Upon taking a subsequent deep dive into Venus’ social media content, music videos and listening to her impressive collection of songs on her debut album The Other Side of Midnight, I became even more impressed with her cohesive artistic vision. As you’ll read in the interview below, she writes from the heart and knows exactly how she wants to present her music to the world.
I reached out to Venus to request an interview about her musical background, her songs and her plans for the future and she graciously agreed.
ABOUT VENUS BLAKE
Where are you from and how did you get into music?
I was born and grew up in London, UK, though since the age of 16 I’ve lived in a few different countries and moved around a lot and I’ve got mixed roots, with my Mum being Russian-Jewish and my Dad Greek-Ukranian. I speak five languages and consider myself something of a gypsy without a home.
Music was always my greatest passion. I first got into it at around the age of three, when my parents bought a piano. I’d play around on it and make a lot of noise.
So finally by age five, my parents decided to send me off to piano lessons; thus I started with classical piano, picked up and dropped a few other instruments along the way (the violin, the flute and especially the cello which I played for around 3 years before dropping it to focus on piano), sang in some choirs, played the organ at weddings for pocket money, and participated in some local musicals.
In my teens I went from classical music to rock music and formed my own bands and also did some busking, before deciding to focus on my own solo music. As for songwriting, I wrote my first song when I was 9, it was called Moonlight Whispers, and I’ve been writing since then. At last count I’ve written just under 3,000 songs so far.
In addition to being a vocalist, you’re also an accomplished pianist. Aside from the piano, what other instruments do you play?
Piano is my main instrument of course, and that includes related instruments like keyboards/synths, organ, keytar etc., but I also play guitar and a bit of harmonica. As a child I played the cello for 3 years, and seriously regret having given it up.
Who are your favourite musical artists and musical influences, both past and present?
Oh there are so many, a short list of my favourite artists, the ones who have influenced me the most is as follows: Tori Amos, Fiona Apple, Carole King, Elton John, Billie Joel, Sara Bareilles, Regina Spektor, Lana del Rey, Avril Lavigne, Lady Gaga, Amy Winehouse, Amy Lee (from Evanescence), Black Sabbath, an Italian singer-songwriter called Marco Masini, Pink Floyd, and songwriters Diane Warren and Desmond Child.
Are there any relatively unknown (i.e., indie) musical artists who you’re a fan of?
You of course. Also Nathalie Miranda is pretty cool and I’m in love with Steel Maggie’s song ‘’Prodigal Son’’, such a good song. Two other favourites are the Russian metal band Zoch (with whom I have an upcoming feature release) and the inspiration blues singer Stephanie Heitz.
You have a very compelling gothic image. How did it develop?
I’ve always been obsessed with the 19th century, especially its more darker, decadent and yes, gothic aspects, as well as vampire lore and the ‘’dark side of things’’. So my image naturally gravitated… to the colour of my soul; dark, dramatic and gothic.
Tim Burton films, Anne Rice novels, Twilight, and all the wonderful gothic literature of the past, as well as my passion for castles and anything ‘’dark and haunted’’ definitely had something to do with it. And hey, I’m a vampire who’s been around for a little over two centuries now, so of course I’m dark and gothic! 🧛🏻♀️🦇
Outside of music, what other interests do you have?
I love writing poetry, driving cars and motorbikes – anything adrenaline fuelled, endless hikes through nature, lying on rooftops staring at the stars, chilling out with my girlfriend and reading pretty much every single book I can get my hands on.
How many years did it take you to develop your singing voice?
Since early childhood I sang ALL.THE.TIME, hours every day.
But I’d say that I wasn’t really a good singer until my late teens when my voice really started to develop. I took singing lessons for around a year with an absolutely amazing vocal coach who really showed me how to use my voice to its fullest potential, and since then I’m thrilled at the expressive freedom that I’m lucky enough to have with my voice.
Are there any vocal tips you can give to any aspiring singers who may be reading this interview? For example, do you have any warm-up exercises you like to use? Any techniques or exercises to expand your vocal range?
Uhm, no not really. I don’t do warm ups, although I probably should.
I just jump straight into singing whatever song I’m doing although I’ll sometimes use “Chandelier” by Sia as a warm up. However, I would not recommend that you follow my example – I’m just doing what works for me.
As for technique, it’s so completely instinctive at this point that I wouldn’t be able to explain exactly what I do. The key thing for me is to stay relaxed, never force it, and just sing. I try not to overthink it.
Oh, and a shot of whiskey is really good for the vocal chords. And smoking gives a bit of edge to the vocal sound, if you know what I mean, though again, I am totally not recommending this – I’m only describing what works for me.
Who are your influences as a vocalist?
I think my absolute favourite vocalist of all time is Freddie Mercury, though I also adore the vocals of Barbara Streisand, Kelly Clarkson, Pink, Fiona Apple and Tori Amos.
Let’s discuss your debut album, “The Other Side Of Midnight“. Can you provide me with a track by track breakdown of what each song is about?
