We had the pleasure of interviewing BLKBOK over Zoom video.
Neoclassical pianist and Detroit native BLKBOK is set to soundtrack this year’s Juneteenth celebrations with the deluxe version of his debut album 'Black Book'. Arriving on June 17 via...
We had the pleasure of interviewing BLKBOK over Zoom video.
Neoclassical pianist and Detroit native BLKBOK is set to soundtrack this year’s Juneteenth celebrations with the deluxe version of his debut album 'Black Book'. Arriving on June 17 via icons+giants, ‘Black Book DLUX’ is a timely natural continuation of BLKBOK’s critically-acclaimed debut as a composer, reflecting on pertinent social issues, with counterpoints, and sustaining a dialogue through his thought-provoking pieces. The package includes 11 new interstitial poems woven throughout the album, written and narrated by award-winning Jamaican poet Lauren Delapenha. Additionally, it features two new powerful singles “Kendrick + Karine” and “Forgotten Girls.”
While touring the world as a pianist or musical director with the likes of Rihanna, Justin Timberlake, Demi Lovato, Timbaland and John Mayer, BLKBOK spent his private time composing his own original material, music that was inspired by his love of hip-hop and classical music. When the pandemic set in and touring came to a halt, he finalized these compositions which led to getting signed by icons+giants/WMG and releasing his first body of solo work, last year’s ‘Black Book.’ BLKBOK was inspired to create ‘Black Book’ as a tribute to the movie ‘Green Book’ and the courageous story of pianist/composer Don Shirley, whose trailblazing spirit helped open the door for black classical pianists of which there remains too few. The largely instrumental album features a standout vocal collaboration with Hamilton’s Tony and Grammy Award-winning Renée Elise Goldsberry on “My Life.” Provocative singles like “George Floyd and the Struggle for Equality,” “November 7th 2020” and “Michelle’s First Day At The White House” offer listeners unique perspectives of the social climate that we live in, and an opportunity to hear BLKBOK’s reflections of the world through the keys of the piano.
Since releasing his debut album, BLKBOK has taken to social media weekly, while developing new work in real-time and challenging the way we listen to classical music. A 21st century black pianist equally infatuated with rappers like Busta Rhymes and The Notorious B.I.G., as well as the classical greats like Debussy, Mozart, and Bach, BLKBOK has gone viral on TikTok with his riveting neoclassical TikTok covers of Cardi B and Kendrick Lamar. On Instagram, he hosts a monthly “What's Goin' On” social series, where he develops new songs related to current cultural milestones and events, and offers an open forum for fans to share their feelings and discuss social issues.
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What's going on?! It is Adam. Welcome back to bringing it backwards. A podcast where both legendary and rising artists tell their own personal stories of how they achieved stardom. On this episode, we hung out with Charles AKA BLKBOK over zoom video. Charles is born and raised in Detroit, and he talks about how he got into music. His mom has a lot of music on her side of the family. She put him in piano lessons starting at four years old. The deal was you had to do piano from four to 18, and when you hit 18, you can, you can give it up. But until then you're playing piano. So he's always been a pianist. He played drums and percussion and the school band. He talked about the jazz bands. 4 (1m 52s): He was in moving down to Florida to attend college jazz band. He was in, in Detroit and then a wish relocated to Florida. He talks about that. Moving eventually to Orlando, to pursue a career in audio engineering and recording. And there he met someone who changed his life, put him on tour with Justin Timberlake as Justin Timberlake's piano player and keyboardist. And that led them into a whole different career path. As a touring keyboard is for major acts, Rihanna, Backstreet boys, John Mayer, ton of major, major acts. He also tells us all about this new project. 4 (2m 34s): He has called BLKBOK, which is all piano based. There's no lyrics, no vocals, all him just on piano. The record he released is called black book. He talks to us about that and the collaboration with the album that's coming out soon, where he teamed up with a poet and, and it'll go his song. And then the poem that accompanies it, you can watch the interview with black Bach on our Facebook page and YouTube channel at bringing it backwards. It would be awesome if you subscribe to our channel like us on Facebook, follow us on Instagram, Twitter, and Tik TOK at bringing back pod. And if you're listening to this on Spotify, apple music, Google podcasts, it'd be awesome. 