Kevin Garrett is an undeniable master of interweaving the intimate with the accessible to craft songs that are penetratingly profound and endlessly emotive. His first two EP’s combined enticing production with ruminative lyricism resulting in Kevin already possessing a poignantly crafted collection of tracks before even releasing his debut album.
The powerful connection that Kevin has established with his listeners through his angelic voice and awe-inspiring lyricism has allowed him to tour extensively, supporting the likes of Alessia Cara and Mumford & Sons alongside his own headline tours.
The release of his utterly compelling single “In Case I Don’t Feel” in 2018 marked his eagerly anticipated return, reaffirming his place as one of the world’s most fascinating talents. His latest release “Faith You Might” is nothing short of spellbinding, offering up an affectional portrayal of the heart-wrenching desire for a connection to last even though the connection may be withering away. With his debut album Hoax due for release on March 22, Kevin answered some questions about his creative process, covers, and collaborations.
Your latest song is “Faith You Might” is just incredible. It’s such a powerful and heart-breaking song. What’s the story behind it? It’s kind of the same story as the whole album as I’ve been working on it so long. Some of the songs have lengthier stories than others but “Faith You Might” was a song that I had written when I was playing with my old band in college. It was recorded for the next album that the band was going to put out but then we kind of went our separate ways once school was over. It was just kind of in a folder and when I was working on putting together the track list for this album that one kept coming back up. My producer Brad Cook really connected with it, so we put new life into it.
It’s about that point in a relationship, romantic or otherwise, where you kind of see things fading or a bond falling apart and there’s still some sort of blind hope that one of you, or however many people are involved, can piece it back together.
You recently featured on Rudimental’s track “Do You Remember?” – how was collaborating with them? Those guys and I have known each other for a few years now and they were in New York doing sessions and we ended up on a session together and wrote that song. I can remember vividly how quickly we finished writing that song, it was probably within like half an hour. That night I was about to get on a plane to play some shows in Europe so maybe there was some kind of subliminal sense of urgency there.
Those guys are so dialled in with their style and sound, they’re all brilliant creative people and producers. It was nice being in a room with people who understand their instruments; it definitely makes the creative process a lot easier. I was excited that the song made the album because they’re prolific and I think track list was up in the air for a while, so I kept pushing on my end. Every now and then I was putting a bug in their ear to keep the song and it’s out now, which is really exciting.
When you’re crafting a track, do lyrics or music tend to come first? It really depends there have been a few times when I didn’t have an instrument near me and then I’ll just write stuff down and then put it together that way. But usually, when I’m writing, I’m at a keyboard or I have a guitar. More often than not, music or me humming melodies comes first then the words come after.
I think I’m very lucky so far but sometimes I’ll just start mouthing words out in those melodies and they eventually start to make sense. It’s like a puzzle at the end of the day but usually, it’s music first.
Was the creative process for Hoax different from the process for your two EP’s? Not really, to be honest. The recording process was a bit different though. I worked with a producer named Brad Cook on the whole album and worked with a whole bunch of people on the record, but he was with me front to back on that, which was a first for me.
In the past with the EP’s, I’ve worked with multiple producers on a song by song sort of basis. I worked with Felix Joseph on a couple of tracks, Chris Loco and Maths Times Joy. It was sort of like micro instead of macro in terms of putting the body of work together but a lot of the songs on Hoax existed when Mellow Drama came out and the album has been this body of work that I’ve been piecing together over the course of my whole journey so far.
When I was first putting songs out, my goal was to have this album be the first thing that people heard, and I wasn’t anticipating Colouring and Control to pop off on streaming in the way that they did. With my touring schedule and stuff, I managed to try and tell smaller stories with those EP’s as I was continuing to develop the arc of the record. With the exception of a couple of songs on the album, that are particularly newer than the others, it’s been a really organic ground-up process getting this album from earlier stages to now finally having it ready to come out.
In the past, you’ve said that you had the concept for your album for a really long time. How did the concept come to be and how has it evolved? I always wanted to make this first album; I’m the type of artist that loves the bigger story. So, an album is still really appealing to me. There have definitely been moments where certain songs take off better than others and so forth but for this record, I just want to make this one be an album and a full story. If I never make another album again, which is not gonna happen but that was always kind of the joke behind the scenes, I’d be happy.
The whole of Hoax and what I’m trying to say in these songs has been in my head for as long as I’ve been putting music out. That first sort of release was always meant to be part of something bigger and now that it’s finally here, the thing that I was curious about with some of the songs we were recording was if there was a way to breathe new life into the songs sonically. So, the ideas still felt fresh to me in the concepts of the music and I kept reminding myself that we all go through these feelings pretty frequently in our lives so they should still feel pretty fresh to everyone who’s going to end up hearing them for the first time.