Yes, absolutely: my debut album ‘’The Other Side of Midnight’’ is an intimate look into the heart of the modern day Outsider, capturing the alienation, melancholy, solitude and angst of living in a world gone mad, facing my demons with a devil on one shoulder, the muses on the other.
Love, loss, heartbreak, melancholy, alienation, addiction, isolation but also hope, ecstasy, the devotion to beauty and the hidden magic of life, I bring these all together to make a harrowingly honest and intimate look into the darkest corners of the human soul.
Here’s a song by song description:
This is anthem for the outsiders, for all those who feel alienated by the crazy rat races of modern culture, the lost, the lonely, the broken, the sad, the ones who feel there’s no place for them in this mad world, the ones who don’t really belong anywhere, and feel different, or are downright judged as outcasts and excluded.
It’s for the ones who escape to the ‘’Other Side of Midnight’’ and the ‘’Dark Side of the Moon’’; to get away from the noise and chaos of the dayshine world, preferring to be wrapped in the luxuriant darkness, while they dream of a better life.
The angelic choirs of the backing vocals, crying out beyond infinity and to the stars, a siren call to find the others, a song of alienation but also of hope, of yearning for something more, something that we can only find – on the Other Side of Midnight. The personal lyrics, evolve into a universal anthem of longing to find one’s tribe, and somewhere we can belong.
2. Red Wine
This one is a ‘’Polaroid’’ of me: the solitary artist, isolated from the world, alone in her candlelit room, with a bottle of red wine and a piano.
This is a song of yearning for poetry, magic, romance ‘’outside the world is dark and cold, I need some poetry to warm my soul’’.
I sing, sitting at my piano, making love to the ivory keys by the light of a waning moon, while outside the rain beats heavily against the windows. Gentle, almost spoken verses, crescendo to a passionate chorus of longing and melancholy, soaring upwards on top of ethereal backing vocals and a moody piano, crying out for the beauty and the poetry and the magic that seems so absent from the prosaic dayshine world.
This is a song about the torment of loving someone in the throes of addiction. Wanting to escape and yet being unable to let go of your ‘’Tragedy’’, the chaotic drama of a toxic relationship that you refuse to give up on. An impassioned plea to one’s lover ‘’won’t you just give it all up’’.
This song has a sparse piano-only arrangement and the bluesy sound carries the vocals from an almost whispered beginning to the anguished heights of the chorus. Probably my most intimate and personal song of all.
4. Love We Lost
Love We Lost is a yearning anthem for lost love, a love we thought would last forever; right until the end. An elegy for a breakup that you never thought would happen, the nostalgic remembrance of things past.
The soaring vocals of the chorus ‘’we had it all we let it die, so see you again in another life’’ blend into the dramatic piano and melancholy strings, resigned at first, but then building up to an intense climax as the whole orchestra kicks in for the last, yearning chorus.
This is a furious breakup song, with a hefty dose of sarcasm, and a not very well concealed hint of desperation, one minute gleefully stating that ‘’there is nothing in the world that I would ever give up for you my baby’’, the next screaming ‘’never thought that I would miss you but I do’’, so – ‘’Here comes the Flood’’. The flood being both the floods of tears cried and the gleeful and willful destruction of the ex-lover and everything to do with them. My angriest song yet! 😁
Not all who wander are lost. But some are, walking along thorny paths in the middle of nowhere, wandering, wandering from place to place, time to time, strangers to whatever surroundings they find themselves in, yet blending in as part of the scenery. Nostalgic for a time and place that we never even knew, seeking something that we’re not sure we’d recognise if we found it. Eternal wanderers, through the torturous mazes of our lives.
A song about the alienation of the modern day world, the search for some sort of meaning or sense to it all, and the emptiness we so often feel inside. A dream, a reverie of roses on rainy days, castles in the clouds, candy coloured light, fantasies of kingdoms and crowns, all while ‘’walking in the rain’’, yet feeling like there’s something so much more hidden behind the veil of prosaic reality, a dreamworld, perhaps a real world, realer than this, where we are all ‘’gods of ice and flame’’, struggling to find our way back home to the kingdoms that we lost once upon a long time ago.
An impassioned prayer from a fallen angel who agrees with Nietzsche’s flamboyant declaration that God is, indeed, quite dead. And yet, and yet, the soaring ‘’All is lost if there’s no heaven’’, seems to call out to something beyond the endless struggles and triviality of normal life in the dayshine world, to something more, something higher, to a paradise lost, a paradise we all yearn for even though perhaps we’ve never seen it before.
All the people we used to love, all the places we once called home, what have they left behind but beautiful memories, and ashes?
And we leave small parts of us – Ashes – with all the people we once loved, and in all the places that we’ve been. Letting go is the hardest thing to do, and when one loves it is forever, not time, nor space, nor death can separate two people whose hearts beat as one.
A song of leave taking, a regretful goodbye, and yet, with the heartfelt promise that no matter what, if you ‘’call me in the dark’, I will always be there’’.