4 (3m 16s): If you follow us there as well and hook us up with a five-star review, 5 (3m 20s): We'd appreciate your support. If you follow and subscribe to our podcasts, wherever you listen to podcasts, 4 (3m 26s): We're bringing it backwards with BLKBOK. What's up, man? How are you Charles? 6 (3m 31s): What's up Adam? 4 (3m 32s): What's going on? I appreciate you doing this. 6 (3m 34s): Thanks for having me, man. This is fun. This is fun. 4 (3m 38s): Rad. Well, this podcast is about you, your journey in music, and we'll talk about the new record. 6 (3m 44s): Okay, 4 (3m 45s): Cool. Awesome. Sweet, sweet. So yeah, I saw you're born in what Detroit 6 (3m 49s): Area? Detroit. 4 (3m 50s): Tell me about that. Born and raised. 6 (3m 52s): Born and raised in Detroit. Yeah. West side. What a great city to be born in, you know, music everywhere. 4 (3m 59s): Sure, sure. And you got it. You came from a musical household. 6 (4m 3s): Well, my mother's side was a musical was the musical side of the family. My father's side. Not so much. My mother's sides were all entertainers. My uncles were a tap dancers and saxophone is, and my grandfather was a organist in Memphis. So all the music and stuff came from that side of the family. 4 (4m 19s): Amazing. Sorry. Real quick. I think somethings like, it sounds like metal scratching on the mic. Maybe, maybe I'm tripping. 6 (4m 26s): Maybe it's this. Maybe it's that? 4 (4m 30s): Yeah. Perfect. Yeah. 6 (4m 33s): Sorry about that. 4 (4m 35s): No, no, it's all good. I just want to make sure that we get the best sound. Cool. So you said, sorry. Real quick. Mom's side of the family was musical 6 (4m 42s): Mom's side of the family's musical. Like I said, uncles were musicians and tap dancers and grandfather was a pianist and keyboard player and radio personality. 4 (4m 51s): So really 6 (4m 52s): All that stuff came from. 4 (4m 54s): Oh, that's sick. Okay. So you started playing piano first at an early age or when you start playing. 6 (4m 60s): I started at age four. Wow. Yeah. Super early. 4 (5m 4s): Was that something that you wanted to do or your mom or dad was like, Hey, you should try to 6 (5m 8s): No, no. Mom was like, you know what? I'm going to teach you discipline by making you play piano. And her rule was play from four at age 18. If you want to quit, you can quit. But I just need to teach you something that you're permanently doing. And I did all the other stuff, like baseball, football, basketball, and stuff, but music was like permanent. 4 (5m 29s): Wow. So she made you do it all through it up until you're 6 (5m 31s): 18. 4 (5m 33s): That's incredible. I love that. Wow. Okay. Was it something that you enjoyed or was it kind of, did it kind of become something like, oh, I like, I don't want to have to do, you know, blah, blah, blah. Like, was it, I guess my question would be like, did that turn you on or off to it? In the beginning? 6 (5m 51s): I mean, in the beginning it was, it was just a thing. And you know, it was like too young to understand what was really happening around. But then, you know, of course we get into our teenage years where we get a little bit, a little rebellious and then it became like a, I don't want to do this. And then a little bit later on it became, wow. People are really responding to this. So now the love that's where the love came from. 4 (6m 15s): Okay. So it took, it took different forms. It sounds like it 6 (6m 18s): Definitely transformed throughout the years. Yeah. 4 (6m 20s): Okay. So started at two. And then are you like when you're playing in front of people, is that like through recitals and, and stuff like that? 6 (6m 30s): It was recitals and competitions and you know, sitting in front of adjudicators and just the craziness that goes on in the classical world as a kid. 4 (6m 40s): And did you like, did you go to, or like where you in the PA or did you play, sorry? Did you play piano in the school orchestra or band or anything like that? Jazz band? 6 (6m 50s): Actually, what's funny is that I played percussion in the school orchestra and then I played piano in the jazz band. In high school. 4 (6m 59s): You played, you can play drums too, or just, you can 6 (7m 1s): Play drums 4 (7m 2s): Too. When did you start playing drums? 6 (7m 5s): I was in marching band. I was in a country band kid through middle school and high school. So just on the drum line and, you know, doing all that stuff, it was really cool. That was like a fun part of that. 4 (7m 14s): What'd you draw? What drew you to drums 6 (7m 17s): Say again? 4 (7m 18s): What drew to the drums? 