Blake Hornsby is a young musician who mixes acid folk with oriental scales. He offers gentle doses of acoustic pleasure and of course ecstatic psychedelic mushrooms. His music is a great guide to the center of love universe. And finally, Blake Hornsby’s music can be described as a bundle of shamanic arrows that hit our souls directly!!
gew-gaw. Describe to me your childhood worries and if they affected you in the following years. When did you decide to start playing music? Who or what led you to this path?
Blake Hornsby. That is a very interesting question actually. I started taking guitar lessons around the age of 11. I forget exactly what drew me to play guitar, but I really liked music. Unfortunately, my guitar teachers never taught me much theory or scales, rather they taught me chords and tabs. Maybe, at such a young age, I would have been turned off of guitar if they were teaching me more technical stuff, so perhaps it was good. I do know that I was very enamored with Jack White at the time (I still kind of am), so I’m sure he had a lot to do with me continuing along the path.
I eventually started to play around with other instruments. I took a few piano lessons, but never stuck with it. I taught myself a little bass because I already played guitar. I bought a synthesizer and played around with it a bit. I learned a little bit of mandolin and later picked it up more to teach myself.
My secondary instrument is actually the clawhammer banjo… old-time Appalachian banjo in the style that it is traditionally played. That came about when I was around 15 years old. I had a banjo and took lessons partially to get my mind off of a high school heartbreak. Oddly enough, of all of the instruments featured on my albums the banjo is only featured on “Reflection of the Sun (Pt. 3)” off of my first album. I brought a banjo into the studio in Nashville to add to some songs on the Teetering on the Edge of the Void record, but it never happened.
In terms of childhood worries and how they have shaped me throughout the years, I’m going to have to get slightly personal. My parents weren’t particularly religious, but they sent me to private Christian schools from age 3 to 13. They did this because the education aspects of the school were believed to be really good. Most of the time they were, but they also literally scared the Hell out of me. I was diagnosed with severe Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (which I still deal with) at the age of 8 years old. I worried more than others. I thought more than others. I was having full blown anxiety and panic attacks by age 8. A lot of what scared me at the time was the thought of going to Hell. I was such a shy, nice little kid, but I was terrified. I would pray many times throughout the day just to make myself feel like I wasn’t going to Hell.
As a teenager, I transferred to a public arts school where there were no sports and you had to audition to get in. I majored in theatre and creative writing. While I played some music, I was more interested in being a thespian and a poet at the time. When I arrived at the arts school I felt like I had been set free. I talked to all sorts of people and started thinking for myself. I became an atheist after leaving the Christian school system. I soon became agnostic and, as I grew older, started exploring other ways of thought. Late in high school, I became interested in Hinduism and Buddhism. Whenever I got to college, I became even more interested in eastern religions, as well as many indigenous beliefs. I eventually came to realize that there is something to take away from every belief system, including Christianity which I had betrayed in the past. I don’t consider myself to be part of any religion. I believe that religion confines you into a box which is not okay. Different cultures from all over the world have something important to say because they naturally see it from a different point of view. These ideas of interconnectedness have had a profound influence on my music up to what I am writing to this day.
BH. It’s very refreshing! I absolutely love it. I never really felt like incorporating others much in my early days because I didn’t like the idea of bossing people around. I have a very specific vision and I didn’t feel like bothering other musicians to help me. By the time that I was writing the songs for Teetering on the Edge of the Void, I could start to hear other instruments in my head. Instruments that I couldn’t play, or instruments that someone else could play way better. I realized that if you ask, there are plenty of people willing to play music no matter what and they enjoy it. It is less intimidating than I once thought. I just asked a handful of people if they could contribute and they were all happy to help. Not only were they happy to help, but they have also expressed interest in playing the material live (which hasn’t happened much due to COVID).
I played by myself with a loop pedal for a long time and I’m still into that to a certain extent, but it has always been lacking something. More musicians onstage and in the studio fills out the sound and makes it more intriguing, not just for the audience, but for the enjoyment of the players as well. I would love to have a full 5-7 piece band touring all over the world, but that is easier said than done. When I decided to add more musicians is when I realized how much further I could take my music. After all, I’m really just a guitarist, so having others to help me really makes a difference and I am beyond grateful for everybody who has been involved.
gg. You choose to blending world views of different cultures. Everyone's world views purpose, according to the highest gift which is love. Do you think this brilliant (but utopian?!) blending is possible to someday come true?
BH. I almost certainly do. It can happen and it will hopefully eventually happen on Earth. Whether it is in my lifetime, 100 years from now, or 500 years from now. What seems more likely is if some new species evolves out of us and recognizes what we have done wrong as humans and learns from its predecessors. Looking at biological evolution, organisms tend to become stronger, more resilient, and overall better. I believe this could happen to the mind as well. Perhaps it is utopian, but in utopia nobody has conflicts. There’s always going to be conflicts, but you can still have conflicts while living in unity. I don’t know everything and I don’t want to pretend that I do, but I believe it is important to stay optimistic. There is one particular place that I have been to in the United States where all of the different religions and cultures of the area come together in unity. It has greatly influenced my music and I like to see it as a precursor to our future.
gg. There are some who have influenced you both in the music and in the way you describe everything. In your song entitled, “Fractalized Visions,” among all the others, we hear a part of a Greek (I think traditional) song. How did this come about?