The pieces of our heart left behind in all the people, places and things that we have loved and lost are like, ‘’the nightingales song in the first light of dawn’’, always with us, and nothing that was truly loved, can ever be truly lost.
The desire to escape from wherever we are, from whoever we are can sometimes be overwhelming. And yet, can we ever escape from the one thing we’d like to escape from the most; ourselves?
The gentle psychedelic verses bloom into the dreamy and ethereal chorus, ‘’I wanna escape from here’’, followed by the bittersweet realisation that ‘’but everywhere I go, all I know is the beating of my heart’’. A Bob Dylanesqe song with Pink Floydian vibes, carries this bittersweet message up to the frustrated climax of the bridge, the screams of ‘’tell me why, though I try, all that I do seems to wither and die’’ only to come back down to the almost beautiful sense of melancholy, of yearning and of a not very hidden longing for adventure, poetry, magic, something new and unexperienced, the sometimes almost unbearable desire to just pack all one’s things into a bag, and just ‘’drive, into the night’’.
To where it little matters, as long as it’s somewhere far away, as long as there are four wheels and an endless road, we’ll keep on going and going and going until one day, perhaps, we will find what we were searching for, and perhaps, just perhaps, realise we had it all along.
From April 2022 onwards, I’ll be releasing some of the songs on the album as singles, starting with Here Comes the Flood on the 15th of April.
How do you go about composing your songs? Do you consciously sit down and treat writing a song like a full-time job or do your songs come from sudden inspiration (or maybe a mix of both)?
A bit of both.
Obviously the best songs are written when inspiration hits, something that often happens at the most inconvenient times (in the shower, while driving, while walking in the woods with no phone or notebook etc.)
But I also consciously dedicate at least an hour every day to the craft of songwriting, experimenting, improvising, honing my craft, my lyricism, to widening my ‘’songwriting technique’’. It’s sort of like doing scales and arpeggios on piano or guitar or whatever, so that you can then play whatever music you like effortlessly.
It’s the same with songwriting; if you hone your craft daily with dedication even during the ‘’dry seasons’’, when inspiration hits you’re able to ‘’capture’’ the songs effortlessly.
Most of my best songs I write in one go, in under 10 minutes, the whole song, chords, lyrics, vocal melody, and afterwards there’s usually at most a word or rhyme to adjust or a chord to redo, but the whole song just materialises out of nowhere and I feel like I’m transcribing while the muses do all the ‘’real work’’.
Are there any specific tips that you can give to aspiring songwriters who may be reading this interview?
Listen to as much music as you can, then take apart your favourite songs, figure out what makes them work, what chords they use, how they’re structured, how it builds up, how moods are created, how words are used to make an impact on the listener – and then sit down and write write write write write.
The first few hundred (or thousand) songs will be rubbish; that’s fine, keep going and you’ll get to the good stuff in time. I tend to set aside at least an hour a day for songwriting; sometimes I come out with multiple songs, sometimes with absolutely nothing but it’s important to remember that songwriting consists of two parts; the craft and the inspiration.
You can’t really control inspiration, the muses come when they want to, not when you want them to, but you can and should become a master of the craft side of things so that you can ‘’serve the muses’’ to the best of your abilities; and yes the muses tend to show up more often to those who show themselves well prepared and diligent about the creative process.
You’re currently based in Italy but are originally from London England. How did you end up relocating to Italy? And are you active in the local Italian music scene?
I moved to Italy a few years ago because my music producer Lex Mars (who’s also my best friend) is Italian, and I love moving around so I thought I’d move to Italy for a few years. I definitely love it here.
I live in a little bohemian attic, in the middle of literally nowhere, about 50km or so from the Apennine Mountains, and it’s really a solitary artist’s paradise.
I’m not active in the local music scene (which in any case is almost non existent since early 2022, thanks to Covid), but I do session musician work (piano) for some local studios.
If Venus Blake in the year 2022 could sit down with Venus Blake of the year 2012 for tea, human blood and biscuits, what advice would she give to her younger self based on what she’s learned and experienced (both good and bad) over the past 10 years?
I’d tell her to not listen to anybody’s advice and to always do exactly what she feels is right, cause that is always the right thing. Don’t let others influence your life choices, if you think something is good for you, do it, no matter what anyone says. Oh and just be yourself, unconditionally, no matter what.
What are your short-term (within a year), medium-term (within 5 years) and long-term (within 10 years) professional goals?
Short term: to build a fanbase of 100,000 or so people who adore my music.
Medium term: Develop the five album concept that I have in mind, produced by Lex Mars and collaborating with world class musicians in the studio, with art-film type music videos and a poetry book to go with each album. Plus hopefully a hit single or two along the way.
Long term: I’ll be honest – to headline my own show on a world tour stop at Wembley Stadium and Madison Square Garden, have a multi-platinum album, and at least a couple of Grammys, co-write a song with Diane Warren, Desmond Child and David Foster (altogether or one at a time) and to write songs for some of my favourite artists.
Edit: Here is my livestream interview with Venus which was conducted shortly after this written interview was posted.