Dreamer Boy chats about loving oneself, and the optimism of ‘cowboy pop’

Dreamer Boy returns with All The Ways We Are Together, a cultural hotpot of psychedelic spaghetti-western that manages to exist in a universe of its own.

Unearthed from miasmic atmospheres and emotive riffs, Dreamer Boy’s latest studio LP, All The Ways We Are Together, is a country-pop vision that is incontrovertibly his – and has as much substance, as it does style.

Centring upon the relationships in his life, Dreamer Boy sat down with Happy to chat about expanding the Dreamer Boy-palette, loving the world around us, and most importantly, loving oneself.

Dreamer Boy
Image: Adam Alonzo

HAPPY: How’s your week been?

DREAMER BOY: I’m just relaxing after a pretty hectic week last week after putting out the album. How about you, though? How’s everything in your world?

HAPPY: Today’s been good! I definitely need another coffee actually, but yeah, it’s been good! So, I just wanted to say I may have already cried to All The Ways We Are Together. I guess, what kind of vibe were you trying to go for while you made it?

DREAMER BOY: That’s so sweet! Thank you so much! I guess in terms of the music and the subject matter that made it onto the album, it’s sort of just highlights a bunch of different sides of relationships, and a bunch of different ways relationships look. And, you know, that can be anything from like, our relationship, to strangers or people we just met, how we interact with the world. It could be our closest friends, those relationships, it could be our relationship to ourself – you know that one’s always a tough one – and then like, our relationship to our environment – that could be nature, but it could also just be the space we occupy. The communities that we’re in, ya know.

I definitely wrote it from a place where I felt like I was experiencing true love, true friendship for the first time, like I was loved and known by my friends. It just felt like I finally had relationships that felt that way, so I sort of just wanted to like, highlight all the different ways that I was experiencing the world at that time. Yeah, I hope that the album puts people in an optimistic space, but at the same time is still honest and goes through several different emotions.

HAPPY: Yeah. Well, it feels introspective. I think it’s interesting how you touch upon relationships and this discovery of true relationships in your life – what was it like before?

DREAMER BOY: It’s not to say that before things were terrible, it was like, things lined up at the same time where my personal growth and my acceptance of myself and actually being true to myself, lined up with me meeting the right people who brought that out of me, ya know what I’m saying? It wasn’t to say that before I was ‘going through it’, but as soon as those things clicked, something opened up within me. I felt like I could love people better, I felt like I could love myself better, and I think I, in part, made the album so other people could come on that journey with me. Like, I think that my biggest encouragement to anybody who’s like going through a time, thinking ‘they might not have those kinds of relationships’ ­–one, you have to be patient and you have to be open, but also it’s a lot of work you’ve gotta do on yourself too. To be open, to be loving. To love yourself is to love others too. It’s tough man, it’s tough.

HAPPY: Yeah.

DREAMER BOY: Oh yeah! Also like, what’re your pronouns by the way? I don’t wanna just assume!

HAPPY: Oh thank you! I’m he/him. What about you?

DREAMER BOY: I’m he/him.

HAPPY: Thank you! I’ve heard other people call your music ‘Gay Western’ – that fusion of 60’s neo-psychedelia with spaghetti-western. I guess, how long has it taken you to cultivate that, cause’ there’s definitely been an evolution throughout your work?

DREAMER BOY: Yeah! I love that! A couple of years ago, when I started touring, I found this part of me. I call it ‘cowboy pop’, and like, it’s funny cause I’m from Nashville, so it’s all around here – it’s in the DNA of this place, you know? And, I just thought it’d be cool to play off that instead of run away from it, and to be honest, some of my favourite music, like old music, has definitely been through here. Some people would label it as ‘country’, or some people would hear it and think it kinda sounds like country, but I think like those old souls – George Harrison, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor – I’m in love with that music so much, and so I think it was my mission to embrace Nashville, and just keep making pop music, but with stuff influenced by being here.

HAPPY: It’s so weird that you can have an entire city with such heavy ties into country – how did you end up there?

DREAMER BOY: I moved around a little bit, but I grew up in Texas, which is another sort of Western place, ya know, and I grew up in Alabama, as well as in Washington State. But yeah, all these different places definitely influenced, I think, who I am – definitely that Texas is in me for sure, Nashville’s in me, Washington, everything! So, it’s just beautiful to rediscover those parts of yourself and put them into your art!

HAPPY: Oath. I was wondering about Lightspeed from All The Ways We Are Together. Can you shed some light on that song just cause’ it slaps so hard?

DREAMER BOY: Yeah! That song I cannot wait to play live, because it just has that energy! Lightspeed is a song that I wrote about the idea of me being on the first tour I was ever on – and it just feeling like, overwhelming but exciting. But, I also wrote it about the time, and day and age that we’re in where it kinda just feels like we’re just moving so fuckin’ fast – I don’t know, it’s just like wanting to hold on to anything, feeling grounded. So, even just the name Lightspeed, even with like, our social media and everything, it just feels like a blur, ya know? I think that’s just me crying out to slow things down – but also like, things are exciting, things are moving, I’m on tour. Whatever it was that inspired that energy, it’s got its positive side, and its negative side.

HAPPY: Sounds existential! What’s something coming up in the future that makes you feel the same way?

DREAMER BOY: I love your questions, these are such good questions!

HAPPY: Aww thank you!

DREAMER BOY: Honestly, something kinda simple, but it’s a beautiful thing. Tomorrow I’m gonna be co-directing and helping work on this music video for one of my favourite bands. It’s just crazy to think that like three years ago… it’s just definitely one of the things where I’m like, ‘this is so wild’. So yeah, tomorrow and the next day we’re working on that video, which is just really sick.

