Blake Hazard Discusses The Istanbul Boat Rides And Hopeful Spirit That Informed Her New LP

The singer-songwriter says that "everything just felt true" while writing 'Possibilities At Sea'

blake hazard interview

Photo by Todd Weaver

Blake Hazard is preparing the release of her new solo album, Possibilities at Sea, which is due tomorrow. Prior to writing Possibilities at Sea, Blake moved from her home base of Los Angeles to Istanbul. After living there for a year, she returned to Los Angeles with something to say “about moving forward, and love.”

You may know Blake from indie pop duo The Submarines. This is her second solo album, following 2013’s The Eleanor Islands. The new album was recorded in Brooklyn by producer Thom Monahan (Wild Nothing, Vetiver). We spoke with Blake about Possibilities at Sea, her great-grandfather F. Scott Fitzgerald, and much more.

Listen to Possibilities at Sea single ‘This Heart’ here and read our Blake Hazard interview below:

Blake Hazard Interview

Culture Creature: What is the meaning or inspiration behind the title Possibilities at Sea?

Blake Hazard: While I was working on the record, I went to a museum here in Los Angeles one afternoon when I was writing. I saw this painting by Paul Klee, it’s titled ‘Possibilities at Sea.’ It just felt right. It kind of alludes to being at sea – being lost – but also having hope. The possibilities part weighs out over being lost at sea. That’s kind of how I felt at the time – feeling more hopeful and wanting to make a record that was about moving forward, and love. I really had this idea of making a record that you could put on to just feel better. To feel sort of loved and embraced by this music – whatever record it is that you put on that you just know it’s going to make you feel better when you hear the first chords, that was the kind of record I really wanted to make. That title felt really good to me. The painting is actually quite dark and murky for Klee. He is usually really playful and colorful. That was interesting to me too – it’s unusually dark and yet it has this positive title.

What were you feeling like you were lost at sea about?

I think I’d sort of come back from that place, but a lot of what I’d been writing music about up until then – like with the record that I made before, The Eleanor Islands – was very much about being sort of lost after having been divorced, and my band going on hiatus, The Submarines. I had this period of time where I was writing music, but I wasn’t necessarily touring or putting out new records. Then I moved to Turkey for a year and came back. A lot of my drifting that I had done up until that point, I just felt like, ‘Okay, I’m done with that.’ (Laughter) So like, I had been at sea, but now I’m ready to be here and be in one place. That’s kind of the place where I was when I started writing the album, which is more hopeful.

How would you describe your experience of living in Istanbul?

It was wonderful! I loved it. I moved over there to be with someone I met here in Los Angeles. We had gone back and forth for like six months, and eventually, it was just clear that in order to spend time together, one of us was gonna have to move. It’s quite a bit more difficult to come to the U.S. from Turkey, so I went over there. It was a real adventure, it was really wonderful! I put everything I own in storage and started a new life over there. I didn’t really know how long I’d be there – I thought it’d be a year and it ended up being pretty much exactly a year. It was beautiful.

I tried to learn Turkish, which is really, really difficult for native English speakers. So that was really exciting for me, and it was a wonderful thing to throw myself into. And learning this new landscape, new city, new language, new culture – it really is truly different culturally in Turkey than it is here. For me, as a way to escape things that had felt really difficult here for me, post-divorce, it was really a great adventure that helped me move forward in a way that I needed to.

Were you writing this album while you were there?

I didn’t write much there, no. I think started writing one of the songs when I was there, but everything else I wrote after, when I came back here to L.A. and started really focusing on the record. I kind of wrote the whole thing all at once, pretty much – in the course of about a month – which is really fast for me. I’ve never written that quickly before. Everything just felt true, and it felt easy somehow.

Why do you think that writing felt faster or easier or more natural this time around?