6 (7m 20s): I don't know. It was just, you know, I was just like beating on stuff. I would beat on stuff at home, so it just kind of translated into, okay. There's actually, something is a real form for me to express myself in this way. So I just joined the marching band plus it was fun. It was, you know, like band kids, band geeks. I was with, you know, they were all my friends. So just being around the, all the band people all the time was real cool. 4 (7m 44s): When did you start writing songs? 6 (7m 47s): I would say around high school. 4 (7m 49s): Okay. 6 (7m 51s): That's when I started writing, I was really into jazz at that time and I started writing jazz tunes for my quartet that I had back in Detroit. So that's how that's I can honestly say it was like the first time I experienced like writing like songwriting in any way, shape or form. 4 (8m 6s): What was it like, like w you came up with a song and what presented it to the other guys in your, in your band? 6 (8m 11s): Yeah. And then we would, you know, sit down and learn them and then perform them and compete with them and everything like that. So it was pretty cool to like, you know, the first time to have your songs being played is like, you know, it kinda, it's kinda mind blowing, you know? 4 (8m 23s): I mean, you were playing in competitions too. 6 (8m 25s): Yeah. 4 (8m 26s): And what was it? So tell me about that. I don't know. I don't, I've never heard of, of a comp like a music competition like that, like 6 (8m 32s): Jazz, jazz competitions, like, no 4 (8m 34s): One's ever talked about that to me, 6 (8m 36s): It was like in, in college they would have like these sort of, you know, rival colleges from different cities and everything. They would just have competitions where all the jazz ensembles would get together and they would just like, you know, get judged upon, you know, who's doing, you know, how 4 (8m 53s): Like technical you were playing, like, how did they even 6 (8m 56s): Get technical? Like sort of the technical side, the, the, the musicality side, the writing, the presentation, all those things will kind of come into play. And the beautiful thing about it is that we always won, never lost one jazz competition. I mean, the advantage was that the guys that I went to college with were two of the guys from my band in Detroit. So we had already had our, our jail was already there before we even got out into the world. So we had a bit of an advantage and we explained it the hell out of that, you know, like, but it was, it was fun, like being able to play your original songs in front of judges and everything, and being able to compete with that music was really cool. 4 (9m 40s): So you started a band in high school, like a jazz band, 6 (9m 43s): Started jazz band in high school called magic. 4 (9m 46s): Okay. And did you guys play out or anything or is it just 6 (9m 49s): It all over Detroit? We did a lot of workshops with a local jazz. Great. His name is Marcus Belgrave. Well, he's passed away since, since then, but yeah, we worked a lot in just like the Detroit jazz circuit and playing gigs locally and everything. It was just fun. 4 (10m 8s): And when did you, or did you go to college for music then? 6 (10m 12s): So it's kind of strange. I didn't go to college per se for music like piano, like what people would think, 4 (10m 19s): Like you went away for piano or something like 6 (10m 21s): That. I wish I could have went to Berkeley for piano, but it wasn't the situation. I went to a small black college down in Daytona beach called Bethune Cookman. Okay. That's where the other two members of my jazz band had went, but I wasn't able to study any classical music there. I went for about a year, two years and then dropped out and went to school for engineering at full sail. So then I learned how to be a recording engineer. Yeah. 4 (10m 48s): Okay. Did you go down to, to college? Did you, was there another passion that you had or is it just like, oh, I'm going to go to college? Like they'll figure. 6 (10m 56s): Yeah, it was literally, yeah, let's go to college. You we'll figure it out when we get, just got to get away from Detroit. Let's get away from. 4 (11m 1s): Okay. So you moved down there, you said Florida 6 (11m 5s): Daytona beach, 4 (11m 6s): Daytona beach. And the band picks up when you get down to Florida. Yeah. And what you acquired a couple of different members or, or did everybody from your band move from Detroit down there? 6 (11m 18s): Everybody except for one member. So it was, it was three of us. We missed the fourth guy. So the fourth guy was replaced in the school. 4 (11m 24s): Yeah. And then you would do these competitions. We 6 (11m 27s): Do these competitions. And 4 (11m 29s): Where would you go like around Florida or travel all over the place? 6 (11m 33s): Like around Florida, mostly. 4 (11m 34s): Okay. And then at what point did you decide like, Hey, like actually what I really want to do is learn to record music. 