HAPPY: I’m guessing you can’t name-drop, but can we get a hint?

DREAMER BOY: Oh yeah! I can totally name drop! They’re an indie band from Texas. They’re called ‘Howdy’ spelled ‘Hovvdy’ – if you like songs on All The Ways We Are Together, like Don’t Be A Fool or Sweatshirt, they definitely have the same vibe. They’re just warm, acoustic, and they’re one of my favourite bands, ever. So like, I got connected with them, and we’re just working on music, and then they wanted to work on a video with me and my friend, so me and him are directing it – it’s just like, one of those things where I’m just so thrilled to be working with some artists that I really look up to!

HAPPY: Have you directed before?

DREAMER BOY: Yeah! I’ve directed all of the Dreamer Boy videos, but this will be my first time directing for another artist or band, and so, that’s why it’s exciting too. It’s doing something for someone else, and I like the change of pace. I love creativity, I love directing and I love working on videos, but it’s just gonna be cool to do it for someone else, ya know, and bring out our vision for this artist, for this song that I connect so much with. It’s similar to working on my own stuff, I care about it!

HAPPY: Yeah! I guess, are you always thinking of visual aspects when you’re creating your music?

DREAMER BOY: It’s definitely always on my mind! Like, I feel like as soon as I get started, once I know the album title and we start working on songs, It’s all there, and it’s all like wrapped up into one world. It’s funny, cause I’m already working on the next one. It already has a complete identity, I know exactly the way it should look and what it should feel like, the references, and its concept and like, I feel like that’s just me being in love with making albums – I just love making albums. You get to create this whole big body of work, and it can be like a statement. I would say All The Ways We Are Together is a bigger, more foundational statement for Dreamer Boy, but I’m excited for even the next one, because it’ll be more specific. It’s not as all-encompassing, but All The Ways We Are Together was an important one to make for going forward, and everything I wanna do.

HAPPY: Fuck. I love how you talk about Dreamer Boy as almost like, a separate part of your own identity. You talk about how your music expands the Dreamer Boy universe. Do you feel Dreamer Boy is a separate identity? Or do you feel synergised with Dreamer Boy?

DREAMER BOY: Oh, I think yes and no – it’s a bit of both! It’s only a positive thing that I can step into a Dreamer Boy project, and almost accentuate parts of myself that are true to myself, but I also feel like I have a character to do that with. It’s not that I’m playing a character, but having it be not just my name, lets me step out in a bold way. There is definitely synergy there, because everything I make with Dreamer Boy is deeply connected to Zach, ya know? So, it’s a funny relationship to have with your creativity, but to me, it’s all one.

HAPPY: You’ve touched upon how touring impacted All The Ways We Are Together, do you enjoy touring?

DREAMER BOY: Literally my favourite thing in the world! I swear like, after the pandemic is better, I’m tryna just be like a road warrior! I just wanna be like, playing as many shows as I can! I grew up playing sports, and there’s something about touring that makes me feel like I tap back into that… not competitive nature – it’s more like, I’m performing every night and taking care of my body, and living life. There’s so much inspiration on the road, and there’s so much energy and unique people. I mean, even just talking to you right now is amazing. I love just meeting new people, just new dope people all the time – there’s so many reasons I love touri– I mean the shows! The shows are so crazy!

HAPPY: What’s been like the best, and most embarrassing moment during touring?

DREAMER BOY: Worst? This isn’t ‘TMI’, but like, I got this ear infection, and it turned into me getting vertigo – where you’re just like dizzy, and you can’t even move your head without the room spinning. So, I’m in Europe, touring with Clairo, and I’m just sitting in my bunk like, on the tour bus, and I just have to sit with my head still – if I even move slightly, I just start spinning, and I’d get so sick. That went on for like four or five days, and we had to cancel my sets for all of those days, and I’m in Europe, and I’m there and it just sucks!

HAPPY: Awww, I’m sorry, that actually does suck!

DREAMER BOY: Nah, it’s ok! But best moment? OH MY GOD! This show in Dallas, Texas –  I swear Texas is just different when it comes to the energy in the crowd. This one show in Dallas, and then another show that was in San Antonio, Texas in general, just like the hypest mosh pits at any of my shows ever! It was just so fun, and like, I can’t wait to get back into Texas and just go crazier with the new songs!

HAPPY: That’s fucking awesome! One last question before we have to go, do you have any upcoming projects for 2021, anything you can spill the beans to us about?

DREAMER BOY: Definitely some new music and a new album that I’ve been working on since the beginning of the pandemic. So, I definitely just want to get that out. Everything that happened with the pandemic has made me really patient, so I really wanted this one to be more real-time. I also want to work on, like, a short film this summer that’s kinda like parallel with the next album, but that’ll be for something for fun, ya know. And hopefully, I can get back on tour, enjoy the summer and just be with friends!

HAPPY: And not get vertigo?

DREAMER BOY: Hell no! Never again!

HAPPY: Any final comments?

DREAMER BOY: Well, I’m doing this thing called ‘Stream for Trees’ where basically you go to my website, login to your Spotify, and then every ten streams on the album plants a tree. It’s just a cute, easy way to do something special – and so we’re making a lil Dreamer Boy forest!

HAPPY: Keen to see where this Dreamer Boy forest goes!

DREAMER BOY: (laughs) thank you so much! Your questions were amazing, and you’re a really sweet person so, I hope everything from here on out goes amazing for you, cause you deserve it!

HAPPY: AHH, thank you so much, oh my god – and right back at you!

DREAMER BOY: Have a good day!