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INTERVIEW: Cameron Blake

How would you classify your sound?

Chamber folk/pop.

Who are your all-time or current top 5 musical influences?

I’ve been influenced strongly by different artists for each recording project but Leonard Cohen, Nina Simonand late Billie Holiday have all remained constant. During the writing ofFear Not, I was listening to a lot of Louis Armstrong and studying the songs of some of the old writers like Johnny Mercer and Henry Mancini. I also found myself on a Nick Cave binge.

What do you want fans to take from your music?

I’d hope that they would find beauty in the lyrics of the songs. Some of the songs are historical, some are social commentary and some are narrative but they are all very human. I am most passionate about engaging with theparts of us that are fragile and vulnerable. Giving voice to the stuff we don’t want to talk about in a song can be very powerful.

How’s the music scene in Ann Arbor? That’s quite the college town, isn’t it?

I live in Grand Rapids. I can’t really put my finger on the music scene.A bit “feel good” perhaps? I got my start in Baltimore, which was musically very gritty yet quirky. And very real just like the town. In Grand Rapids my music works best in outlier venues- house shows, old churches andeven some dive bars.

What is the best concert you have been to? What do you like most about playing out?

It’s a tie between Leonard Cohen and Nick Cave and I saw them both in Detroit.

I love listening audiences where I can explain the stories behind the songs. The more intimate the environment the better to open things up.

Is there a song on Fear Not that stands out as your personal favorite?

At the moment, I would say Sandtown. It’s about the death of Freddy Gray that kicked off the Baltimore riots in 2015. I tried to write the song as if I were an eyewitness. There’s no finger pointing on either side, just a simple account of what one might perceive if they were looking out the window at this complex and brutal scene. Like a child- “I saw this, I saw this, I saw this…”

What do you draw inspiration from? You cover so many varying topics, everything from Philip Seymour Hoffman to Tiananmen Square.

It could be a news story or a documentary or even something a friend is going through that could start a song. Of course, I draw from my own experiences.  I also love to read so I’ve found literature creeping its way in. In general, I tend to gravitate toward themes of poverty, war, injustice and bigger concepts such as love and fear.

Alone On The World Stage was such a sparse record. Did you go into the writing of Fear Not knowing that you wanted to make a more lush recording?

Once I started writing the songs, it became very clear that they demanded a richer sound. They were big, rhythmic and more complex. From then on, I had to start forming a team that could help me execute the vision. I worked with two arrangers, two producers and hired 50 musicians. I also wore the producer hat a lot to make sure that all of the pieces were acting in a supporting role and there wasn’t any extraneous playing that would distract from the lyrics.

What’s next for Cameron Bake? Touring?

I would like to simply continue writing and putting out records. It would be fantastic if someone wanted to cover and record one of my songs. That would be an honor. I love performing, especially if the environment is right but I really love the craft of songwriting and working in the studio.

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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