6 (11m 43s): That wasn't really how it happened. I happened, I was kind of forced out. I won't, I won't, I won't tell the real story about how I was, it was kind of, it was a little dangerous way, you know, this college treated me at that point, so I had to leave and then me having to leave was just like, you know, my mom was always like, stay in school, stay in school. I was like, well, let me just go learn a different part of music, which was how to record and engineer and do those things. So I left and then went to an engineering school for a year. 4 (12m 14s): Okay. What was it like that it would doing going there? I mean, that was pretty cool. Totally different. 6 (12m 19s): Yeah. It was totally different, different experience, you know, just out on my own in Orlando, just kinda like learning my way around the recording stuff and also producing at that point and starting to make beats and stuff like that. So it was just a little bit different. The environment was a little bit different. 4 (12m 38s): Yeah. Yeah. Did you keep the band together or when you moved to Orlando, did that kind of, and everything out there with the, yeah, 6 (12m 45s): Yeah. That dissipated. I ended up playing with more local bands in Orlando, so it just kinda became me just kind of being like a hired gun everywhere in Orlando and eventually led to some pretty big Tori. 4 (12m 58s): Oh, really? So what was the kind of like, so you finished school and what was the, what was a big moment that you landed? 6 (13m 5s): Yeah, the first big moment was I met the musical director for in sync. Oh, 4 (13m 10s): Wow. 6 (13m 11s): Yeah. This guy, Kevin and tunes. And he and I are like brothers now, but he hired me for my first game, which was with Justin Timberlake for a justified tour, 4 (13m 20s): You know, way. 6 (13m 21s): Yeah. That's pretty cool. 4 (13m 23s): That's crazy. What was that like? 6 (13m 24s): It was incredible. I mean, one minute I was just like at his house, like tinkering around on keyboards and then like a week and a half later I was on Jay Leno. It was just like, it was the wildest thing to happen, you know? And then the tour just went on and from that tour, just, I just kept a reputation, a great reputation. And it went from like Justin Timberlake to Backstreet boys, to Rihanna, to Justin Timberlake, again, to working with Sierra, Demi Lovato back with Rihanna. And it just, it just kinda like, you know, it just rolled out the next, you know, 10 years or so of just being on tour with some of the best artists on the planet. 4 (13m 59s): That's so cool. That is so cool. So you were just, you would just, just as a touring artist or a touring musician with, as 6 (14m 6s): A touring pianist and keep 4 (14m 7s): So cool. Yeah. Was it hard to, you know, wrap your head around these catalogs of these artists that have like, you know, so many songs and so many hits and then it's like you have to go in and what learned everything that they do or could possibly do? 6 (14m 21s): Yeah. It's pretty fun. You know, it was a 4 (14m 24s): Hard though. 6 (14m 25s): No, it's not, it's not too difficult. I would say the most difficult one was John Mayer because he has so many songs and he's a 4 (14m 33s): Technical guy, 6 (14m 34s): Technically. Yeah. He's a player. Like he can, it's like being in the garage with the homeys again, you know, so yeah, that was a little bit difficult. And then, you know, it was different because, you know, some nights he would just feel like, oh, let's just play some Jimmy Hendrix and then we just go that direction or let's play some staying and we just go direction. So it wasn't just knowing his catalog. It was just knowing music and great music in general and being able to kind of flow where he, you know, he go to take a left, you take a left with him. 4 (15m 2s): Yeah. Wow. Would he ever throw you off and be like, okay, we're gonna go this way. And you're like, ah, or no. 6 (15m 9s): Yeah. The first time he wanted to play message in a bottle. 4 (15m 11s): Okay. 6 (15m 12s): Yeah. Cause I had, I, you know, I knew the song, but I hadn't really like learned a song. So I was kinda like, ah, it goes here, you know? Oh, it goes there. So this is a little bit, it threw me for a quick second, but it doesn't take me long. I trust my ears. And you know, the guys in the band were so great that, you know, we just kind of left off the few mistakes that I made and then I never made them again. 4 (15m 34s): Yeah. There you go. That's awesome. And when do you start, you know, you said you were writing songs with this jazz band, but when do you actually start your own artist project? 