Forest Blake has been trying to write a song for his grandmother for ten years.
“She was my stepfather’s stepmother and she was the first safe place I ever had in my life,” Blakk tells PEOPLE in an emotional interview. “I was 15 when I moved in with her with two garbage bags and a backpack. I landed at the train station in Montreal and just walked into her arms. She welcomed me into her home. It was the first moment I had to catch my breath. She was my first glimmer of hope.’
Indeed, the boy who would one day become an acclaimed singer/songwriter had had quite a tumultuous life up to that point.
“I think the word ‘tumultuous’ almost undermines how tough it was,” says Blakk quietly. “I’ve never had anyone cheer me on. My dad robbed me of that feeling. If I tried to play hockey, he’d try to pay me to score goals, when I just wanted a dad to come to the games.”
There’s a silence, as if Blakk isn’t quite sure if he wants to continue this journey down a somewhat terrifying track of memories.
“My father sold me to my stepfather for 10 grams of cocaine and my stepfather bought my name from him. He purchased I love him.” He pauses. “I moved 10 times a year. My father was a gangster. I saw people being pulled at at a young age. I saw someone trying to kill [my father] on our front door. The man shot him a few times, but he survived.”
Fortunately, Blakk found safety in Nana’s basement and found an emotional outlet in the strings of a guitar. It was on that instrument that Blakk ended up writing the song “I Hope You Know” along with Steven Solomon, David Hodges, Drew Kennedy – a track now featured on his brand new Every little detail EP.
“I wrote that song to say that I really hope you know that every day I do something here, every time I play a chord, every time I make an album or an EP or I go out and audience play, I really think of you,” says Blakk about his musical tribute to his grandmother.
It’s an absolute miracle that despite the brutal challenges Blakk has endured, he’s still found a way to serve as the creator of heartfelt songs like “Give You Love,” “Fall into Me,” and “If You Love Her.” But find out, “If You Love Her” also came about because of a certain amount of pain.
“While I was making my second EP Sideways and I was touring for about 22 months,” Blakk says of the song he co-wrote with Steven Solomon. “At the time I was in this relationship and I thought I was going to marry her. And I didn’t tell anyone about this, but when I got home, she was having an affair. My whole life fell out from under me.”
In 2019, Blakk returned to Los Angeles and lived in a car his label rented for him, trying to find ways to survive on a little money and very little faith in his future. But in that pain came “If You Love Her,” Blakk’s breakthrough single that has amassed more than 310 million global streams in total.
“That heartbreak was the greatest gift I’ve ever received in my career,” says Blakk, who will embark on a 17-date North American headlining tour in January.
“I think the reason it appealed to so many people is because love, while complicated, is pretty simple in the sense of what you have to do. Just be nice. Say ‘I love you.’ You don’t need the big house, you don’t need the big things. Sometimes it’s those little micro gestures that really make a love story.”
And now Blakk is living his ultimate love story with his new fiancé, Tooley Jones.
“I feel like the whole world was black and white until the day I saw her,” Blakk enthuses. “And then everything was painted with her. It changed my whole life.”