The COVID-19 pandemic has left plenty of artists struggling to find new ways to deliver their music to fans. For multi-hyphenate Sean Augustine, known better to his fans as Glass Battles, self-quarantine provided yet another opportunity for innovative thinking.
His newest video for “All Hearts” is a product of the star’s out-of-the-box creativity. Stuck in his home and sick with COVID-19, Augustine taught himself how to use 3D animation technology (thanks to “a million tutorials” online, he says) to create an otherworldly “space odyssey,” where the singer portrays himself as a space explorer making a journey toward self discovery on an alien planet.
Augustine tells Billboard that the experience, which included purchasing a green screen and shooting the entire video on his iPhone 8, helped him find some creative solace during a difficult time. “It felt relevant and I was able to make it something fun and exciting and a great escape,” he tells Billboard of his new video. “And I had an excuse to order an astronaut costume.”
Below, Glass Battles answers 20 of Billboard’s burning questions, including his thoughts on traveling to space, tips on relieving anxiety, his go-to-karaoke song, and the inspiration behind his “All Hearts” music video:
1. What’s the first piece of music that you bought for yourself, and what was the medium?
It was actually three on the same day. Bush’s Sixteen Stone, Garbage’s debut album — because I kept stealing my sister’s — and Aqua’s Aquarium. All on cassette. Kinda all makes sense with my sound now.
2. What was the first concert you saw?
My parents brought to me to U2 when I was very young. I was raised on those Irish rockers so it was the first time I fell in love with live performance.
3. What made you realize you could be an artist full-time?
I think I made myself realize that to be honest. Just from a technical perspective, I’ve had to teach myself everything, from music production and now visual things. I just had to make the leap and quit my day job that was sucking my soul out. It became an “if not now, then when the hell am I doing this?” type of thing.
4. What’s at the top of your professional bucket list?
5. How did you come up with the concept for your “All Hearts” video?
Like so many people, I was dealing with a lot of feelings of isolation, anxiety and just detachment from reality when the quarantine started. I also had COVID, so I just felt sort of out-to-sea about everything. So I channeled that into what it would be feel like to live on Mars, and if your only friend was a hologram.
6. What was the process like learning how to shoot and animate your own music videos in quarantine?
Whew, it was such an adventure. I ordered a green screen and a couple cheap lights, and threw myself into a million tutorials. I will never not be thankful for having this outlet, it has honestly saved me from going out of my mind. And creating these worlds and characters has given me so much to nerd out with. There’s so much coming now.
7. What do you do in your daily routine to combat anxiety?
I scream into a pillow at full volume and then eat a jar of peanut butter. Just kidding — a lot of it is being mindful of my body by stretching when I get up and go to bed, meditating, using my acupressure mat (game-changer) and going over the things I’m grateful for. And kissing my puppy.
8. Your new music video is a self-described “space odyssey.” Would you ever want to travel to space?
Hell yes I would. I would love to experience other life forms and even seeing what the environments were like. How they look, the smell of the atmosphere, the different feelings of gravity on different planets. It seems so expansive and magical. The flight would not be my favorite, though.
9. What do you miss most about the pre-COVID world?
I miss the casual things, like going out to dinner with friends or grabbing a drink and catching up. Or even spending time with a friend without having these worries. Regardless of the progress, it’s going to be hard for me to readjust, it feels like so much has been taken from everyone over night. And I miss playing shows desperately.
10. You are a singer/songwriter/producer/engineer — which is your favorite to do?
Probably production because you get to build the sounds and this sonic landscape for your music which can be the most important part I feel as an artist. But, it’s also like trying to choose between children, I love them all the most. Except for mixing, that will always be at the bottom. So tedious. God bless the patience on engineers that do it day in and day out.
11. How did your hometown/city shape who you are?
I am lucky to come from the fairly open-minded city of Pittsfield, MA so I have the balance of being able to be myself with relatively little judgment and the no bullshit attitude of the east coast. I tend to tell like it is and be very direct, for lack of a better description of my personality.
12. What’s the last song you listened to?
“Fatal Gift” by Emily Haines & The Soft Skeleton. The build on that song is everything, and her voice is like a razor blade.
13. If you could see any artist in concert, dead or alive, who would it be?
It’s probably a toss-up between David Bowie and Prince. I’m sad I never got to see them live. I’ve been lucky enough to see my other idols (Garbage, Dragonette, Robyn, Metric, Nine Inch Nails, Muse, Kylie, Goldfrapp) live though.
14. What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen happen in the crowd of one of your sets?
I once saw a guy snort cocaine off of his girlfriend’s breasts performing at SXSW. That’s an image that will stick with you forever. Or the faces of the audience when I was electrocuted playing a show in Cottonwood, Arizona. That’s an image that will stick with them forever.
15. What’s your karaoke go-to?
16. What movie, or song, always makes you cry?
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind always makes me cry, even just thinking about certain scenes. It’s so cerebral, and sentimental and surreal. The song is probably “Telephone Line” by Electric Light Orchestra. It’s like a heartbreaking alien transmission.
17. What causes or charities are important to you right now?
There’s probably two that are the closest to my heart at the moment; The Loveland Foundation, because they are committed to outreach to communities of color with a focus on black women and girls. Now, more than ever that focus is so direly needed. The other is Art With Impact, a global mental health coalition that provides creative resources and outlets for those living with anxiety and depression. I’ve actually began a partnership with them where I am going to be putting together tutorials for those who are looking to create their own animations and visuals through green screen application. It was such an incredible outlet for me, and I want to pass that on through a network I really respect and admire.
18. What’s one thing that even your most devoted fans don’t know about you?
I practice transcendental meditation and have astral projected. I’ve also shot car commercials in Japan.
19. If you were not a musician, what would you be?
I’d probably be a lumberjack in the woods drinking bourbon in my cabin every night. One day…
20. What’s one piece of advice you would give to your younger self?
Stop waiting for other people’s permission or to pass fake benchmarks to move forward in your career. That’s all an illusion. You have all the tools at your disposal, and you don’t need anyone’s approval. And that anyone who makes you feel shame of who you are or how you do things is just projecting their own insecurities. So take a deep breath, listen to Version 2.0 for the millionth time and then get to work.