6 (15m 43s): So between, you know, that point in where we are now, I had a bunch of artists projects that I had done that were very different RMB 4 (15m 53s): Grab 6 (15m 54s): Black box is definitely new, new. So this was the first time that I had been able to really sit down and this may be due to the pandemic that I had a moment to kind of sit back and say, okay, what does my voice sound like? And a lot of times that's a lot of things. That's one of the things that we don't do as artists is really sit back and take the time to create the authentic version. You know, there have been many versions of what I've done artistically, but this version is the authentic version. Just being able to take from my pop and jazz background and then my classical roots kind of lay classical down and then kind of pour these other, this other seasoning of these other genre on top of it. 6 (16m 42s): So that's how I kind of created what we do. What I do now is black box. 4 (16m 47s): Okay. So you said you had some other projects in between obviously now. So when you were touring, you had other various projects that you were working on and then you jump on the road and then you'd come home. What, and work on these projects. 6 (16m 60s): Yeah. Sorta that was kind of like the rotation. Yeah. 4 (17m 2s): Okay. So when do you decide, was it due to COVID that you had this time to sit down and really, you know, reflect and figure out what you want her to do? 6 (17m 11s): A couple of things happened. The first thing that happened was in 2014, I did my last tour. It was called Michael Jackson and mortal with circle Solei and oh, 4 (17m 18s): Wow. 6 (17m 19s): You know, once you go, you know, Justin Rihanna, John Mayer, Michael Jackson, you get to that point. And then you just, you know, it's like the drop-off I got home and I was sitting around and I was just like, I don't have sound check. I don't have anything today. So like, what do I do with my life? And for about two years, I went through like a serious depression. It was crazy. But the idea is that you pick back up and you start to discover who you are as an artist. So that's kind of where that process came from is, okay, I need a next step. I need a next thing. And the next thing should be me. Let me take the time and invest in who I am as an artist who I am as a writer. So that's kind of where it stemmed from. And then my publisher said, Hey, you should do a solo piano album. 6 (18m 2s): And I literally, I literally on the phone said, what the hell does that even mean? Because I was completely lost. I had no idea what was going on. But as a writer, you sit back and you say, how can I create stories with no words? And that was kind of like the foundation of black buck was like, how can I write stories without words? And just the gap of, you know, I started and then pandemic hit right away. So I had like this big chunk of time and I wrote for 121 consecutive days to create, to create black book was a real feat of constant writing everyday waking up, whether it be five minutes or five hours, I would write every day for 121 days. 4 (18m 49s): And it was just all done, piano. It's all. Yeah. It's just on piano, right? No, no vocals, nothing 6 (18m 55s): Vocals and the lyrics. And 4 (18m 56s): How did you, like, how were you able to get across? I mean, you have some big, especially on Blackbook, right. I mean, some big, deep, you know, meaningful songs, right? Like, you know, George fluid and the struggle for the quality, like, and then you writing these songs, is it just kind of off of what you were feeling at the time and then that translated into what, like, tell me about writing these songs, I guess, without lyrics and getting the point across. 6 (19m 24s): I, I think I come from, I consider myself a painter. I come from, from like that sort of world of thinking like a painter and being able to, to show people through the lenses of a black man in 2022, what this world looks like to me. So as I had done, so in the case of George Floyd in the struggle for equality, like it literally was happening in real time. And it was one of the most difficult pieces to write on black book because it was happening. And like the emotions were very real and palpable and like everyone felt it, you know, I would just turn on the TV or just like, and this event was happening in front of my face. 6 (20m 7s): So as you're here, like on the beginning of the song, I'm literally just banging on the piano because I was so angry. Like I had to get this anger out first and then once the anger goes away, it's like the sadness kind of falls on me. And if you follow the whole arc of the piece, you'll hear these, these moments of like the anger comes back and then this kind of very reflective moment happens. But in the end it ends with the theme to, we shall overcome. So it's like, you know, even though this has happened, we still need to stay strong. We still need to make sure that this doesn't happen again. We need to come together as one unit, as one people as a human race and just like, make sure things like this and tragedies like this don't happen. 