Gallant chases self-discovery through avant-garde R&B on ‘Ology’

By Prachi Kamble
Soulful R&B singer Gallant faces invasive questions to mine his subconscious for inspiration.

Soulful R&B singer Gallant faces invasive questions to mine his subconscious for inspiration.

VANCOUVER — R&B prodigy Gallant is in the middle of enjoying three days of well-deserved downtime in Sherman Oaks, Los Angeles. “I’m looking forward to playing a lot of video games and watching CNN,” he confesses in a calm voice. “And a lot of buffalo wild wings. That’s my downtime!”

Back from a press tour in the U.K., the young artist has been on quite the ride, appearing on Jools Holland and performing with none other than Sir Elton John. Gaining momentum with the release of his debut album Ology earlier this year, his signature mix of intellectual, dark, and sexy songs have put the apple of R&B back into mainstreams flippant eye.

“The tour is becoming increasingly comfortable for me and I have been able to extract more and more out of each performance,” notes Gallant. “I’m really excited to see how that goes.” Primarily championed by Zane Lowe in the U.K., Gallant has enjoyed a strong fan following there for a long time. “They are just so ahead of the curve,” he says of his U.K. fan base. “They’re a little more open minded compared to the North American industry and they aren’t obsessed with putting things into categories. But things [are starting to] become similar in L.A. right now.”

Collecting rave reviews left, right, and Pitchfork, Ology features deep and mature lyrical matter with instrumentals to match. “I wasn’t trying to make an album really, I was just messing around with things in a very natural way. Whatever came out was a reflection of my subconscious; I wasn’t trying to fool anyone or trying to be an exaggeration of myself,” he explains. “I wanted to dig deeper than [my first EP] Zebra. I’ve been motivated to ask myself tough questions and get over hurdles and barriers.”

An instinctive musician who is both heavily introverted and profound, Gallant is also a strong academic at heart with a degree in anthropology and sociology of music from NYU. He credits his own hyper-self-awareness and ability to translate his imagination into music and lyrics to his education, with Ology being a product of his academically informed introspection as well as a personal journey of change.

“Change happens in incremental steps — how you react to something, the way you feel about something, examining yourself in the context of the universe and in the context of society,” he says. “[While making Ology,] I noticed varying degrees of every perception, reaction, and thought [that] I had. I learned to be more empathetic, less guarded, and a little more self aware.”

Gallant’s intellectualism makes him an exceptional role model, especially for young people of colour. “If you have a stance on an issue, political or non political, it makes sense to match the example as much as possible, intentionally or unintentionally. Being perceived as a role model is a big compliment,” he admitted.

Everything about Gallant is understated but always genuine and always honest. Not one to colour within the lines, he found his way to us through an overwhelming sea of naysayers who believed that R&B had to be just about sex and partying, that it couldn’t be more. But that more, is Gallant.

Gallant performs at Fortune Sound Club on October 26th.

, , , ,