Forest Blakk has been trying to write a song for his nana for a decade.
“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 I just ran into her arms. She welcomed me into her home. It was the first moment I had to catch my breath. She was my first glimpse of hope.”
Indeed, the kid who would someday become an acclaimed singer/songwriter had experienced quite a tumultuous life up to that point.
“I think the word ‘tumultuous’ almost undermines how heavy it was,” says Blakk quietly. “I never had someone to encourage me before. My dad would rob me of that feeling. If I was trying to play hockey, he would try and pay me to score goals, when I just wanted a dad to show up at the games.”
A silence ensues, as if Blakk is not entirely sure if he wants to continue this trip down a somewhat scary memory lane.
“My dad sold me for 10 grams of cocaine to my stepdad and my stepdad bought my name from him. He bought me from him.” He pauses. “I was moving 10 times a year. My father was a gangster. I saw guns pulled on people at a young age. I saw someone trying to assassinate [my father] on our front doorstep. The guy shot him a bunch of times, but he lived through it.”
Thankfully, Blakk found safety in Nana’s basement and found an emotional outlet within the strings of a guitar. It was on that instrument that Blakk ultimately wrote the song “I Hope You Know” alongside Steven Solomon, David Hodges, Drew Kennedy — a song which is now featured on his brand new Every Little Detail EP.
“I wrote that song to say I really hope you know that every day I’m out here doing something, every time I play a chord, every time I make an album or an EP or I go out and I play for an audience, I’m really thinking about you,” says Blakk of his musical tribute to his nana.
It’s an absolute wonder that despite the cruel challenges that Blakk has been through, he has still found a way to serve as a creator of heartfelt songs such as “Give You Love,” “Fall into Me” and “If You Love Her.” But come to find out, “If You Love Her” also came about because of a certain amount of pain.
“In the midst of making my second EP Sideways and I had been touring for about 22 months,” says Blakk of the song he co-wrote alongside Steven Solomon. “At the time, I had this relationship, and I was thinking I was going to marry her. And I haven’t really told anybody this, but I came home to her having an affair. My whole life dropped out from underneath me.”
In 2019, Blakk returned to Los Angeles and lived in a car his label had rented for him, trying to find ways to survive on a little bit of money and very little confidence in his future. But in that pain came “If You Love Her,” Blakk’s breakout single which has gone on to amass over 310 million total global streams.
“That heartbreak was the greatest gift I ever received really in my career,” says Blakk, who will set out on a 17-date North American headlining tour come January.
“I think the reason why it connected with so many people is because love, though complicated, is pretty simple in the sense of what you need to do. Just be kind. 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 shape a love story.”
And now, Blakk is living his ultimate love story alongside his new fiancée, Tooley Jones.
“I feel like the whole world was black and white until the day I saw her,” raves Blakk. “And then just everything got painted with her. It changed my whole life.”