The lead singer of breakout Charleston rock band Stop Light Observations is striking out on his own with a stripped-down solo project.
He's trading in the high-energy, brimming production of the full band for soft and emotional acoustic guitar and piano tracks, led by his lilting, soulful vocals.
His debut show unveiling the solo sound is Oct. 4 at the Queen Street Playhouse, where he and Sam Burchfield, a fellow South Carolina musician and folk country artist, will perform.
To celebrate the occasion and learn what's new for Blackburn as he ventures out on his own, here's a Q&A.
Q: So what made you decide to start a solo project in addition to Stop Light Observations? (Stop Light is still a thing, right?)
A: First and foremost, Stop Light Observations is still very much alive and well. My desire to perform solo was not only to push myself as an artist but also to begin to explore areas of my writing and voice that, for a multitude of reasons, hadn’t been expressed fully in the music Stop Light Observations has made over the past decade or so.
We have always been rooted in dense instrumentation, production and lyrical context I have enjoyed thoroughly, but I would find myself returning to an upright piano on a lonely night, singing love songs as soft and delicately as I could.
That expression of music is home for me, and the songs I have written to perform this coming week are, simply put, “love songs” performed delicately and without the exuberance or screaming guitars and marching drums. I've found a sense of calm that has been missing for many years in my musical catalog.
Q: I know you don't have any official music out yet, but I've listened to some of your new Instagram videos that feature stripped-down vocals and piano. Is that the direction of your solo project?
A: Yes, that’s the vibe. I’d like to present the songs in a way that feels as if there is nowhere to be but right here in this moment — ideally, close to someone you love. Like a heavy coat on a cold New York City night, comforting in every way.
Q: What have you been inspired by for your solo songs?
A: My biggest inspiration has always been Ray Charles and, in particular, his album “Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music." Country melodies and progressions sung in a passionate gospel styling — true to the music I have always adored, the sounds of soul and Motown.
That is where these songs came from. That and being madly and deeply in love. Love is always the best inspiration and motivator.
I've been working on a set of songs all in that vein, and have about seven or eight that I feel happy with.
Q: Have you recorded any tracks yet?
A: I have yet to record anything as a solo musician, mainly because Stop Light Observations has been keeping me plenty busy! We are set to release an EP before the year's end, as well as two singles in the coming months. Once time allows, I’ll begin to arrange and record the few songs I have been refining in the meantime.
Q: What can be expected at the Queen Street Playhouse show?
A: Intimate. That is what I’d like the show to be. Joyous, and a refection of the passionate love that inspired so many of the songs I plan to play. I can only hope others may feel something as deeply profound as I have writing and performing these songs. A release from what otherwise seems like the never-ending marathon that is modern American life.