Gnash is an LA-based artist who describes his genre as “happysad.” We couldn’t agree more with his assessment. Following the release of his EPs, U, me, and us, gnash is back and tearing at the heartstrings with his first full length album, we. Featuring appearances from Ben Abraham and Olivia O’Brien, the album is a testament to gnash’s unique ability to walk his listeners through the parts of life that aren’t always pretty. Though he touches on the soft spots of the heart with his diary-like songwriting, simple production and conversational vocals, his music leaves listeners with a feeling of comfort and support. The first singles from the album have already accumulated tens of millions of streams, with “imagine if” currently sitting at almost 25 million plays on Spotify alone. If his streaming successes weren’t enough, gnash is playing shows with Mallrat before hitting the tour circuit in Europe this March.
HOLR’s Veronica Rinomato caught up with the up and comer before his tour to talk planting seeds, his favorite songs to play live and giving 100 hugs a day.
Veronica Rinomato: Congrats on the new album! How long did the process take you from start to finish?
gnash: I’ve been working on ‘we’ for two years now, and I didn’t finish it until a week before it came out.
Veronica Rinomato: Is there a reason why you waited until a week before the release?
gnash: Not in particular, I think I’m just a perfectionist when it comes to what I create. I understand that nothing will ever be perfect, especially when it comes to art. There is something about the mentality of a school project or an album or whatever– I’ve always needed to work on it until the final hours to make sure I did everything I possibly could. For me there are a couple reasons, I want it to be as great as it can be and I want to exhaust all options. That being said, I want to make sure I know in my heart that I did everything I possibly could so I have no regrets when the album is out in the world.
Veronica Rinomato: Inclusiveness is a theme throughout your artistry, was that part of your intention when creating the album?
gnash: I guess I don’t think about it quite like that. There are a lot of people who want to feel better. So when I was creating ‘we,’ any feeling I had that I thought could help people, a ‘we’ amount of people, I would consider writing a song about that. I think that the inclusiveness and the altogether-ness of it comes from the nature of the songs, because the songs encourage people to talk about how they feel and get things off their chest. If you’re singing along with something like that, you have to know there is a bunch of other people that are connecting to that same lyric. That’s why I ask people online, “what song helps you feel better the most?” I want people to see others saying the same title–that’s how we bring people together, right? So when I was making the album, the one goal or mission statement I had in mind was; if we feel together, then we will feel better.
Veronica Rinomato: I like to read over the lyrics before listening to an artist’s album. I find it helps me connect with the intention of the music. Your lyrical content brings me back to conversations I’ve had with a therapist, discussing my anxiety and all the ups and downs of love and life. Alongside personal exploration, what are other important messages in your album you’d like to mention?
gnash: For me, they’re not necessarily always easy things to talk about, but they’re important. In “pajamas” and “insane” or “dear insecurity” and “imagine if,” I talk about fear, losing my mind, feeling like I’m not good enough, and wanting to stay inside and not do very much. “The broken hearts club” is a place you can go to feel better and less lonely. All of these things are thoughts or dreams that I have. I love how you read the lyrics first by the way, I do that as well. Anytime I’m going to listen to an album, I read the lyrics and listen because it helps me focus on what people are trying to say. If ‘we’ is going to be out forever, then I wanted to say things that felt honest and could help people. And that’s really why I do music at all, I think a lot of musicians do the same. We are just here to make people feel better. I was having a conversation with my friend Alex from All Time Low last night about this, and at the end of the day, if you are out in the world touring and making music and traveling and your goal is to make people feel better, then you’re doing something that has purpose. The hugs mean more, the singing along means more and the love means more.
Veronica Rinomato: The cover art for ‘we’ is soft and delicate. What did you want your fans to take away from your cover art?
gnash: The last song kind of tells the story of the cover art, it’s called “p.s.” If you think about it like a movie, the credits roll on “I hate u, I love u,” and the secret bonus scene at the end that ties everything together is “p.s.” The lyrics are,
“I’ve got seeds, cause if we reap what we sow, I’ve planted you a garden where your flowers can grow. I believe in you and me and at the seams we can sew, I’ve planted you a garden where your flowers can grow.”
To me, the album is a bunch of seeds. Every single song is a different seed for somebody to plant in their mind and to have with them, knowing there’s somebody else in the world who understands how they feel and knows they can grow. I everyone who experiences the album feel empowered to grow into the beautiful flowers that they can be with whatever they’re dealing with. At the end of the day all the songs are for people to take and grow in their gardens and watch their flowers grow.
Veronica Rinomato: Is there a song that you enjoy performing the most?
gnash: I really like playing “pajamas” and “dear insecurity.” We do it about halfway through the show, and I believe that’s the point when people genuinely do start to feel better. From older stuff, “tell me it’s okay” is always wonderful because that’s another big breakthrough moment when everybody sings together. At the broken heart club meeting at the end of the Nashville show, one member told me that they felt as though they have never been to a show where they felt like they were friends with the person who was performing before mine. It meant the world to me because that was the vibe we wanted to create with the show: no separation and no walls up.
Veronica Rinomato: How do you balance touring with your personal life?
gnash: It’s definitely not the easiest thing in the world. Not having a routine or structure for someone like me, who is always seeking stability, is really difficult in terms of growing in my own mental health. I look forward to getting home, getting stable and chilling out. While I’m traveling I meditate every day as much as I possibly can, I drink a lot of water and I really just look forward to the experience of the broken hearts club meeting after the show every night. I always meet a lot of people who care, and I think it’s impossible to give 100 hugs and not feel better. No matter how I’ve felt all day, I’m still going to talk about how I’m feeling, empower my fans and tell a bunch of people I love them. I think that is what’s been keeping me going the most.
HOLR MUSIC QUESTIONS
Hot Hit: “Ruin My Life” by Zara Larson
On Repeat: “Nothing Better” by the Postal Service
Left of Field Song: “Free My Mind” by Triangle Park
Remember That Song?: “All You Need is Love” by The Beatles
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