Forest Blakk has been trying to write a song for his nana for 10 years.
“She was my stepfather’s mom, and she was the first safe place I ever had in my life,” Blakk tells PEOPLE in an emotional interview. “I was 15 years old when I lived with him with two garbage bags and a backpack. I arrived at the train station in Montreal, and I just ran into his arms. He welcomed me into his home. It was the first time I had to breathe. He was the first time I saw hope.”
Indeed, the child who would become a famous singer/songwriter had faced a difficult life up to that point.
“I think the word ‘commotion’ is understating how heavy it was,” says Blakk quietly. “I never had anyone who encouraged me. My father stole that feeling from me. If I tried to play hockey, he would try to pay me to score goals, when I just wanted my father to come to the games.”
There is silence, as if Blakk isn’t entirely sure if he wants to continue this journey down another terrifying memory lane.
“My father sold me 10 grams of cocaine to my stepfather and my stepfather bought my name from him. buy I from him.” He pauses. “I traveled 10 times a year. My father was a criminal. I saw guns being pulled on people when they were young. I saw someone trying to kill [my father] at our front door. The man shot him several times, but he survived. ”
Fortunately, Blakk found safety in Nana’s basement and found the emotion inside the guitar strings. It was on that instrument that Blakk later wrote the song “I Hope You Know” alongside Steven Solomon, David Hodges, Drew Kennedy – a song that is now featured on his new album. Every Small Detail EP.
“I wrote this song saying I hope you know that every day I’m out there doing something, every time I play a chord, every time I make an album or an EP or go out and play for an audience, I’m really thinking about you,” says Blakk about his music to his mother.
It’s amazing that despite the brutal problems that Blakk faced, he still found a way to work as a creator of heartfelt songs such as “Giving Love,” “Fall In Me” and “If You Love Him.” But to get to know, “If You Love Him” also came about because of some amount of pain.
“In the middle of making my second EP Sideways and I had been touring for about 22 months,” says Blakk of the song he co-wrote with Steven Solomon. “At that time, I had this relationship, and I thought I was going to marry him. And I didn’t tell anyone this, but I came to her house with her boyfriend. My whole life fell out from under me. ”
In 2019, Blakk moved back to Los Angeles and lived in a car he rented, trying to find ways to survive on less money and less confidence in his future. But in that pain came “If You Love Him,” Blakk’s breakout single has gone on to amass more than 310 million total streams worldwide.
“This grief is the greatest gift I’ve ever received in my career,” says Blakk, who will embark on a 13-date North American tour in January.
“I think the reason it connects with so many people is that love, even though it’s hard, is very simple in terms of what you have to do. Just be kind. Say ‘I love you.’ You don’t need a big house, you don’t need big things. Sometimes it’s the little things that really make a love story.”
And now, Blakk is living her last love story alongside her new fiancé, Tooly Jones.
“I feel like the whole world was black and white until the day I saw him,” says Blakk. “And then everything was painted by him. It changed my whole life.”