Congratulations on the release of “My Love is Waiting”! Can you share what inspired you to write this track?
Blake: Oh, thanks so much. The song is a favorite of mine, and was the first I wrote for this new record coming out in May. Pain or anger are, I find, quite easy to write about––but joy is harder. It can take some defiance (certainly these days) to write a song about joy, and it’s a songwriting challenge to do so with some abandon, and authenticity. “My Love Is Waiting” is a love song in which I sing, “I’ve had to fall through broken branches, but now at last, I’m finally on my feet. My love is waiting for me.” That, I hope, says it all.
I’m sure with all the success you’ve had around the world you’ve had some amazing experiences along the way. What has been the most surreal moment in your career thus far?
Blake: It’s been quite a ride, I’ll admit. The surreal moments for me are usually when I find myself in a place of great importance, one that I’ve read about or yearned to be in (a hallowed recording studio, or a particular concert hall or stage for example), or I find myself working with people I’ve admired tremendously (an artist, a producer, a writer), and I suddenly realize I’m doing the thing I’ve dreamt about. Working at Compass Point Studios with Terry Manning (Led Zeppelin, ZZ Top, Shakira) in the Bahamas for example, or performing at my residency at Rockwood Music Hall in NYC where I’ve had collaborations with special guests like Michael Leonhart, Josh Dion, Tracy Bonham, David Poe. Those moments, and those friendships born from those moments, mean the world to me.
What would you say is your favorite place you’ve played live? And where do you hope to play next that you haven’t been yet?
Blake: Rockwood is certainly at the top of the list. It’s my home, and I hope it always will be. But there are others like The Lost Church in San Francisco (a jewel of a little theater), or 20 Front Street in Lake Orion Michigan (one of the most beautiful, and beautiful-sounding venues I’ve ever performed in). Gorgeous venues all, each with gravitas and intimacy, where you can still see the whites of the audience’s eyes. Where do I hope to play at some point? Am I allowed to say The Beacon Theater in New York? Hell with it. The Beacon Theater, there I said it.
What is your favorite memory from studying at Berklee College of Music?
Blake: I met a teacher there (on my first day of classes in fact) who helped change the course of my musical life, and what’s more, my understanding of music itself. His name was Roy Okutani and I’ll never forget him. He was one of those magical teachers, like in movies or in books, who indelibly affects students positively for the rest of our lives. He died last year from Covid-19, prior to the availability of vaccines. I’d stayed in touch with him, and I while I mourn the loss of him, I will continue to celebrate who he was, and what he gave to me.
As a fellow New Yorker, I hope to go to one of your renowned Rockwood concerts one day! If you could pick any artist to join you on stage there, who would you pick and why?
Blake: I hope you do join us at the next one! I’ve had incredible special guests during this six-year run, with more on the way. If I could pick anyone, I’d pick Chris Thile––from the band Punch Brothers––whose music has hit my music life like the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs. (I actually told him that once, and he loved it.) Oh yeah, I’d also settle for Tom Waits (swoon).
If you could go back and give younger Blake one piece of advice, what would it be?
Blake: I’d tell him it’s going to be alright. I’d tell him it’s going to take longer than he thinks, it’ll be harder than he thinks, but it’ll turn out better than he thinks. I’d tell him to keep his chin up, his eyes on the prize, and to ignore everything that distracts him from that. I’d tell him not to trade his future for anybody’s.
Interviewed By Sarah Curry