Q&A with Elijah Blake

We talked to Elijah Blake about growing up and found out the artists on his "collaboration bucket list," his influences, and his favorite things in our Q&A.

--Adam Downer

GGM: Do you consider “I Just Wanna” a transition into a new style or a continuation of the work you started on Drift?

EB: I feel like it’s actually a bridge of what I started with my first EP to an expansion of who I am as a person. When people meet me in person they expect me to be super deep, super serious, because of where I was when I wrote the songs on my first EP. Now, I’m a big kid. I like to laugh, crack jokes, and I always have. I wanted to get that side of me out.

GGM: So will your new album be mostly that upbeat style or a mix of the deeper songs on Drift with this new side?

EB: Definitely a mix. That’s what life is! Life isn’t always down or up. It’s a tug of war between the two extremes. On the album, I did my best to capture that. There were days I felt jubilant, like the world was at my feet, and there were other days I was down and the world was on my shoulders. There’s more of the happy upside, which means there’s more of my personality in it. My last EP was “fuck everybody,” “I’m mad at the world.” With this one, it’s not so bad. I incorporate some of why it was so bad, and why it’s not anymore, in order to tell my story.

The album’s also about a lot of firsts, like first love, first heartbreak, betrayal. The album’s built around my experience with my high school sweetheart. I experienced all those firsts with her. That first true love—you always think you’re in love when you’re thirteen and you have your first girl (laughs). I think when you really fall in love, you’re like “oh, I’m not sure if I like this,” and that’s why I called the album Shadows and Diamonds. Even though I want to incorporate more happiness and jubilance, I had to pull light from the darkest areas of my life. Even in darkest shadows, you can see a little bit of life, or diamonds, to pull out. I think that’s basically what the album is.

GGM: What do you consider the biggest difference between the songs you give to people like Rihanna and Britney Spears and the ones you write yourself?

EB: When I wrote for Rihanna, the song I gave her was always what I hoped I would give her. I’m from the islands; she’s from the islands. I was determined to give her a reggae-type of vibe. I looked at what she was going through with Chris Brown at the time. She really loved him, and genuinely believed he did her. Whether or not that’s still true is on them. I found that captivating. So when I was thinking about what to write for her, I looked online, and it was the day everyone thought Rihanna hated Chris and then showed up to court with him. Everyone was shocked, but I wasn’t, because I knew she still really loved him. The song I wrote ended up being about love being so strong you either can’t love at all or the love never dies. That was my interpretation, anyway.

I use other people’s situations and use my gift to illustrate their story better, but for my music, it’s personal. Every song on Drift is something I went through or helped someone through. That’s how I differentiate what I do for myself.

GGM: Which artist would you most love to collaborate with?

EB: There’re two that come to mind: Beyoncé and Prince. Prince for me, I love of his songs. No artist has influenced me as much as Prince has. And Beyoncé, she’s a machine. She has the discipline that’s exciting to me. When Michael died, I said “I need to work harder, because I don’t want any more of my heroes dying before I can work with them.”

GGM: Would you say they’ve released your favorite albums of all time? Can you tell me what you consider your favorite?

EB: Purple Rain is it for sure. I don’t think any album comes close to it. That album’s such a huge influence to me. Whenever people compare me to Prince, it’s a huge compliment to me. If I could be on this earth with one album, it’d be Purple Rain.

GGM: What’s some current music you’re jamming?

EB: I really like FKA Twigs. The video for “Two Weeks” is always on repeat for me. I like her creative style, and her visuals are amazing to me. And I think she’s gorgeous, but… (laughs)

GGM: Have you seen any good movies recently?

EB: Yeah man! Sometimes when I get so consumed with deadlines, I use movies to escape a little bit. So I see almost every movie that came out. The only one that was left from the recent crop was The Imitation Game, which isn’t something I’d normally watch. I’m more of a Marvel movies kinda guy. But to me, Imitation Game was the best movie I’d seen in years.

GGM: Favorite TV shows?

EB: I think it goes without saying. It’s Empire, right? When I watch it, I think some of it is super on-point. Like they have an insider spy writing the show. When my friends watch it, they see it and go “Oh my god, I’m so sorry you have to deal with this!” and I’m like “Okay, that part was exaggerated for TV. We don’t have people from record labels going into alleys and killing people (laughs)."

GGM: Are you reading anything? Have any favorite books?

EB: I want to get back into reading. I was obsessed with Lord of the Rings and I read every Harry Potter book front to back. I read ‘em before I watched all the movies.

GGM: Favorite restaurant you discovered?

EB: There’s this restaurant, Chef Creole in Miami. If you ever are in Miami, I highly suggest you try that. The fried pork is amazing!

GGM Something you splurged on when you started making a little money?

EB: Yes, and I still have it. It’s my Porsche. I went from being broke and not knowing how to drive. I was damn near homeless and I had a picture of a Porsche and my mom would give me “You need to go to college! This music thing is a cemetery of dreams,” but I had that picture, and when I got my first publishing deal, my accountant said “No, don’t get a Porsche!” But I said “This is the picture that kept me getting up. If, in five years, I can’t bring in enough revenue to support a Porsche payment, then I’m not working hard enough.” So I got the Porsche and I’ve been able to get the new one every two years! And it’s not even that it’s just a Porsche! It’s sporty on the outside but it’s also super safe. It was hilarious being taught how to drive in a Porsche.

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