James Blake joined Zane Lowe on Apple Music to discuss his new song “Are You Even Real?”, co-written with Starrah and Ali Tamposi.

He tells Apple Music about how the song came together, working with Starrah and wanting to do more with her, growing up with Macs and learning how to produce, and his recent Nirvana cover. Please find an audio clip and quotes below.

James Blake Tells Apple Music About The Origins of “Are You Even Real?”…

Well, a while ago, me and Starrah got together and we were doing some sessions. I was just playing her music, just ambient piano loops and beats and things that I had made. A lot of it, she seemed to engage with and start writing to, which is amazing because I'm a big fan of her. We just kind of hit it off and made a lot of stuff. This was one of the songs that we made. This is one of the songs that we started together. I sort of played her a piano motif and she immediately just started writing and came out with one of the main refrains melodically. Then I just did a little bit of tweaking to some of the lyrics just to sort of personalize the subjects. Then I kind of went from there and I just sort of produced it over the course of a couple of months. We went to New York, there's a big stint of production there, and a lot in the studio I'm sat in right now in my house. Then Ali Tamposi helped write parts of the song too. There was quite a bit of collaboration on this song writing-wise, which was just really great for me. I love those two.

James Blake Tells Apple Music About Collaborating With Starrah…

I sort of realized as well that there's just people who can do it better than me. I just think that the contribution from Starrah was the most kind of foundational. She's astonishing. She's astonishing and she'll do it so fast. I don't know, I'd never seen her work. So I was very surprised at how it kind of came out in just one sitting. It was one of the first things we did. So I think that's always good. Very often the first kind of moment of collaboration with someone can come out with the best, maybe one of the best things. I hope to do more with her.

James Blake Tells Apple Music About Working on Macs and Learning How To Produce…

I've used Macs, my dad used them. He had one of those flavored iMacs. They came in different colors. I've been using Mac since I was a kid really. My mum used a Mac for graphic design and then the Macs just got more sophisticated. I just always saw them as really great creative tools. So yeah, I've used them since I was young. Honestly, it was a life changing thing to receive one of the early MacBooks as it going to university present. I made my first album on it. It was just that, a microphone, and a cheap copy of a Neumann, and a Firefox audio interface, or whatever it was called, Fireface or whatever. That and the laptop and I was... Oh, and a tiny mini keyboard, which I used the octave switch to kind of emulate having different octaves. I think the tools are educating an entire generation of producers.

James Blake Tells Apple Music About His Recent Nirvana Cover …

I think with the Nirvana cover... I mean, I really put the question out to my Twitter followers and Instagram as well, to just find out what people would be interested in hearing me sing. I just went down the list and I was open to doing stuff of different styles. It wasn't just about what suited me in terms of subject matter and stuff like that. It was more about, "Do I like the song? Does it sound right in my voice?" I tried a lot of different... Sometimes it took a little bit longer to get the cover. One of them took a week, and then another one took three weeks, and whatever, but it was because I was going through the whole list of everything that people had sent me and actually trying them at the piano and just seeing if it worked in my voice.

Then this Nirvana song felt like a blank canvas, because taking away the instrumentation, just being left with the song, the lyrics are extremely powerful. They feel quite potent at the moment, come as you are. It's like there's an inclusion to that.Even though I think potentially the song was written about heroin, I think that the lyrics can actually be applied to a lot of things. So yeah. I can't really ever tell what is going to make me want to cover something, but that particular song...

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