4 (20m 51s): Yeah. And was that where you kind of taking the approach with a record? Like, did you know what you wanted to write about and then that would, or, well, I guess when it came to the album, was it like, okay, today this is happening. I'm going to just write about it. And then what you jot down kind of what you were thinking. And then that, what kind of came with the songwriter, like how, how are you putting the songs together? Like, okay, November 7th, 20, 20, was that a song that you knew? Okay, I'm gonna read about this event and here and here we go. Or it was just like, this is happening today. It needs to be this, 6 (21m 22s): That one was kind of like I wrote an inspiring song. I wrote this a very inspiring, uplifting, riff. And when we finally started recording it, it had another title. It had a completely, the other title for it was the canvas. Okay. But what ended up happening was we were watching the Joe Biden had just been declared president and we were watching CNN. And as we were listening back to the track, it sounded like the soundtrack, like we S we turn off the volume on CNN and turned up the music. And it was literally the soundtrack where all these people were in the streets, dancing around each other and hugging and smiling and celebrating. It was super uplifting. 4 (22m 2s): Wow. That's interesting. 6 (22m 3s): Like I was like, what's today's date. And we were like, November 7th. I said, November 7th, 20, 20, that's the name of the song. So a lot of things are happening, but I'm just kinda like taking the events and kind of like, if things are happening in that time, then I'm just going with that energy, you know, I'm allowing the sound songs to complete themselves, entitled themselves. I'm basically relinquishing control of everything pretty much. And just letting it flow as it flows. 4 (22m 32s): Yeah. That's so interesting that, I mean, just the, the way that you present the record and just the, you know, the, the depth of it and then coming out with, and it's just like, but this is all just what I'm going to, I'm going to speak to you on this piano, 6 (22m 46s): Right? Yeah. 4 (22m 47s): I love it. 6 (22m 48s): Yeah. Thank you. 4 (22m 49s): Yeah. It's it's and then you obviously did some, you do some covers also the, you kind of came out later in the same year, right? With like a lot of the, you know, Christmas Eve type songs. And so currently you have a couple other songs out, and this is going to be part of your next project. 6 (23m 8s): Yeah. So what we're doing is a rerelease of black books. So the black book deluxe it'll contain the poems that were written by this wonderful poet, Lauren Della Pena, who pretty much, when we first met our objective was to give black book, a twin sister. And these poems that she wrote about the songs. I mean, they're literally twins. Like these poems make it all make sense. So the deluxe edition is giving you the poem then giving you the song, the poem, the song. So now you get to kind of get a little bit more of, into the mindset of where we were, where I was in creation and then where she wasn't creating poems that go along with these songs. 4 (23m 50s): So they're not together. Like she didn't do a poem over what you had done. 6 (23m 55s): They're not together. They're completely. Yeah. So my idea for black book is to con continuously collaborate with other artists and other genre and lend like their creativity into what we've already started. So I am always about collaboration. I love the that's. The whole reason I do art is so I can do art with other artists. So yeah, this was a really cool meeting of minds. 4 (24m 21s): And was that, so she was independently working on and writing poems and writing poems. And while you're doing this record, and then you having to meet and choose, like, I have this whole book of poems and you're like, oh, she was she listening to your record? And I knew what you were going with with the record. And then she wrote poems to the songs. 6 (24m 39s): Right. So it was more like that. Like she would listen to the songs and then we would have long zoom conversations about like what I was feeling, where I was like, what the energy of it is. And then she would kind of go away and then she would come back like a week later with these magnificent poems. And she would say, oh, she has this great Jamaican accent too. She says, well, Charles, I don't know if this is good, should edit it. And I'm like, don't touch it. Perfect. Like every poem that she wrote that she had written was a first draft, like, wow, nailed it. Like, it was amazing. Yeah. 4 (25m 12s): Wow. So she knew what the title of the song was and kind of what you were going for when you wrote the song and then she would write her, her feelings on it as well. Yeah, exactly. 