Blake Sonnet is a singer-songwriter from Canterbury, UK. He’s always on the search for the magic that surrounds us and articulating it into a song. In 2021 he will be releasing a song every month. As you’re about to find out, he wasn’t always known as Blake Sonnet.
Can you tell me a little bit about yourself? What’s your background?
“When I left school I played professional football for Luton Town and then Plymouth Argyle, I then played 2 seasons at Oxford City and I went back to college in Oxford, I took Physics, Biology and English. I didn’t finish any! While I was there I met another musician and we started playing music together. We started a band called Nation and had some success playing a sold out show at Oxford’s New Theatre and at Party In The Park. EMI were very interested in signing us. In the end it never happened for various reasons. The band split up and I went to Drama School in Oxford.”
“Then I worked as an actor for a few years playing in some independent feature films, The Man With Four Legs and St. Petersburg. I got fed up with all the waiting around and relying on others to offer me a job. And though I feel I’m quite an affable person I’m not a good sycophantic. Though I loved doing the work I didn’t like having to wait to do the work. Castings are brutal.”
“All the while throughout this period from leaving home at 16, I had been playing the guitar I’d taught myself and had always written songs but they didn’t seem to fit anywhere and I didn’t have a studio. Fast forward a few years, as my two children came into my life I started to get more deeply into my writing, playing and recording. I wanted to be around them while they were growing. My first album ‘Middle Of Everywhere’ and my first EP ‘Mother Nature Calling‘ is all about new life.”
When did Terry Sweeney become Blake Sonnet? What made you decide to change your name? Was this to separate the musician from the actor?
“I’m still Terry Sweeney at home and in the bank, I just wanted a fresh start. And yes people often aren’t comfortable with people who do different disciplines, so it just separated my acting life away. Like a fresh start. Anyway what is a name, it’s only a label right? It’s not who you really are. Who you really are is the whole Universe pretending to be John Doe or Mary Smith. If the big bang theory is true then we are not separate from it, we are it!”
What’s the story behind your stage name? You mention William Blake on your Spotify page so I presume that’s where the name came from?
“Yes my sister in Law, Helen, thought of the name and I felt it was the right thing to do. I do love William Blake – something about his vision as an artist/poet gives me strength. ‘To see the world in a grain of sand, and to see heaven in a wild flower, hold infinity in the palm of your hands, and eternity in an hour.’ He could see it all and I wanted to explore similar territory to venture into the profound nature of all things. It’s what gets me out of bed!”
Do you come from a musical family?
“No, not really but my parents loved music they were always playing, Gerry Rafferty, The Kinks, Paul McCartney, Bryan Ferry, David Bowie, Frankie Valley. Music was always on in the house and I think I just absorbed it unconsciously.”
Who or what inspired you to take up singing and pursue a career in music?
“Well lots of little things. I saw, when I was 14, Neil Young on MTV Unplugged and it just blew me away. It was like time stopped for about 20 minutes and I instantly felt a deep connection with what he was trying to do and how genuine it was and so full of heart and bravery. It was transcendent.”
“I saw Ray Davies at The Bridgewater Hall that blew my mind. It was just him and an Acoustic Guitar. Magical. Then the whole Brit pop thing happened and I thought ‘I want a piece of this!’ it felt like the music was winning and not the music industry. Today it feels the reverse or should I say perverse!”
Who are your main musical influences?
“I love great songs, when I was learning guitar that is what excited me and made me want to learn. But I guess I admire John Bramwell from I Am Kloot, Neil Young, The Beatles (later years), Ray Davis, David Bowie, Kate Bush, Paul Weller, The La’s, Bob Dylan, Ludovico Einaudi.”
What is your creative process like?
“I don’t have one. I just try to follow what feels right. I have this feeling that I am at the beginning of something and I don’t know what’s going to happen. Then I just follow it, see where it goes. I’m always writing a song! I do take lyrical notes when I hear something I like and write it down. And I record initial ideas on my phone.”
