Elijah Blake Moves From Choir Boy to Major Label Singer [Exclusive Interview]
“I don’t want to write songs that mean nothing and just chase the hit,” Elijah Blake tells TheDrop.fm as he sits comfortably inside Roc Nation’s New York headquarters. “I want to write songs that reflect what’s going on in someone’s life.”
He may be just 22, but the Palm Beach, Fla., native has his eyes set on a long-lasting, successful career in music.
Working with the likes of Rick Ross, Rihanna and Usher, the singer-songwriter was known in the industry as the kid with great pipes and some speedy writing skills. “I could go into the studio with an artist and say, ‘So what did you do today?’” Elijah says. “And as they’re talking, I’m just typing and writing a song. And they say, ‘Damn, you’re fast.’”
“One moment, I was writing for myself and then the next moment, I’m writing in the studio for an artist,” he continues. “And once they heard me sing, they’d ask me when my album is coming out. It fueled me to do what they thought I was capable of.”
But music wasn’t necessarily something that Elijah considered when he was a kid. However, things changed when his mother introduced him to a local pastor.
“One day I was in trouble with my mom, and she brought me to the pastor and asked him to pray for me as if I had demons in me,” he reveals. “And the pastor was in the middle of choir rehearsal so he just told my mom to leave me there. He was trying to figure out vocal parts and told me to get with the choir to find out my part. He started playing the [piano] keys, and I kept hitting the notes.”
Elijah didn’t realize he was on the path to a promising future. “At that point, I never thought to take singing seriously, and the pastor just kept going up on the scale to the point where he was in the upper fours and fives. And then he told me, ‘You and me are going to do something really special.’”
Getting his start in his church choir opened various musical doors for him. He started singing every day — doing solos and impressing the young ladies. All of that recognition aside, it was when that same pastor proposed doing an album with the then young crooner.
“He wanted to do a gospel album with me when I was a little kid, but he died in a car accident,” he states. “But the fact he thought I’d be good enough to make an album. For a kid from a small town in Palm Beach, that was a big thing. It just made me think bigger and from that moment on, I wanted to be a singer when I grew up.”
Despite the big names he has worked with, he points to Trey Songz as one of his more memorable working experiences. Not only was the ‘Sensational’ singer a mentor for Elijah, but he was also a friend.
“We ended up doing ‘Jupiter Love,’” he explains. “And I thought it was so dope that while everyone was trying to become competitive, he never showed any ill will towards me and just took me under his wing even though at time he was trying to find his own. Once that happened with him and that became a fan favorite and I saw how much money can be made because I was a starving artist, I thought, ‘Wow, you can make money from this!’”
While industry execs saw the potential in Elijah as an artist, it wasn’t until he released his single, ‘X.O.X.,’ that he got him the break he was waiting for.
“’X.O.X.’ is actually one of the songs that helped me get my deal at Def Jam,” Elijah shares. “I think it almost didn’t happen because, you know, as artists you grow and do new songs and do new music, and you forget that the consumers and fans haven’t heard these songs yet. But this song stood the test of time. It’s amazing that it happened because that song got me my deal, and I do love the song.”
He explains how the track ended up on his first project. “And when I was doing the EP, ‘Bijoux 22,’ I had a small listening party with people in the industry who I trusted,” he says. “Then one of them pulled up a song and it was that one, and one of the writers in the studio said, ‘What in the hell is that song right there?’ And I said it was a song that I wrote way back when I got my deal. And he told me that I would be shooting myself in the foot if I didn’t put that song on the EP. But there wasn’t a bridge.”
Scoring Common on the track was a collaboration that Elijah hoped for but never realized would actually happen. “Common is a hip-hop staple. Years and years down the line, you cannot think about hip-hop like Jay[-Z], Common, Kanye [West], Andre 3000, Nas that when you think about hip-hop, you look at them,” he explains. “The fact that that song is hip-hop at its core, it made me wonder who I could put on it.”
So how did Common enter this recording equation? “Common used to come by the studio, and I’d play him some of my songs, and he would listen and say, “Man, I think you’re dope. I’d like to be a part of the new energy. I think there’s a lot of new energy out there,’” Elijah reveals. “And me and him have already been working on some new stuff for his new project coming out. So he’s like if you ever need a feature and the song makes sense, I’d like to be a part of it. And I thought that it was Common. It has to be the song before I call him. So I thought about it and saw it as a way for him to say his feelings on his situation.”
“I didn’t know if I was going to offend him or insult him,” he continues. “And I think it was pretty courageous for him to come. When I asked him to come listen to it, he came, wrote his part and recorded it that same day. The mixtape was coming out in three days so I was hoping that’s how it would happen anyway. And through prayer and Common being as dope as he is, he did that. When it went on the EP, that song had 60-70,000 listens that day. And it’s true to me because it was the song that started everything and shows my artistry as Elijah Blake.”
The J. Cole-assisted ‘Vendetta’ is a new track Elijah recently debuted. The song is set to appear on his upcoming debut LP, ‘Songs About Melody.’
Listen to Elijah Blake’s ‘Vendetta’ Feat. J. Cole
Watch Elijah Blake’s ‘X.O.X.’ Video Feat. Common