Terry Blade continues the heavy look at social and cultural intersectionality with his debut album American Descendent of Slavery. To do this, he not only draws on his own experiences but that of society as a whole. Using multiple genres to tell the tale of the album, he showcases his musicality, versatility and power. We sat down with Terry Blade to talk about the album, the use of audio recordings, musical influences and much more!
OSR: What first drew you to music?
Blade: I think it was an internal need to express myself creatively, to better understand, wrestle with and cope with complicated feelings, abstract ideas and the nuances of my own human condition.
OSR: Your debut album American Descendant of Slavery is an epic 19-track album that rides through different genres. Was the use of different genres a conscious decision or an organic evolution?
Blade: Both. The decision was organic because I think of myself as a multi-genre artist. I have found it increasingly difficult to visit any of the genres that I have tried without seeing how each has evolved based on some combination or hybridization of multiple genres. The decision was also deliberate because I intended my debut album to be about me describing my experiences as an LGBTQ+ Black-American through genres of music that either originate from Black-American culture or otherwise benefit greatly from the contributions of LGBTQ+-identifying and non-LGBTQ+-identifying Black-Americans.
OSR: Is there a theme or backstory to the album?
Blade: Yes. The album is about the intersectionality of my racial identity, gender identity and sexual identity as a descendant of African Americans who endured and survived chattel slavery in the U.S.
OSR: The album is more than just your music as it incorporates audio recordings from the American Folklife Center of the US Library of Congress. What prompted this inclusion?
Blade: I credit Solange Knowles. I do not know her personally, but I am a fan of her artistic prowess and musical genius. I remember listening to the album I consider to be her magnum opus A Seat at the Table and being completely floored by how she used interludes to unpack themes, document history and honour the oral tradition of Black-American culture. I was particularly struck by Track 8 ‘Interlude: Tina Taught Me’ and found it to be a remarkable example of this. So this gave me the idea to research publicly available ethnographic recordings of former slaves to use as interludes for the album and my research brought me to the American Folklife Center of the US Library of Congress, including its Citizen DJ Project.
OSR: Why release your debut album now?
Blade: Because as much as the album relies on history, it is about now. It is about what it means to be black right now, to be LGBTQ+ right now. The album is about how history continues to affect what happens right now.
OSR: What was the biggest challenge you faced when creating the album?
Blade: Execution. It is one thing to have ideas but executing those ideas into something semi-decent and cohesive is an entirely different matter.
OSR: You drew inspiration from personal experiences for the album. Did you find it hard to share and translate these experiences into your music?
Blade: No, but I found it difficult to make an album that pays off because so much is demanded from the listener, active listening, cultural sensitivity, a willingness to get comfortable with one’s own discomfort and with an artist they don’t know yet.
OSR: What do you feel is the greatest influence on your music?
Blade: It wouldn’t be possible for me to only identify a single influence. My greatest influences range from Nina Simone, Meshell Ndegeocello, Amos Lee, Brittany Howard, Frank Ocean, Tracy Chapman and Solange to my mother, grandmother, best friend, aunt, cousins and exes. From lifelong friends, social movements and growing up in DC to age, enemies, mental health, mentors, teachers and living in Chicago. Over time, my greatest influences will change and evolve.
OSR: What is the one thing you would like your music to bring to the world?
OSR: What else can we expect from you in the coming year?
Blade: You won’t really know what to expect until I do it. Watch this space.