You will be releasing a new song every month during 2021. The newest one ‘Riverman’ has an interesting story, which you explained in a video on Facebook. For the people that haven’t seen that particular video, can you explain what it’s about?
“Yes, it’s essentially about judgement, I think. We all look at others and make a judgement about one particular aspect of their life and I think it’s damaging and not the truth. With the advent of social media it seems to have gotten worse. You don’t know the full story in a picture or a moment. Or what someone says.”
“In the case of The Riverman he left after the 2008 crash a very prestigious position in one of the big City Banks in London. Earning millions of pounds, having houses across the world, cars you know, the whole show. He had it all. Or it might have appeared that way. After 2008 he had a breakdown, sold everything, left his job, his houses, his cars and bought an old second hand boat and he lives there still, on The Thames near Twickenham. Now if you saw this guy today you might say he was homeless and probably hadn’t amounted to much in life. But maybe The Riverman is now in a much better place in life. I don’t know the answer to that….But what’s important is that every road is the right road. The one you are on. The one you are figuring out. So keep on and if it’s not, try a new path.”
In the Release Talk for ‘A Clearing In The Woods’ you said: “I think these are the best lyrics I’ve ever written. The words are always really important to me. The job of a poet is to explain with words the inexplicable and for me these words get pretty close to the bone.” What inspires you to write songs?
“Feelings inspire me to write. If someone, something makes me feel something strongly then I want to write about it.”
Are there any topics you are passionate about?
“Yes, why are we here, what are we all doing, what is the point, what can we learn? Is it serious or not? I like to try to write the inexplicable things that you think only happen to you that no one talks about. I want to reveal something in a song. I want to share with you a common ground. That it’s not all black and white, but every shade.”
What can we expect from your next release?
“My next song is called ‘Keeping The Dream Alive’ I was always fascinated by the story of the Titanic and that on board as the ship was sinking and people were screaming and running around panicking, the band or orchestral ensemble simply played on… That’s beautiful. In all the madness there is still beauty.”
“The good people have got to keep going, try to make things better. It doesn’t matter if its your garden, your desk, or the whole system, just do your bit. Make it a bit better. Keep it alive. Whatever it is, keep it alive, take on the responsibility of what you do. Tell the truth it’s the greatest adventure who knows where it might take you and keep it alive. It’s a beautiful thing.”
What are your plans? Will you be releasing an album?
“Not sure yet. I’m really really wanting to just get out and play live. I mean that’s what I do it for the recordings are showing you what I do, but live is where something really special can happen between us.”
What kind of recording facilities do you have at home?
“I use Logic X. I’m lucky I have my own studio. It’s pretty basic but it’s all I need.”
Do you have any hobbies that contribute to your musicality?
“No, I don’t really have hobbies. I have two children and a beautiful wife and a guitar. What else could I possibly want? I’ve already won.”
How do you balance music with your other obligations? What have been the greatest challenges so far?
“I try to put it all into the music. I find it all a total inspiration: the good, the bad and the ugly. That’s life right? It should all be in the music or the art you create. The biggest challenge is getting everything I want to do and say before it’s my time to leave this place…”
What’s your favourite song from the Cool Top 20?
What song would you like to add as a bonus track and why?
“‘Looking Glass‘ by The La’s. I think Lee Mavers was really on to something with this song. ‘I’m in everybody, everybody’s in me’ great lyric. It’s in William Blake territory. I love the rawness of the recording, the great guitar riff and great voice.”
Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
“I think I am interested in intellectual dialogue (though I certainly do not consider myself in any way an intellectual) mirrored with psychological feelings to live things to put light on or to breath through ideas. Music is my vehicle to search out that spirit logos in myself and to share with others. They are not just songs to me they are in the realms of all that is, in the vibration of instruments and vibration of words. It’s creation.”
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