One to watch: Another Man meets the American singer and songwriter, on the brink of his debut album Where Polly People Go To Read
- TextLouis Staples
Gus Dapperton is just 22 years old. You have to remind yourself of this when you meet him, because he speaks with a wisdom that is beyond his years.
When we talk, the American singer and songwriter is touring the UK ahead of the release of his first album. This might seem like a daunting prospect, particularly given his age, but Dapperton insists this isn’t the case. “I’ve been making music for ten years,” he says. “Only in the last year have people been listening to it, so for me it was like: finally. It’s been a long time coming.”
Dapperton’s first taste of success came via online fame when the videos for two of his songs – I’m Just Snacking and Prune, You Talk Funny – went viral on YouTube. Since then, with millions following him, watching his videos and listening to his songs, Dapperton has been on the road. His debut album, Where Polly People Go To Read is a diary of the last year of his life as he has simultaneously navigated the world (quite literally, through his travels) and romantic relationships.
Dapperton writes songs for his own mental wellbeing. “If I couldn’t make music I think I’d spontaneously combust because I have so many emotions inside me,” he says. “There’s nothing I’m really trying to achieve except for making music to help myself, and sharing that with listeners.” His music thrives on contradictions: Where Polly People Go To Read combines a TR-626 drum machine, old-school 12-bit samples, electric piano and acoustic guitar alongside warm synths.
As an American, travelling the world at a time when his country’s national identity is in such a state of flux has been liberating, and creatively stimulating. “It’s really stressful to see other people being oppressed. It just hurts everyone around you,” he says. “But it’s not hard to be creative in that time because it also sparks a revolution. Art sparks from revolting against the powers that have been set in stone. It’s a stressful time though, it’s really shit right now.”
Having grown up in a rural town in New York state, which he describes as “discouraging of art and expression”, resisting norms through creativity comes naturally to him. “It inspired me to look beyond the realm of an isolated town and look at things on a worldly level,” he says. New York City, the place he now calls home, is where he makes most of his music. There, he tries to keep a low profile. “I just make everything myself from my bedroom and try to stay out of the industry as much as possible,” he says.
But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t take his newfound position of influence seriously. “As an artist I have a big responsibility to make new and innovative things that haven’t been made before or heard before,” he says. “I understand recycling things, but when it comes down to it, I don’t see any point to making art unless it’s something new”.
Another thing which is distinctive about Dapperton is his aesthetic – from his music videos to his trademark bowl cut, clothes and accessories, his image is an important part of his creative expression. “Everything that I choose to express is a part of my art,” he says. “I wouldn’t consider them an extension, I’d consider the visuals and fashion an art on their own. I like to appear a certain way and wear what I like to wear. I put 100% into every aspect of art that I indulge in. They are all special outlets for me and can stand alone with importance.”
In the future, Dapperton hopes to change the world by creating something new. “When fans or listeners look up to someone they maybe try to imitate them or learn from them,” he says. “I hope when they’re imitating me, all they are imitating is being themselves and expressing themselves to the fullest. Those are my dreams: to connect with people and keep making music for as long as I can.”
Gus Dapperton’s debut album Where Polly People Go To Read is out on April 19.