6 (25m 23s): That 4 (25m 23s): Is so cool. Yeah. And you've done a couple other songs too, right. With forgotten girls and three K hit club, like tell me about those songs. 6 (25m 31s): So three K hit club a was a song that was written for Miguel Cabrera from the Detroit tigers and from Detroit. So this was okay. Yeah. And he just got his 3000th hit. So this was a song that we filmed at the, in Detroit, at the Fox theater. And then when he got his 3000th hit, they hit play and it played, the song, played in the stadium and it was like a montage video really forming him, him, you know, just crushing like that whole 4 (26m 2s): I was sick. Like, how did you get that? How did that happen? 6 (26m 5s): Just one day, my phone rang with email popped up with the Detroit tigers. I don't even know how it happened. I guess someone in Detroit knew about me from doing an interview on NPR with my good friend. Who's like my God, sister and Alyse. And, you know, it was just, it all, all the pieces kind of fit together and it made sense. And that's how three K hit club was born. 4 (26m 32s): So you get to what, right. You saw the edit of, of what was, or what they were going to present or no, you just wrote this 6 (26m 40s): Piece. 4 (26m 41s): And then they came in and did that out 6 (26m 43s): Here after. Yeah. 4 (26m 45s): Wow. Was it like, was there, like, how did you approach that? Like, okay, you're going to do a song or three about his 300 hit club. There you go. Good luck. 6 (26m 54s): The first thing was to go and find out about him. You know, I know a little bit about him because I follow a little bit of sports, but just to see a little bit of the history and then to see what it takes for someone to get to 3000 hits, it's such an intense thing to understand how to swing the ball. I mean, how to swing the bat and how to hit the ball, like it's intense. So a lot of it was studying his movement and what he does creatively, and then lending that to what I do creatively. I mean, I felt like it had to have this kind of driving thing on the base. So I just, you know, left-hand just drives through this, like this whole thing, but, you know, like I say, it's taking the energy and the emotion and being able to tell that story without the words. 4 (27m 45s): Wow. I mean, what you do is so incredible. Like, I wouldn't have any idea, like, do you, have you ever thought of like scoring or have you done scoring for film? 6 (27m 52s): I've done some scoring, but that is definitely, I love writing to film. So that is definitely in the future for me. 4 (27m 58s): I was going to say that seems like something you'd be so fantastic. I mean, the fact that you can write these songs with these deep meanings, that with no visual, right. At all, just like, it's all just you coming up with it as it's going, like, I wonder if that would take a different part of your brain or if that would be easier, more difficult, like seeing something and then responding to it that way. Or have you thought of that? 6 (28m 19s): Yeah. I mean, sometimes it happens that way. Like there are instances where I've seen things or witnessed things or heard things and, and like, there's a couple of the pieces on black book where are from my own personal experiences, which are things that I've experienced. Like I made her breakfast. It was about, you know, me thinking I was in love at one point with this girl, you know? So these are all like all songwriters we write from our experiences. But this is just like I say, writing with no words, I'm telling the story, but I, I can't tell you in words what it was, but I can tell you any emotion and feeling how it felt. And that's kind of where, where my songwriting comes from is just being able to dig deeply into emotions. 4 (29m 5s): I love that. That's something like that would be so hard for me to do. And just the fact that you do it so well, like, so yeah, I am do what you do, man. It's awesome. And I appreciate your time today. Thank you so much for doing this. 6 (29m 19s): Thank you for having me. This is awesome. Any time 4 (29m 22s): Real quick, I have a question about behind you, are those all passes from your, the touring you've done. 6 (29m 27s): Okay. So this is great. These passes are, I'm actually at my tour manager's house right now. Who's a good friend of mine, which I went to full sail with in 2001. So, wow. You've known each other for that many years. And I just completed my first tour yesterday. So I'm just here at his house waiting to fly home tonight. And those are his laminates. There was a