Interview: Blackaby

‘The aches and pains but also the hopefulness and joy life can give. I imagine lots of people have been through similar things so hopefully they can find some meaning in the lyrics.’

Maya Radcliffe
  • By Maya Radcliffe
  • 10 Aug 2020
  • min read

Blackaby is the project of multi-instrumentalist William Blackaby which on stage expands to a four piece band.

Raised in Kent and now based in North London, Blackaby’s influences range from The Kinks to Gillian Welch and Neutral Milk hotel.

Blackaby’s excellent new EP What’s On The TV? was released back in July.

The recordings feel nostalgic, as William observes: ‘This EP looks back at youth. Learning to write essays and discovering alcohol ('The friend who will travel with me’). The mundane problems of town living. Trying to be cool. Trying skateboard tricks. Trying to fit in ('Eyeing the prizes, watching the other boys’). The way out is growing up but then the same problems are still there, you just create more distractions (‘they do a dance on a Monday night’).

Listen to Blackaby’s single Semolina, taken from the EP, below.

We caught up with Blackaby to find out how he’s getting on and what he’s been up to.

Hi William, thanks for taking the time to chat to us.


Where have you been holed up over lockdown?

My flat in Kentish Town. Nice to have Hampstead Heath 15 minutes away for dog walks.

Do you have any golden rules for staying creative when stuck inside?

Don’t beat yourself up when you think you haven’t been creative enough! It’ll happen when it happens.

As an emerging artist, how do you stay on top of growing your fanbase when you can’t go out and gig?

I try and keep as busy as possible online and have done a few live living room gigs which has been fun. I feel kinda lucky to be doing a release during this time because it’s given me stuff to work on and promote myself. It’s given me some purpose.

What can you tell us about your latest single, Semolina?

I wrote it a couple of years ago and I just had the line going around my head ‘you liked school days, you were cool’. Not sure why really. The song then became about the struggles/experiences of those days. There is a key change in the song and it features the wonderful voice of my good friend Rebecka Reinhard.

Why did you decide to write a song about your school days?

I think it’s a strange time for many of us. For some reason memories from those days are more etched in my mind clearer than things that happened much more recently. There’s just so much to draw on from those absurd coming of age years.

A lot of your recordings feel like nostalgic storytelling. Would you say that much of it is autobiographical?

Yeah most of it is linked to stuff I’ve felt or experienced or observed. The aches and pains but also the hopefulness and joy life can give. I imagine lots of people have been through similar things so hopefully they can find some meaning in the lyrics.

What does your songwriting process usually look like?

Sitting near the window of our flat staring blankly for a long time. Trying out lots and lots of different chords and melodies until something gives me a good feeling. I’ll then form a vague verse/chorus structure and then begin working on words. Often early melodies I hum over the early chord progression will inform some lyrics which in turn can inform what the song ends up being about.

Who are you listening to at the moment? Anyone we should be listening out for?

Right now it’s Arlo Parks and before than it was Brian Eno Neroli (makes walking about and other mundane activities feel mysterious and other worldly!) and yesterday it was Richard Dawson’s latest album 2020. It’s great.

What does the rest of 2020 look like for you, coronavirus permitting?

I would love to release more music from the What’s On The TV? EP sessions. I would love to play a show but we’ll see. I need to visit some people when it’s safe. I want to take a tent and go see all the people around the UK who I’ve missed over this period. Probably do a lot of dog walking as well. Also plan to write a Christmas song and maybe grow a mullet.