In the fall of 2013, Christopher Gallant was graduating from his music degree at New York University and gearing up for a move to LA to pursue a solo career. Just three short years later, the eclectic alternative RnB crooner is riding high on the success of his first major label LP, touring with Sufjan Stevens and Jack Garratt, playing a standout set at Coachella alongside Seal (with a set that Billboard named the number one moment of the festival) and catching the attention of the legendary Sir Elton John. Gallant's ascension from internet buzz magnet to bonafide headliner has been swift, but take one look at his evocative television debut on Jimmy Fallon or his knockout 'In The Room' series and it's pretty damn easy to see why.
Just days after news of his maiden trip down under for the iconic Bluesfest broke, Gallant and I are connected for a call during a low-key day of travel on his first US headline tour. Unsurprisingly, there's a pragmatic sensibility to everything he says, allowing the weight of his thoughts to spread evenly between his words with soft subtlety. When I press him with a few more pointed questions, I hear him hit the brakes in his mind and take the time to formulate a measured response. You can feel the committed thoughtfulness behind every answer.
Thankfully, that introspection and self-searching carries seamlessly into 'Ology'. Alongside revered LA producer Stint, the crossover crooner has crafted a sleek sixteen-track record that he describes as a "circular" experience, coming from an artist willing to explore "new perspectives" and "ask questions without avoiding the answer". Abandoning the unbridled experimentation of his first EP 'Zebra', Gallant has honed in on a consistent alternative R&B approach, bringing intricate melodies to the fore and injecting dashes of older reckless production through a focused, streamlined funnel.
Best Before: How is your first headline tour treating you so far?
Gallant: I'm in the second half of the American leg of my first headline tour, and it's all going really well. It feels like I've pretty much been travelling non-stop since March because there's just been so many different tours in succession – there was a European festival tour, an American support tour, and now this. I'm enjoying myself so much.
How do you cope with long times away from home? Is the tour life something you enjoy?
I'm the kind of guy who just likes watching TV, playing video games and going bowling with the homies, so it was definitely an adjustment being away. Especially when you're away for so long. It can start to get a little bit mundane and tiring, but I'm so happy to be travelling and having all these new experiences.
You're based in L.A. when you're at home, but I've read that when you were still figuring out what you wanted to do, you moved to New York to study and found it wasn't a good fit for you. Can you expand on that experience?
Yeah – I think that in the end, New York wasn't connected to who I am or what I value as a person. In saying that, I really did enjoy college a lot though. I drank a lot of alcohol, and I had great friends, but the New York life wasn't for me.
I think instead of saying 'Ology' is an "upbeat" album, I would describe it more as circular. This time, I was looking at multiple perspectives instead of staying in one timezone. I was asking so many more questions by that point, and I was trying not to let myself avoid the answers to those questions.
Does the 'Zebra' EP reflect that time in your life?
Yeah. I would say it was almost half-recorded by the tail end of 2013. I moved over to LA the following year and did the rest of it there.
I can hear a transition of sound and style from the brooding, experimental of approach of 'Zebra' to your debut album 'Ology', which feels a bit more upbeat or optimistic. Is that reflective of your life experiences at the time?
I think that's definitely accurate. But I think instead of saying 'Ology' is an "upbeat" album, I would describe it more as circular. This time, I was looking at multiple perspectives instead of staying in one timezone. I was asking so many more questions by that point, and I was trying not to let myself avoid the answers to those questions. I was digging in a little bit deeper than I did on 'Zebra'.
Did that carry into your taste in production and songwriting too?
I actually don't think so! If anything, I remember spitting out more of a variety of things that I had been exposed to. But those things I was channeling were things I'd heard even up to ten years before the time I was a recording artist, so none of it was necessarily reactionary. I think the difference with 'Ology' is that I just did a better job of documenting where I'd been and where I was at, and reflecting what I'd seen or what I'd heard.
Did you feel more self-aware going into 'Ology'?
I think so – but only because I was motivated more by the growth I'd been able to achieve. After the recording process for the EP, I definitely went into the album with more of an idea of where I was.
Does that tie back into choosing the name 'Ology' – "a subject of study or a branch of knowledge"?
Not necessarily when I was recording it. I wasn't really aware of that at the time. All I was doing was consciously trying to pull more out of what was inside of me. It felt like I was putting myself to the ultimate test and dissecting every inch of my psyche. I think that's the best way to describe that.
