LA-based singer/songwriter Elijah Blake isn’t interested in congestion. “I’m a Southern boy, so I like to be able to get where I’m going without having to wait in a line of traffic to go to the grocery store or the gym,” he says. While he’s talking about living in Studio City, LA to avoid downtown’s traffic, the idea applies to his music career just as aptly.
When asked to hop on a plane to New York in the middle of the night for a writing session with Usher, the young artist did just that. The result was the #1 hit single, “Climax.” Blake also penned “No Love Allowed,” from Rihanna’s latest album Unapologetic, and has spent time in the studio with the likes of Alicia Keys, Rick Ross and Mary J Blige. Now the young talent is planning to release his debut solo album Songs About Melody via Def Jam this summer. The album features collaborations with artists like J Cole, Big Sean and Common.
We sat down with the young singer at Pepsi Pulse’s Summer Friday last week in Brooklyn, NY to find out about his background in choreography, his dreams of having an all-female band behind him and his plan to become a family man sooner rather than later. Get to know him below.
You’re about to drop your debut album, what’s on your mind right now?
I spent so much time getting the music right, now that the album’s done I can fully devote myself to my live shows. Before I started songwriting I used to teach hip-hop choreography. After being in the studio so much I need put in some work on the dancefloor.
Time to get back in the game?
I wouldn’t say I’m out of the game–I’m just not quite as in the game as I want to be. When I grew up I used to do talent shows and dance battles. After being locked in a studio for the last three years I can’t help but wonder, ‘Is the dancing still the same?’ I need to make sure I have the right two-step going!
What surprises do you have up your sleeve in the coming year?
I want an all-female band. I’d really like to be the first to do that. I think my music already empowers men, it shows that we feel and we think about certain things that women might not necessarily know that we do. I also want to empower women. I want to send the message that guys see women as being musically talented and have them rocking out on the bass, drums, and guitar on stage with me.
Do you have a lot of women in your life?
I grew up in an all female household. It wasn’t until right before high school that I moved in with my uncles. I’m very sensitive to women’s emotions because my mom and my sisters are my world. I have three sisters and I love them to the three hundredth power. As much as I love them now, it lets me know that when I do have a child, that’s a fraction of what that undying love will feel like. I want to have a family when I’m young, and it’s crazy to think about that stuff at age 22-23, but it’s important to me.
Does that have something to do with the fact that you’re forced to tap into your emotions more than people who aren’t in your same profession?
Yes, I feel like I work hard to prepare for the future. I want to be secure enough to be a young dad and enjoy my life with my son, on the football field, picking them up from school. I want people to see me with my kids and say, ‘Your dad’s fine!’
What is the difference between the roles you play as a writer on the one hand and as a performer on the other?
When you’re writing you want to tell your story the right way. You have to make sure that people are receiving it the way you want it to be translated. When you’re a performer, people have already interpreted the message of your songs, so your actions and energy convey it a whole different way.
What’s next for R&B?
There’s a whole new energy in R&B. Do you feel it? I feel it. I’m a very big fan of Prince, Bono, Sting, Phil Collins. When I first dropped my EP everybody immediately called me a Frank Ocean/Weeknd/Miguel hybrid. It threw me off because, even though I respect those artists, I was really trying to capture the spirit of Prince. No I.D. made a good point to me saying that there’s traditional R&B and there’s a new fusion R&B. If you’re not traditional, you’re new. And you classify Miguel and those artists as new R&B, so those comparisons are a way for people to understand what you’re doing. Any new artist works so hard to make sure to deliver the right message, you just want to make sure people are hearing that. No I.D. really helped me understand that those comparisons are okay.
What makes you stand out from other “new R&B” artists out right now?
Honesty. My music is transparent, thought out, and simple at the same time. Its all about feeling. I’m big into poetry and using metaphors. I never want to be so poetic that my music goes over people’s heads.
Watch Elijah Blake’s video for “X.O.X. ft. Common on Vevo and stay tuned for more details about his upcoming album.