BH.Wow! That's a throwback. It was released on my first album almost 5 years ago. I don't believe that I have had anybody ask about that particular song before. That's an interesting one because I had written the entire album up to that point and I was trying to push out one more song. “Fractalized Visions” was the very last part of Solipsism and the Nectar of the Gods that I wrote. It came to me while driving around working a delivery job. It has only ever been performed live once. Looking back on that entire album, it’s totally amateur. It was my first album. I had just discovered that I wanted to actually start making my own original music for people to hear. I’m honestly slightly embarrassed by parts of the album. However, “Fractalized Visions,” has become one of my favorite songs from the album.
Anyways, to answer your question… I had to go back and listen to the song to make sure that I knew what you were talking about. I’m still not completely sure to be honest. It was awhile ago and the entire concept of the album was to blend different cultures and ideals to exemplify how they are all trying to attain the same thing. I just searched YouTube and other sources to find different thoughts, sounds, chants, songs, etc. to include via sampling. I believe that there is a Greek song in there, but it only came about through Googling music from different parts of the world. I would like to learn more about Greek music, but I honestly I know extremely little.
gg. As a child, what kind of sounds do you remember being heard in your home?
BH. A lot of Jimmy Buffett.
gg. Which songwriters and bands influenced you?
BH. Oh goodness! I could write a whole page on that. They change a little bit every year. There’s definitely a whole lot of Beatles and Incredible String Band influence. Robbie Basho has had the most profound effect on my guitar playing in the recent years. Fahey too. Mississippi John Hurt is another one of my favorites. I learned “Spike Driver’s Blues” in high school and that led me to be able to fingerpick the way I do nowadays, with the alternating thumb for the bass. The Grateful Dead certainly peak through by the way some of the songs flow.
Pentangle, Os Mutantes, The United States of America, Devendra Banhart, Broselmaschine, Big Kitty, Pink Floyd, Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger, Country Joe and the Fish, Ravi Shankar, devotional Hindu music, and Indigenous shamanic music have all had direct influence on my music… As well as a little bit of country, a little bit of The Residents, a little bit of old-time music, a little bit of Zeppelin, a little bit of Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeroes… A little bit of a lot of things.
Sometimes I don’t notice how much something has influenced me until after I’ve written it, or as I’m composing other instrumentation in my head. Shawn Phillips, Tim Buckley, and Leonard Cohen had a lot of influence on Teetering on the Edge of the Void. After recording some of the songs, I noticed a little bit of Les Claypool influence as well.
Since recording Teetering, I have started to become influenced by some other artists as well. I got really into that album Junun by Shye Ben Tzur with Jonny Greenwood and the Rajasthan Express. I first heard it right before I finished Teetering. It’s what inspired me to tell the engineer to put a little distortion on the horns at the end of “El Dorado.”
I have also started to delve more into middle eastern music and even further more into Indian classical music. I also got really into Espers, particularly their album II. I also started to delve deeper into obscure psych folk artists, old and new.
gg. Do you place your music in what is called acid folk? Is that enough to describe your music?
BH. Yeah I’d say so. That’s what I’m heavily influenced by and classify myself, but it’s also certainly more than that. I listen back to my music and it doesn’t sound exactly like a lot of other acid folk related artists that I listen to. I’d like to get more of that whimsical medieval-esque vibe that a lot of them do. I write what I write and all sorts of influences come through. I tend to lean a little further into Indian music than a lot of acid folk artists.
A friend of mine calls my music “Psychedelic Shamanic Trance Folk.”
gg. You recently released your first vinyl. How did you decide to make this move? Are you satisfied with the sales?
BH. I have been an avid vinyl collector for about 13 years. I’ve been thinking that it would be cool to release an album on vinyl for a few years now and I finally did it. I am very happy with the packaging and the way that it sounds.
As far as sales, I am somewhat satisfied. I was planning on touring this album, but then COVID happened, so I couldn’t. Naturally, it is harder to sell records if you’re not on tour. I have never toured before and I live in a small town. That being said, I have a very small following. I’m happy to have sold what I have considering all of the factors.
However, I have built a bit more of a fanbase with this particular album and a number of people have purchased my record. Some record stores have been kind enough to buy them from me directly, or have them on consignment. The local record store here, 641, has purchased a number from me and they seem to be doing well there.
gg. All your releases, with culminating in your latest album Dogwood Dance, are possessed by an inner flame that is trying to come out. Do you think that liberating your inner quests will lead you to a specific state of mind and soul? Or do you just want to write music?
BH. That’s a very cool question. I’m really not sure. I haven’t thought about it much. I want to write music, but there is certainly something driving me. We all have inner quests that will lead us to liberation eventually, but who knows how it will evolve.
gg. What will be your next plans?
BH. I just registered for an online class at Ali Akbar College of Music. It was started in the 60’s by sarod player Ali Akbar Khan. Both Peter Walker and Robbie Basho studied with him. I’m assuming that the lessons will go well and become somewhat consistent for a little bit, but who knows! Maybe it won’t be for me. That being said, if I actually go forth with practicing classical Indian music, I would like to release an album of ragas for guitar.
gg. Do you want to add something else?
BH. Yes! George! Thanks so much for the album review and for taking your time to interview me! It has been a pleasure.