kind of thing, it just is what it is.

You’re a good person. I would definitely get sick pleasure out of it.


Speaking of pleasure, what did it feel like to get nominated for a Grammy?

It was nuts! I had no idea when the nominations were going to come out plus I didn’t think it was going to be time for me to get that [type of] recognition. A friend from home texted me and let me know that I was [nominated]. It was surreal to have someone from high school to tell me about that first. I had to double check and triple check.

And how were the Grammys?

I had a lot of fun. I took my parents and my girl and had a really good experience watching the whole show play out. It was surreal for sure. It’s an experience I’ll probably remember for the rest of my life. Even if I get to have that experience again, that first time, there are so many things about it, kind of like graduation or prom.

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Were you a little bit relieved when you lost to Beyoncé? If you won you could have had the entire Beyhive plus Kanye on your back.

Yeah, I was. Aside from the Kanye thing, it’s weird to say [pauses] I am really grateful to everyone who listens to the music and I feel like I’m in a really comfortable place but… it would be weird for me to sit there and be patting myself on the back for [winning] something that takes a lot of work and years of realisation and self-motivation. I’m glad that I have years to work towards something. I feel like I have a lot to learn.

Can you explain this tweet to me?

When you meet certain people and you have a relationship with certain people at one time in your life, they just conveniently come back around and that’s it [laughs].

Your fans hit you up a lot too. At one of your shows someone made a sign asking you to sing them to sleep and I’m embarrassed to say this out loud but someone tweeted at you “sing into my vulva please”.

Oh yeah. It gets weirder in the DMs for sure.

What song would you sing into someone’s vulva?

Probably ‘Open Up‘.


I apologise, I apologise [laughs]

You’re only 25 but you’ve already received so many accolades. What is something you’re yet to achieve?

It’s hard to explain, it’s more of a feeling that I want to get. I think right now I want to be able to make bodies of work that I can look back on with really specific psychological goals if that makes sense? I don’t know what that looks like or how it’s actionable or what exactly it is that I want to do but I feel like I’m going to go through phases that are a lot more specific. Do you know what I mean? It all has to relate to how I feel emotionally. I have a lot more things I want to focus on and things to look back on and figure out. Things that I’ve already gotten over that I don’t necessarily know how I got over. I just want to paint a full picture of who I am and who I can potentially be.

I spoke to an artist recently who described her work as an evolving self-portrait and I loved how well that summed up her output of work.

That’s dope I like that. If anything what I’m doing is that but more psychoanalytical. I’m really into the emotion, the reactions, the feelings and the actions of trying to understand the chemistry behind who I am.

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