Aspiring to bigger and better things has seen Blake hone his talent before audiences around the world as a percussive guitarist. Along the way he has produced an album of original instumentals … hear him live at FOTSUN.
You grew up around Port Macquarie. What was life like; what kept you busy?
Life was pretty ideal. We didn’t have the internet, or Facebook, or xBox, or iPhones. We ran around outside, went surfing, climbed trees, and jammed in my garage, recording on a tape cassette recorder.
Music has been a part of your life for a long time now. What made it become a career?
Mostly I was just sick of doing menial jobs, giving up my life to make someone else rich. It always seemed ridiculous to me that it’s just part of life to go and do a job that you hate every day, and to spend more time doing that with a bunch of strangers than you do with your own family and friends. People say, “Well, that’s life”, but I’m sorry … I just can’t accept that.
Where have you and your guitar travelled to, and what did you find out along the way about your music?
Well, the guitar and I have had many adventures around the world. It’s difficult (and expensive), to travel with a 12-string guitar in a huge hard case. We played on the streets of New York and Boston, Brighton, Edinburgh, Rome, New Zealand, and currently up and down the East Coast of Australia. At the end of the year, we move to Seattle.
What I discovered about my music during those travels is that you really can bond with an instrument when it’s just you and ‘it’ on the road. I learned that instruments are tools that need to be played, not hung on the wall.
You have been gigging around Port Macquarie lately. Where can we find you regularly?
I’ve been going to the open mic at The Pier. It’s run by a young up and coming muso named James Bennett, and it’s the perfect place for young musicians in Port to get on stage and try out new material. We didn’t have this when I was younger, so it’s been great being a part of it now. It’s the perfect place to hang out with local musicians, get experience, and witness some of Port’s best talent. Currently I am based in Byron Bay, and will be back in Port for FOTSUN.
You are scheduled to perform at FOTSUN in December in front of a huge home crowd – is this the first time at FOTSUN?
Yes, I’ve never even been to the festival, because I’m always overseas when it’s on. I am honoured to be asked to play at FOTSUN. Already it has helped me gain exposure. It’s great to see festivals supporting local original musicians who are mostly unknown. When you’re in my position and you go from busking on the cold streets of Wellington, NZ, to playing at a well-known festival with Art vs Science, Ladyhawk and Dan Sultan, you naturally get pretty excited.
Who has inspired you along the way to get you where you are today?
Tommy Emmanuel has always been an inspiration. Not just the way that he plays, but also the advice he gives in interviews to other guitarists. Also Erik Mongrain – a fantastic guitarist and composer. Both these guitarists inspired me to not only break the boundaries of acoustic guitar playing, but to be confident as an instrumentalist. It is difficult enough to get a break in the music industry, but especially as a solo instrumentalist.
Tell us about your album.
It’s an 11-track album of my original instrumentals. I am a percussive guitarist, which is difficult to glean from listening to the CD. It sounds like there is a bongo player and sometimes a slap bass player, but that’s all me on one guitar. My album is called Music for the End of the World. The reason for this is because a lot of people were talking about 2012, the Mayans, the end of the world, and one day I just thought, “None of you actually have any clue, or proof to back up your argument”. So the name is kind of a joke … in a respectful way.
What are your plans for the next 12 months?
I’m playing at The Wingham Akoostik Festival October 15/16, which involves a free percussive guitar workshop. Really excited about that!
I have also been working on a few albums with some other artists, which has been a great experience. FOTSUN in December of course, which will be the highlight of my year, and the end of my unofficial tour. Straight after that my partner and I are moving permanently to Seattle, where I plan to continue pursuing music as a career and hopefully working to get more Aussie musicians to the U.S. and vice versa.