Some know him as the Tony award-winning star of the Broadway musical, “Dear Evan Hansen.” Others as the star of Ryan Murphy’s Netflix series, “The Politician.” And others, still, as “the main dude’s friend” from “Pitch Perfect.” But now, it seems that Broadway and Hollywood’s darling son has moved on: first with the release of his debut solo album, “Sing to Me Instead,” in January 2019, and then with “Reverie” in August 2021. And next week, Ben Platt, joined by indie-pop duo Aly & AJ, embarks on his “Reverie Tour” across North America. The Harvard Crimson sat down with Platt to discuss his upcoming tour and the evolution of his artistic voice.
The Harvard Crimson: Alright, well, let’s get started with the tour. First of all, it’s a cross-country tour, from Madison Square Garden to the Hollywood Bowl — how are you feeling about it?
Ben Platt: I’m feeling excited. I mean, it’s been so long, so there's a lot of nerves built up — especially because I've spent most of my life performing, since I was very, very young — and this is kind of the longest stretch that I've gone away from it. So I feel very eager to get back into that comfort zone of mine…. And we’re playing at the [Hollywood] Bowl, and, you know, my first job that I ever had as a kid was in a musical in the Bowl when I was eight years old, so to close that loop is kind of a special milestone.
THC: You obviously have a musical theater background, and you can definitely hear it in a lot of the work that you do. I’m wondering how you see theater having influenced your music as you shifted more toward pop.
BP: Totally. I mean, I think storytelling is in both kinds of music. The fact that I came up in musical theater [means] I have no aversion to the narrative and emotional storytelling that that kind of music affords. I think that the best kept secret is that all pop music has a lot of that.… And, of course, the main thing that I’m afforded by doing my own music is getting to speak from my own perspective and share myself without the kind of artifice of a character and that layer of separation. So, I do love the opportunity to get to do both things, but I do think that they're a lot more closely intertwined than maybe people think.
THC: Shifting a little bit to your music, “Sing to Me Instead” was a very intimate album, filled with a sort of tension and heartbreak in a sort of indie style. I’m wondering how you see your music as having evolved in “Reverie.”
BP: I was just very much responding to where I was at as a person when I wrote each of these. I think the first album was coming fresh off of spending such a long time performing in the theater, and I think is a lot more closely related stylistically, in the sense that I'm very comfortable with, as you said, a more intimate, kind of acoustic feeling, when it came to the storytelling and the sonics of it. When I wrote the second album, I was living at home with my parents in the early pandemic, and was in need of, I think, a lot more of a stylistic escape, if you will. And I was listening to a lot of music that I listened to with my parents as a kid — a lot of Phil Collins and Peter Gabriel and James Taylor, and just feeling very inspired by a lot of that sound and the kind of dreaminess and escapism.
THC: You mention how you went back to your childhood home to write this album. I think, for a lot of queer kids, this is a weird place because now, as an adult, you’re out, and you’re returning to a childhood home where perhaps you weren’t or maybe you’re still trying to figure things out. Did it feel weird going back to that childhood space? What was going through your head, and did any of that make it into the album?
BP: Absolutely. I think that I felt very caught between these reminders of the past and who I was as a kid and the nostalgia of that. And then, you know, feeling like many people did during the pandemic, the most mature that I’d ever felt. And I was in a new relationship with Noah, who is now my partner. I felt so deeply different than who that person was, and then at the same time getting back in touch with them. I think the kind of push and pull, of being in the middle of those two things, is thematically a lot of where that album comes from.
THC: A lot of our readers are college students, many of whom are artists who are trying to figure things out for themselves. Any advice for people who want to get into music, or pursue their art?
BP: That's a tough one. I think that the first piece of advice I would give is the one my parents always have given to me, which is: If there's anything else you can imagine doing, or that could bring you fulfillment, and that you could get passionate about — then maybe do that. But also, to try to keep hold of what it is about it that you love and that makes you happy. Because by virtue of the way that the business is right now, there’s a lot of other elements that are very time consuming, and are necessary to kind of build yourself out as an artist. But I think it's important that, even in the midst of all that, that kind of noise on the outside, just to keep your eye on what it is that you love, and the reason that you're doing it.
Platt’s tour kicked off on Sept. 3 at the Wamu Theater in Seattle. He will be performing at the Agganis Arena in Boston on Sept. 29.