It was just before Easter weekend but, honestly, Forest Blakk had forgotten the holiday was coming up, which meant he had not prepared with traditional Jamaican ‘Bun and Cheese’. Blakk is Canadian but he lived in Jamaica at a young age and for long enough that he thought he was Jamaican. He calls the beautiful, tiny island nation his second home and, because of the global pandemic, this past year is the longest he’s gone between visits.
Sitting in his home in Los Angeles, the morning sun was bright in his window while, in Barrie, I sat with the gloomy gray of early Spring in Ontario. I was happy to have the chance to talk with the artist behind the beautiful song “If You Love Her“. The first time I heard that song was also the first time I watched the music video and it hit me hard. In my tiny recording box in my basement, between takes recording the Top 20 KOOL Countdown, I watched the video and big tears fell down my cheeks. Instead of a song from a someone who has lost his lover, the video, shot in Ireland, shows a father and daughter on her wedding day. And the last scene… oh boy.
What struck me about the man sitting across from me on screen was how serene and happy he seemed. Preparing for the interview, I was heartbroken when I read his biography. Here’s an excerpt
He was born in Montreal and his early years were spent with his mother, who had Blakk at 17 and struggled with addiction, and his stepfather, a notorious drug dealer. “They were not equipped to be parents at all,” he says. Blakk can tell you hair-raising tales of his childhood, including an assassination attempt on his father on the family’s front stoop, rooms full of cash, and moving around constantly, including time spent in Jamaica and Florida, where the family moved to evade child services when Blakk’s teachers in Canada discovered the physical abuse his father had inflicted on him. […]When Blakk was 13, his father went to prison and his mother became aggressive and abusive. Blakk left and spent the next two years homeless.
In the interview below, we talk about a moment that was a turning point for him: when his grandmother asked him what he wanted a s a gift and, even though he didn’t know how to play, he asked for a guitar.
Reflecting on his hard life, and even the breakup that inspired “If You Love Her”, Blakk says “I think every situation is pretty relative. The worst that happened in my life is the worst that happened in your. It’s just a feeling. Look what’s happened in my life because of all those things. It wasn’t fun to go through at the time, that’s for sure. At least I was able to do something with it and that’s pretty cool.”
In the interview, Forest and I talk about the process of writing, the meaning(s) behind “If You Love Her”, what it’s like to have your art mean so much and mean so many things to other people, and more. We also chat about Jamaica and not just the music but the people whose open and vulnerable but strong characters “inadvertently reached and touched” his music.