On Saturday, Grand Rapids singer-songwriter Cameron Blake plays a special show at Listening Room. Today, he shares the recordings that most influenced him. Plus, win tickets to see him live.
Grand Rapids singer and multi-instrumentalist Cameron Blake has distinguished himself as one of the region’s pre-eminent songwriters, from the poetic material on 2015’s “Alone on the World Stage” to 2017’s highly praised “Fear Not” to 2020’s dark-yet-inspiring “Censor the Silence.”
Support our coverage of
West Michigan's music scene
Blake, who began playing violin at age 12, earned a master’s degree from Baltimore’s Peabody Institute of Music and later began touring his “individual brand of chamber folk.” His carefully formulated performances emerge as captivating, sophisticated evenings of words and song.
Last week, he released a new single, “You’d Better Run,” featuring Debra Perry & Majestic Praise, and at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, he plays Grand Rapids’ Listening Room with his wife, cellist Jill Collier, and special guest Michael Schaeffer on accordion. Tickets are $20, available here.
“I’m really excited to share a brand new format for our concert at the intimate Listening Room,” he says. “I’m stretching myself and I’m going to share new parts of my story. I’m even going to play the violin.”
The first readers to email email@example.com with “CAMERON BLAKE” in the message field will win a pair of tickets to Saturday night’s concert. But first, check out the recordings that have helped shape Blake’s own music, with a Spotify playlist that includes two tracks of his own.
1. Billie Holiday, “Lady in Satin” (1958) – When I was living in Baltimore, I used to walk a mile or so over to Billie Holiday’s childhood home on South Durham Street. One day, I noticed the house went up for sale. My roommate knew I was a fan and arranged a visitation with a Realtor who unlocked the front door and left us to ourselves. There I was alone in the rooms where the youth, then Eleanora Fagan, experienced some of the joy and trauma that would inform her life. The house was still being sold for cheap, the rooms were still small and the windows still looked out over the same narrow, unkempt street. Still humble. I would always listen to “Lady in Satin” on those walks and I’m still moved by the sound of her voice on this album – the vulnerability that was also her superpower.
Listen: “For All We Know”
2. Glenn Gould, “Goldberg Variations” (1981) – I can’t say I know a single classically trained musicians who doesn’t point to Bach as their heart and soul. When I heard a recording of pianist Glenn Gould play Bach for the first time, it was something altogether different and it blew my mind. It had attitude, it sparkled and the tempos were all over the place. It sounded like he was improvising. He broke all the ‘rules’ and yet did it so brilliantly! His earlier 1955 recording of the Goldberg took the world by storm, but I actually fell in love with the 1981 version, particularly the beautiful and transcendent “Aria.” Coincidentally, we had a ‘birth mix’ playing at the hospital when Jill was in labor and our first daughter Genevieve was born at the exact moment this movement came on.
Listen: “Goldberg Variations”
3. mewithoutYou, “Catch for Us the Foxes” (2004) – This was the band that got me through college. “Catch for Us the Foxes” encapsulated a time for me that was committed to ‘figuring myself out’ – what I believed and who I was. I became a bit of a groupie; catching dinner with the band before shows, etc. Frontman Aaron Weiss’s unique vocal delivery forced me to tune in to the lyrics, which would influence my own performance style. I also credit this album for introducing me to Rumi.
Listen: “Tie Me Up! Untie Me!”
Currently Loving: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, “Ghosteen” (2019) – This has been my COVID record. I think it’s one of the bravest albums this band has released because it’s basically a 75-minute meditation track of soundscapes and no drums. When I feel my heart getting hard, I listen to this album and it softens me. I feel every word.
Listen: “Bright Horses”
ALBUMS THAT CHANGED THE WORLD: Cameron Blake’s Playlist on Spotify
Copyright 2021, Spins on Music LLC