INTERVIEW: Blackbear

It was the song that Blackbear didn’t expect to become a global smash hit, but it’s one he’s really proud of.

‘Hot Girl Bummer’ is a track that hears the Florida rapper/singer-songwriter opening up and being transparent about not being okay and not feeling like he could authentically express that because of the continuous pressures of social media. 

It’s turned into an anthem for so many other people that are feeling a similar way and just wanna scream “fuck you” to all the expectations that modern day society sets for them. 

In less than five months the track has surpassed 300 million streams on Spotify alone and has climbed coveted Billboard charts. It’s also become a song that is introducing him to a whole new audience globally and is creating quite the buzz.

Following the success of ‘Do Re Mi’ in 2017, he has found a validity in his creativity by having a second song have commercial success. 

“It’s just made me feel like I’m not a one hit wonder which is a really great feeling” he candidly jokes to 

But it’s also the validity that being authentically himself and honest within his art is creating an impact and is also a personal relief. 

“Being blunt for me has personally worked out and maybe people being vague will work in different ways for them but being vague for me doesn’t feel genuine. Maybe I’m just not a great liar and that’s why I have to be so honest through my music. It’s the only way I can communicate”. 

Blackbear is currently in Australia for his ‘Dead 2 The World Tour’ and after kicking off the sold out run of dates in Brisbane last night, I had a chat to him about the vision behind this tour and how he’s navigated the changes he’s made surrounding the show and reflected on his touring observations. Check it out HERE; 

TB: Your ‘Dead 2 The World Tour’ sees you embracing a bigger production, with heaps of epic visuals on the giant LED screen behind you in Australia where as in the US you had a really cool stage structure for you and your band. So what has been one of the most challenging things about putting this show together visually and aesthetically, and then adapting it to the different regions?

B: The biggest struggle was finding something that seemed like a gigantic show but something I could also do in 1500 capacity venues and something we could adapt because some of the stages are smaller. 

I basically just drew the stage design for the US tour on a napkin and then gave it to the next guy and he drew it on a piece of paper, and then he gave it to the next guy who drew it on a computer and then they gave it to the next people who started building it with playdoh and legos and then they passed it on to someone who built it with building blocks, and then we finally had a show. 

There really has been a lot of stages to the process and it’s been incredible. I really like the show but the next one will be bigger and badder because we have bigger stages to play on now. 

TB: Yeah! In particular the Australia show had some really cool visuals on the huge LED screen behind you, so how hands on were you with choosing what visuals went with what songs? 

B: That’s a really good question! I worked with two different people on the visuals that you will see on the Australian tour. One is more of a graphic visual artist from Germany and the other guy is a collaborator of mine who does more of the real images you see with body parts, candles and other cool stuff. 

I basically had a colour palette I was working with as I like to see music in colour. So I just try to close my eyes and see what colour works with the song. 

It took a long time to map out which song has what colours and then to find the right visuals to make them work. Some of them we had to change the tints, contrast, brightness and dullness of the videos to make them work. A lot of work went into it, so I’m glad people are liking it. 

TB: I loved all of the different snake visuals that were incorporated into the videos!

B: Yeah, we try to take the snake from the logo and run off with ideas from that which is really cool. I have a couple of songs where I say things like “watch out for the snakes”, so we felt like those type of visuals worked really well. 

TB: When creating this show, what feeling or thoughts did you want your fans walking away from it feeling/thinking? 

B: I went to a lot of shows growing up in my hometown in Florida in the United States, and I think my favourite shows were the visually stimulating ones where even if I only knew two songs from the artist, that I left there feeling like the whole show in it’s entirety just made feel awesome. 

So I really want people to walk away from my show feeling more connected and feeling uplifted in some way, and even help people even if it just serves a pre-game to whatever they are doing or going to next. I just want to provide a good stepping stone for the party. 

TB: One thing that I was impressively flawed by throughout the show was how in-sync and tight you are with your band. So how long have you been playing with this band for and how do you constantly try to push each other to elevate the live sound? 

B: *Laughs* We actually only started playing together three shows ago. So it’s really amazing that you think that, it honestly means so much to me.

TB: Woah, WHAT! You could not tell that at all. You all just seemed so in-sync and so together. 

B: Thank you! Well my bassist Budda has been with me for a few tours now so he in a way was leading the rehearsals and helping me with the setlist for Australia.