I think we did a pretty good job of re-imagining the music and getting into a place where it’s exciting for everyone involved.
You’ve already toured extensively, with your own headline shows and support slots with the likes of Mumford & Sons and James Bay. You’re playing Omeara in April and your debut album is out the month before. Are you looking forward to playing a headline show where most people will already have an emotional connection to your whole album? I’ve been to Omeara a whole bunch and it’s an amazing room, I’m looking forward to being up close with everyone again and playing these songs in their essence, if you feel, and seeing how people react to everything. The funny thing is when I first started touring and I didn’t have as much music out, I would play some of these songs live. So, when I came back to certain cities on tour people would come up to me and show me videos of me singing those songs asking when it was coming out. Now I can finally tell all those people that those songs are finally coming out.
It’s going to be really fun, performing is the reason that I make music in the first place because I want to connect with everyone so I’m really excited.
Your Mellow Drama EP first came out in 2015 and Hoax comes out this year. Why does now feel like the right time to release your debut album? With regards to wanting to put the album out, I’ve been wanting to put it out for a while. Behind the scenes, there’s always the industry kind of things that put you in whatever position. Sometime last year when we started re-recording everything, I finally had everything in focus and the story was completed as it had ever been for this record.
We were also laying low on the touring side of things so I was probably able to zero in on the true arc of this record and once it was mixed and mastered, it was basically how soon can I get this music out for everyone to listen to because I’m really eager to start playing again. I wanted to make sure it came out before my birthday, that was the only calendar benchmark, so we got it three days before my birthday.
I loved your cover of King Princess’ “1950.” What makes you want to cover a track? That song was a fun cover to do because I’ve known Mikaela (King Princess) for a handful of years now because her father owns a studio in Brooklyn where I recorded all of my music. When she was first starting to write you could tell that there was something there with her; she’s a special talent. I’d see her every once in a while when I was recording my stuff, and I remember last time we were in the studio we were doing the finishing touches on the album and I had a photographer there and we just talking about the idea of filming that song.
It’s a phenomenal song, it’s such an amazing message for that entire community. Also, I just wanted to support a friend who’s blowing up. I like to cover a lot of old soul records, but the stuff that I cover by artists that are my contemporaries is completely out of respect for the craft and the quality of the writing. I forget if it came out in 2017 or early 2018 but it’s one of the best songs I’ve heard in a handful of years. It happened to be super convenient that’s she’s kind of like a little sister to me, so I was honored to be able to cover her in her dad’s studio. I just saw her live for the first time in Philadelphia a couple of weeks ago and she’s unbelievable, she’s on a tidal wave straight to the top.
You worked with Beyoncé on “Pray You Catch Me.” How was that experience? And how was it having that as a sort of the first introduction to you for many people? Looking back and just thinking about it top-down on the gravity of that record and to be able to be kind of be a big part of the introduction to that record, the way it was rolled out and everything, it was a dream come true.
I think everybody who has a chance to work with an artist like that who’s really on their own island, in terms of generational talent, would jump at the opportunity. It’s a no-brainer. It was an amazing learning experience to see how someone at that scale operates. She was very supportive of me every time we connected and it’s just amazing to be on that album. At the time, when that record came out, I was already touring a lot and had my first EP out and got lucky with Spotify and streaming. People saw my name on the credits and for the masses, it’s obviously like “You’re the writer” but for the people who knew about me it was like “Oh, he’s working with other artists, he’s working with Beyoncé.” That was some kind of rarefied area that I was really grateful to be in for that moment. You know, it’s something you can’t really articulate properly to be on that album, it’s a big record.
Lastly, what excites you the most about the new year, and the ways in which you can share your art with your audience? Being able to play again is going to be really fun. There’s a whole bunch of things that we have lined up that I’m really excited to share with everyone but in terms of touring again, these songs have existed for a while and they’re in a place now where I can get really creative with my band on the live side of things, in terms of presenting them in new and exciting ways.
If I have my way, I’m hopefully going to be able to play it front to back for everyone when we hit the road and there’s something special about portraying the narrative and messages in that way. I guess I’m most excited to see if everyone likes it if there’s that kind of connection I’ve been lucky enough to have with my fans so far with the EP’s I’ve put out. It’s like the ultimate gift to be able to come to cities and play your music.
Going to London is going to be amazing again, to play for people who probably have so many better things to do that night to come and see me be sad for however many songs. It’s a very humbling honor and experience to play for whoever wants to listen and get to talk to them about how they react to the songs and everything. That’s what I’m most excited about, just to get back out there and start playing again.