This might feel kind of cliché, but when you have something to say, it’s easier to say it. I wasn’t necessarily aware that I had something to say musically – but I had all this romantic chaos, or feeling ghosts of romances, and things that just felt so disjointed. When I sat down and started to put it all down in song, it was like everything started to kind of make sense. It’s weird when you can have these kind of premonitions in songs. That’s happened to me before. This was much more of a way of telling a history in a way that I hadn’t seen it before. The songs are kind of about different people, but it all feels like it makes sense as my story. It came easily maybe just because I was ready to tell that story.

How do ideas come for you while writing? Does a phrase come to you when you’re walking down the street, or do you wake up with a melody in your head – how does that work for you?

For me, it’s all over the place. With the songs on this record, an example would be the song ‘Oh Anatolia,’ about living in Istanbul and coming back, and the nostalgia for it. I just wrote that in one sitting, in one afternoon. I didn’t really get up and walk away and come back and finish it – it all kind of made sense as a story. It all kind of started with this spark of the idea: we had been out on a boat with a bunch of friends, which sounds kind of bougie or whatever! (Laughter) But it’s sort of a common thing there. The city is divided by the sea, so you find yourself on the sea, in ferries and things. We were looking up at the stars, and someone said, ‘It’s like an infinite dance floor.’ I was like, ‘Oh my god, that’s so beautiful, I just love that!’ So that song was about the sea and the stars above it. It felt like a film already; I was just ready to tell the film.

What can you tell me about actually recording the album – how did you put the band together?

Recording the album was a total dream. It was so fun and it was something I wanted to do for ages and ages. I wanted to make a record where everyone played all together. I had talked with Thom Monahan – a producer who had mixed my previous record, and who I’d worked with before on other things. I talked to him about this idea about basically wanting to make a live record. He was totally into it and had a studio in mind that was perfect for it. He put the band together. We all met – the drummer and the bass player already knew each other and just played together beautifully. Everyone else met for the first time making this record, it was just really cool.

Everyone was listening to each other really well, which was such a cool part of the experience – as opposed to when you’re punching in, and you’re redoing stuff, and you’re in Pro Tools – you feel like you have sort of infinite access to a studio and making mistakes and doing it again. It’s so different from being in the moment. Of course, there are things where I listen back and think, ‘Why did I sing it that way,’ or whatever, but then I just think, that was the moment and that was exactly what I was hoping to do. I really love the record in that sense, of just being a document of a moment in time. Those guys who played on the record were amazing. So kind, and intuitive, and they really listened.

What is your role in the estate of your great-grandfather, F. Scott Fitzgerald?

I became a trustee this year, which means I’m part of a group of people that decides what permissions to give, and we work on other aspects… It’s been so interesting to me, I’ve learned a lot. I’ve needed to learn a lot to do this well. His work continues to be involved in so many different projects. There’s a new collection of short stories that came out this Spring – that was also a fascinating process, working with the editor to curate the collection, and work on various notes and things. I felt like I learned a lot from [the editor] as well. The whole experience has been challenging but really wonderful. It’s been a bit of an easier way to be connected with my famous great-grandfather than I have previously felt. He died so long before I was born – it’s been a really great way to connect with what he did.

What is your favorite F. Scott Fitzgerald work that’s not The Great Gatsby?

Probably The Beautiful And Damned. There are quite a few short stories too. I find a lot of his darker work fascinating and easy to connect with. The Crack-Up is fascinating to me … I also love his first novel. This Side Of Paradise is so funny, it’s great. You can see why people got so excited about him when he was young. It’s got such great energy, it’s laugh-out-loud funny, the language is so wonderful.

What did you think of Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of The Great Gatsby?

I think it was wonderful, it was really fun. In some ways it was the ‘jazz hands’ interpretation of Gatsby. I think there’s a place for that. I don’t necessarily think it was the most emotional version of Gatsby, but I think Scott might’ve really loved it – just based on how much he did love a great spectacle, and enjoyed Hollywood. Hollywood wasn’t always good to him, but there was a lot about the glamour and glitz that he did really did appreciate. Even if he might not have felt like [the movie] really got him, I think he would’ve enjoyed it. I actually got to go be an extra on the film, which was really fun.

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

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