We are just all musicians at heart. I’ve been playing every instrument that I could get my hands on since I was six years old and I think that goes the same for the other guys too. We just love music so much, and we just try to put our whole hearts into the show which makes us sound tighter together. 

Also, shout out to my new drummer Dylan, he’s really killing it. He’s what we’ve been looking for, for a while. I actually found him on YouTube doing a ‘Hot Girl Bummer’ drum cover, so dreams do come true kids!

TB: After completing the North American and European run of dates for this tour before coming over to Australia, what has become one of your favourite moments in the show?

B: We did the North American tour before the release of ‘Hot Girl Bummer’ so the structure of the show was a little different. My favourite part of that leg of the tour was actually an acoustic section where I just played guitar and then it morphed into this punk-rock break that we do in the middle of the set which is really fun and it’s a cool little spin on some of the songs. 

I think now one of my favourite parts of the show is seeing ‘Hot Girl Bummer’ being sang louder and louder, with more people on shoulders and more phones coming out for Instagram stories and Snapchats. It’s just really fucking cool to see.

I love hit records. I love going to someone’s show and seeing the crowd react to that giant hit. I get so emotional sometimes that I almost tear up, because it’s so hard to get that one song. 

I remember when ‘Do Re Mi’ came out and it was just like “damn” because I finally had something with commercial success instead of just internet success like ‘Idfc’. But with this one, it’s just made me feel like I’m not a one hit wonder which is a really great feeling *laughs*. 

TB: Well ‘Hot Girl Bummer’ has just surpassed 300 million streams on Spotify alone which is crazy!

B: Yeah, and it’s not even been half a year yet! It’s so cool!

TB: When you were in Melbourne on the last tour, some guy charged the stage and tried to hug you before he got escorted off stage. So how do you deal with situations like that, because those moments must scare you a bit? 

B: I think when that happened I really didn’t know if the guy came to the show with ill intentions or if he was just coming up on stage to give me a hug. You can never really tell. I do take security and all of that stuff really seriously because I’ve heard horror stories of things happening at concerts and you do have to be cautious. 

But the way I see it is; “let’s just have a safe and fun show tonight” and if someone jumps on stage then hopefully you know that my guy Kev will tackle you and it won’t feel good. So unless I tell you to jump on stage, then just don’t *laughs*. It’s just going to be a bad time for them if they do it *laughs*.

However, I’m playing in Melbourne tonight and I’m really looking forward to the same rowdiness that the Melbourne crowd brought last tour. 

TB: Australians definitely love to party and get rowdy, that’s for sure!

B: Yeah! It’s like a giant Ireland, everyone just likes to get rowdy *laughs*. I love it!

TB: Your fans are really passionate and looking around the sold out venue last night and seeing everyone singing every word and jumping along was so joyous. So what has been one of the funniest, coolest or weirdest things you’ve seen when you’ve looked out into the crowd on this tour? 

B: Sometimes the best moments are just looking at people who you can tell has been really hard for them to get to the show. There are people who fly to come to the shows and then there are people in wheelchairs and on crutches, and those are honestly some of the most amazing moments as I’m just like damn, there are people who will really bust their ass or will line up since the early morning to just be there, and that’s just so sick. 

Sometimes when it’s been raining, everyone in the front row will have soaking wet t-shirts and it takes me aback for a second as I realise how incredible and special that is that people are willing to wait in the rain to see me.

But some of the funniest moments is just looking out and seeing the parents that some people have dragged along to the show and they will just stare at me and frown, and that’s honestly really funny to me. 

TB: Your recent single ‘Hot Girl Bummer’ sees you opening up and admitting that you weren’t having a good time during summer and was feeling pressure from social media to act/feel a particular way. So why do you think it’s so important to open up and be so honest as a creative?

B: I personally think it’s important to just be real in the moment you are having in the studio as a creative person. Being blunt for me has personally worked out and maybe people being vague will work in different ways for them but being vague for me doesn’t feel genuine. Maybe I’m just not a great liar and that’s why I have to be so honest through my music. It’s the only way I can communicate. 

It has been a very therapeutic thing for me to just really communicate and be honest, and I do believe that it’s a really important thing to do. 

Blackbear Australian Tour Dates

Wednesday 8 January – 170 Russell, Melbourne *SOLD OUT*

Thursday 9 January – The Metro Theatre, Sydney *SOLD OUT*

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