Blackaby: Finding Meaning in the Mundane

Perfect Delusions, Blackaby’s brand new EP, comes three years after his debut work – What’s On The TV? With its primary focus being on his experience of growing up, over five songs, Blackaby explores the often strange and confusing experience of being brought up within the church and organised religion, and, as a result, the EP sounds very much like a singer grappling with his childhood and coming to terms with it. It’s conceptually excellent, and, to make it better, each track is brimming with William Blackaby’s charm and personality.

A lot of the EP was put together during lockdown, according to Blackaby – a time when a lot of people were reflecting on various aspects of their lives and pasts. This is evident in the often melancholic and reflective tone of the record – but also in the if-you-don’t-laugh-you’ll-cry vibe it seems to have. The result is an EP that sounds very much of its time, but, because of its themes, feels timeless, too.

A highlight of the EP overall is Blackaby’s ability to take seemingly mundane experiences, within this theme of growing up in the church, and of life in general, and make them meaningful – allowing the listener to see them this way, too. It’s an excellent way of allowing the listener into his own personal experiences, and works particularly well on a record with a theme like this one.

In terms of the track-list, the stand-out song has to be ‘Teenage Purity’. The song captures the theme of the entire work perfectly, representing the feeling of growing up within the church, and the various expectations that come along with that. Blackaby is able to make the listener understand these feelings, even if they have not experienced them, personally.

Blackaby spoke to Wax about everything from his debut work to his brand-new EP, Perfect Delusions – set to be released on the 30th of August.

Do you have a favourite song from the EP? If so, what is it, and why?

Probably ‘Perfect Delusions’, which is the next one that’s coming out. It just worked. I’ve never done a song that’s as bouncy as that one, before. It was nice – a bit different. It makes me pleased to hear it.

How do you feel, now, seeing the finished project?

I feel excited to release it. It’s been a little while since I’ve released something. So I look forward to everyone hearing it – or, you know, whoever listens.

How did you start writing the lyrics for Perfect Delusions? Was there an initial concept, even before you started, for the themes of the EP?

It’s part of twelve or thirteen tracks that we’re splitting into two EPs. And, yeah, a lot of it centres around church and religion. My youth and upbringing was centred on that, so I’d say half the songs are about that and sort of looking back on that time. Other ones are just observations of life, really.

I liked that – when I was listening to it, it felt like you write about quite ordinary things with quite a lot of care. Do you think that sort of thing lends itself to an EP like this?

Yeah, it’s where my mind goes. I find you can’t process things until quite a lot later in your life. Sometimes, anyway. You look back on them and laugh, but at the time it’s your life – it’s reality, and you have to take it quite seriously. I find it quite enjoyable to write about that. Stuff I can reflect on now with a level head.

Did you have any specific artists or albums that inspired this EP?

For the lyrics, not really. I guess on ‘Perfect Delusions’, the song, I was thinking in a Paul Simon way, and trying to harness a bit of that. I’m sure there’s a lot of subconscious influences going on, but it was just stuff that felt good at the time.

How long did it take to write?

It came in dribs and drabs, you know? I was working with a guy, Ben Andrews, who recorded it. I met him on tour in late 2019 and we became friends, and then over the lockdown we gradually put this together. Some of the songs already existed and then some I wrote in quarantine. It was a nice ritual, to have something to work on during that time.

This EP centres on growing up in the church – I think that’s most obvious on ‘Teenage Purity’. Is this something you’ve been wanting to write about for a while?

Yeah, I think so. I didn’t really realise until I started writing it, but it just clicked into place, and it felt really good to write about stuff like that. Like I said, stuff that felt so serious at the time – it felt like quite a release to write something so throwaway about it.

Do you think it’s important to write about institutions like the church? I mean, surely a lot of people relate to it.

Yeah, it’s really nice when that happens. I think it’s good that people can get something from it, and it helps them. I did another song called ‘What’s on the TV?’, which is about stagnant relationships and the mundane, and that’s another one that people have said they can relate to.

How do you think this EP compares to your previous work? Does it feel entirely different to you, or more like a continuation?

There’s more pianos on it. There was a piano in the room, so you know – it was nice to bash on it. But, yeah, I enjoyed that. A couple of the tracks that are quite piano led – there’s one coming out called ‘Hairstyle’, which is a piano-based track. That’s the main difference really. Maybe it’s a bit more earnest, too – a bit more serious.

Where was it actually recorded, the EP?

It was recorded in a little studio in King’s Cross, which is actually a music library. There’s an in-house studio, and yeah, we sort of recorded there.

Did you have a band with you?

No, I did most of it myself. But Ben, who plays drums with me live, did the drums on ‘Café du Monde’. We recorded it with no drums, and then decided to add drums – which is quite a hard task. I was getting annoyed, and Ben jumped on and did it basically on the first take. He’s a great drummer. But other than that I played everything.

Do you think you’ve changed a lot as an artist since you released What’s on the TV? Apart from the pianos, obviously.

I’d say not a great deal. I think that whole project is quite late on in my musical life, so I think I’d already found my footing a bit, when I was doing What’s On The TV? and I’d say I’m pretty similar now.

What’s next for you?

Well, we’re doing an EP straight after. That’s the plan after this – put out another five songs straight away because this EP was split in two. But you know the classic thing with songs that have been sitting round for ages – you get bored with them, so there’s the temptation to scrap them and do some fresh recordings. Either way, there will be another five songs after this.

Anything you want to add? Or anything you want to promote?

No, that’s all. I suppose I could promote my son’s new shoes, though.

Yeah, great – what brand are they?

Clark’s. Can you go anywhere else for shoes? I think they’ve got the monopoly.

Words: Rosie Smith // Photos: Ben Andrews

‘Perfect Delusions’ is out August 30th via Sweat Entertainment. Keep up to date with Blackaby via Instagram.

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