['Ology'] wasn't a meticulously crafted piece... it was a messy, animalistic sort of pursuit, so I hope that honesty and rawness shines through.
I've seen you say that at the end of the day, you made 'Ology' as a cathartic experience for yourself, so that makes a lot of sense.
It really was. It wasn't a meticulously crafted piece, though. It was a messy, animalistic sort of pursuit, so I hope that honesty and rawness shines through. Looking back now that the album is out and I've been performing it, I feel like I'm in a much better place. From my perspective, I've felt twice the ratio of growth from recording and releasing 'Zebra' to finishing 'Ology'. And that trajectory continues.
You've said in the past that you struggled to find your role in the music industry at first, but that you feel better about it now. What changed?
I'm still not sure if I feel better about it now, but I'm happy to be in the situation that I'm in. I know it's a process, but I don't know if I ever feel like I'll fully fit in. Back in 2013, I very audibly and actively decided that the music industry was bullshit, and I couldn't identify with anyone that was trying to pursue this route. It didn't leave a good taste in my mouth. Granted, I've also met a lot of people along the way who are really genuine – including the people at my label right now. It's really just a person by person thing. I don't want to say those people restored my faith in the music world, but I'm honoured that they were inspired enough to see a place for me here. I definitely don't feel like I fit in, but I'm appreciative of every opportunity that comes my way.
Speaking of opportunities – you just had the honour of performing with Sir Elton John. How does something like that come about?
It was surreal to even hear that he played my song "Weight In Gold" on the radio. When they told me, I instantly thought that it was just like a playlist sort of situation, but I went back and listened to it, and he had so many nice things to say about me. It took me completely by surprise. Eventually that evolved into an opportunity to perform with him at a show in Vegas, and then a few weeks ago, I ended up doing a piece with him at the Apple Music Festival alongside other artists that I really admire. He's provided me with a real experience – one that will stay with me for the rest of my life.
Did Elton reach out to you personally?
It happened via communication between people I really trust, but there have been certain times where he was standing right next to me and he's come up with an idea that we've made happen. It's all felt very personal, and I'm still shocked that an opportunity like that has come up.
What about with someone like Seal? You had him come in and do a duet for your 'In the Room' series. How did that happen?
I was approached with an opportunity to meet him, which was so great, because he's always been such an admirable figure. When that sort of opportunity comes up, you just have to jump at it. It's just even more incredible when he's standing in the room with you singing your song. To hear him say, "I love "Weight In Gold", it's such a great song" – that's just a whole other side to the experience. It's just impossible to quantify a magical moment like that. I couldn't be more honoured to be a part of that.
One of your first major tours was in support of Sufjan Stevens, who is quite different stylistically. How was that experience?
Just to be in such close proximity to a genius was amazing. It's funny, because it doesn't seem like a good fit on paper, but when we met we realised that we were very similar, and that we also approached music in a similar way. On top of that, we just had a lot of fun; we were doing Drake covers on that tour, and then we did a Prince tribute for 'In the Room'. He also came out for my Coachella set like Seal. To have that continual relationship with these people that I really admire is such an honour. I never want to take that opportunity lightly.
Do you see those relationships eventually leading into collaborating together on your future material?
Of course. I'll be honest and say that I haven't been the best collaborator in the past, but I would never try to limit how I could express myself or find my way to something new that I haven't thought of before. Collaborating with people of that stature would be an incredible experience I'd be more than up for.
I've seen you being placed in the same category stylistically as artists like PARTYNEXTDOOR or The Weeknd. Do you feel like that's appropriate or accurate for you as an artist?
I mean, I never want to dictate what somebody thinks, but I would think that they didn't really listen to my album!
Is there anyone who you think you would sit more on the shelf with in terms of genre or style?
I honestly don't know. My music is just a blend of so many different things. It's just a giant pot of gumbo. It would be so tough to wake up every morning and say to myself, "Remember that today, you're fun and your music is outgoing and this or that." I don't think about it like that. I'm just happy that people are listening to what I'm making, and if putting it in a category is some high honour for them, then I can respect that.
Gallant's debut album 'Ology' is available to purchase here.
Thursday, 13th – Monday, 17th April