black box limited hanging on the side. So it's always good to see. I mean, he's got some pretty epic names up there, like Alicia keys and van Halen, and then to have black bot, you know, to them. It's so cool. 4 (30m 5s): That's killer. Yeah. That is, that's a cooler story than what I, that you're like, oh yeah, this is like Justin Timberlake and all these people that you toured with. But did I have your name up there with, 6 (30m 14s): With all the 4 (30m 15s): Legends that he's worked with? How cool is that? How was the tour by the way? 6 (30m 20s): I was awesome. I mean, the, the crowds were amazing. So receptive, so much love in the room. I mean, there were tears, which is always my goal. My goal is to make you feel in a way where you, where it really brings out something. I mean, to, to cry as a release. And to me, I feel like I've served an audience. If someone has a release, if someone's able to be that much into their fields, that they're able to release some, some part of the, you know, be it happened happiness or sorrow or, or what a loneliness or whatever emotion, but it was super cool. Super fun. New York was great. I love New York. I love playing in New York city. 6 (31m 1s): So, and, and the beautiful thing about New York was that for what now, two years now, I haven't met my team in person. There are so many people that are just on emails or who I've just seen on zooms. And they're all on the east coast, in New York. So I was sitting in a room, we had a meet and greet before, and I was sitting in a room with about 30 people. And I was just looking around at all my team. And I said, all these people believe in me. And I just, I shed like one thug tear at came down the left side. 4 (31m 30s): It was a crazy one thug 6 (31m 32s): Tear. And I was just like, wow, this is so amazing to have these people in a room and be able to hug them and let them know how much I appreciate their time and efforts and energy that they put to helping me bring my vision to life. 4 (31m 45s): I love it. Thank you again so much for doing this, Charles. I really appreciate your time. My last quick question for you is if you have any advice for aspiring artists, 6 (31m 53s): Yes. Take the time to find out who you are when you find out who you are, it makes it easier for you to present who you are. If you're presenting something that sub that's, someone else's, then that makes you a silver medalist, you know, 4 (32m 10s): To 6 (32m 11s): Be the gold medalist, you don't want to be a silver medalist. You want to be able to present yourself authentically what we're doing right now. I mean, I always say like, it's not like the music industry woke up this morning and said, Hey, let's promote a black neoclassical pianos from Detroit. That didn't happen. So even in that, I'm, I'm okay with knowing that what I am doing is me. And I think that's what gives me the power and the strength. And at that point, the music is now opening, opening its doors to me because I am authentically who I am. So learn who you are, be, who you are, express who you are.
Born and raised in Detroit’s inner-city, BLKBOK (born Charles Wilson III), grew up in a music-filled house. While his parents and siblings were all musically inclined, little Charles could always be found walking his chubby fingers up and down the piano keys. His Mom had no choice but to nurture her baby’s keyboard obsession and by the time he was 8, BLKBOK was an acclaimed piano prodigy, winning statewide accolades and college-level competitions.
When it came to music, most of the kids he grew up with pursued hip-hop, adopting rap names. However, it’s no coincidence that Charles chose the name BLKBOK, which echoes that of one of the greatest pianists and composers of all time. The tag is also an apt reflection of the elements that have contributed to the artist’s identity and symbolizes his colorful journey from pop and hip-hop culture to his critically acclaimed, neo-classical debut album Black Book, and various Mixtape projects and collaborations.
BLKBOK is no stranger to the industry grind, having hit the road throughout his career as a lead pianist or musical director with artists including Rihanna, Justin Timberlake, Demi Lovato, Cirque Du Soleil, John Mayer and more. BLKBOK’s explosive and immersive live music performances engage his audience with his incredible talent and channels his experience from sharing the stage with the World’s biggest performers.
BLKBOK’s critically-acclaimed debut album Black Book, served as a founding cornerstone at the Juneteenth Foundation’s Freedom Concert. His first Mixtape release, CVRART, and current Mixtape project Angels Watching Over Me, with world-renowned tenor Lawrence Brownlee, illustrate the innovative and disruptive musical landscape that is BLKBOK.