TIME 100 Talks
May 21, 2020 3:22 PM EDT

Singer, songwriter and actor Ben Platt says that he thinks the uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus pandemic could lead to a renaissance of the arts.

During a TIME 100 Talks discussion on Thursday, Platt, who originated the title role in the critically acclaimed Broadway musical Dear Evan Hansen, told TIME executive editor Dan Macsai why he believes the future of art is bright amid everything going on throughout the world.

“I’m feeling very heartened by the fact that so many people have been continuing to produce art,” he says. “I think in times of crisis or in times of hardship, if anything, it sort of lights a fire under everybody’s butt to create more art. I think people have more that they want to say and write about and have a greater need to connect than ever.”

On May 8, Platt released “So Will I,” a new single that he co-wrote with longtime collaborator Michael Pollack entirely over Zoom while self-isolating at his childhood home in Los Angeles. The song speaks to some of the worries and fears that people who are staying home to prevent the further spread of the virus may be feeling right now.

“I definitely wanted to write something that could resonate right now but had the ability to live on because, as we all hope, this is a very temporary situation,” he says. “I think the song is a lot about when things get a little overwhelming or when there’s too much fear or you’re feeling kind of weighed down by the heaviness of the world — which I know I was feeling and I’m sure everybody is feeling right now — that there are things that are constant.”

Although Platt describes writing over Zoom as a “kind of dystopian experience,” he says that he and Pollack were able to finish the song in a matter of hours before sending it to producer Finneas to bring it to life. Platt delivered a moving performance of “So Will I” as well as “Grow As We Go,” a popular track from his March 29 debut solo album Sing to Me Instead, live from his parents’ house on Thursday.

On Sing to Me Instead, Platt, who told People in February that he’s been out as gay since he was 12 years old, sings about “a roller coaster of a relationship that is an amalgam of the ones I’ve had.” He says that he hopes his decision to be open about his sexuality can help LGBTQ+ youths who are struggling right now.

“I always try never to edit any of my stories or perspectives or songs or pronouns or any of that. I try to just be as honest and as forward as I can be with who I am and my sexuality is a part of that,” he says. “Just continue to watch the art that reflects you and listen to the artists that reflect you and watch the stories that reflect you and know that there are people like you who support you even if the people who you’re stuck with or quarantined with don’t necessarily.”

This article is part of #TIME100Talks: Finding Hope, a special series featuring leaders across different fields sharing their ideas for navigating the pandemic. Want more? Sign up for access to more virtual events, including live conversations with influential newsmakers.

Write to Megan McCluskey at megan.mccluskey@time.com.

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