MMVAs Profile: Blake McGrath on 'Relax'

Crédit photo: Screen Shot MMVAs Profile: Blake McGrath on 'Relax'

It’s MMVA week on Leading up to Sunday’s big show, we’ll be chatting with this year’s Video of the Year nominees. Today, singer/dancer/So You Think You Can Dance Canada judge Blake McGrath takes us behind the scenes of “Relax."

Watch the video: Tell me about how work on the "Relax" video began.

Blake McGrath: We shot it last summer in Toronto. And I don't know if you know, but my story was kind of leaked to the press and stuff about me really going through a dark time and coming out of it. Just so I'm clear, are you referring to quitting drugs and partying -- the story of how you had a breakdown the day of the Michael Jackson memorial? What's the experience you were reliving?

BM: That was the day, yeah, the day I felt like there was this spiritual fight to save my soul. It was really crazy, but at the same time it turned my entire life around. I know for people who don't believe in God or don't believe in the spiritual realm at all, I'm sure they're like 'This kid's crazy!' …But I believe that the way I was walking was not right for me, it wasn't the place I was supposed to be going -- and clearly, because I was making a lot of bad decisions. I think it was just a fight, honestly, to save my soul because it got pretty scary.

Basically the video I wanted to do is this concept where it was this pull -- this spiritual pull -- from something really, really dark to something really beautiful. And when I had the exact concept and how it should be captured, I immediately thought of [So You Think You Can Dance’s] Mia Michaels. She's your artistic director and choreographer?

BM: Yes, yeah. … Everything she touches turns to gold, but she really -- she's raw. And what you see is what you get. She's going to go to that deepest place possible and I wanted to reflect that. What are some of your favourite memories of making the video?

BM: I loved everything about that shoot. Being able to work with Kyle (Davison, director) and Mia was amazing, and just being able to tell my story, and release and go there. At first I was scared to relive that moment -- No, I don't want to go unleash all of me and be that vulnerable in a way. But I did. Mia was like “You have to. In order for it to come out the way we need it to be you have to just let go and you have to just go there.” As soon as I let go, I just enjoyed it so much, just being in that moment and just really going crazy. It was fun! I was watching some behind-the-scenes video from the shoot on MuchMusic. There's some funny footage in there; Mia seemed to be yelling at you the entire time.

BM: She yells at me all the time! All the time. And that's who she is. You know, we don't always get along, and she will yell at me, but I know she's doing it in my best interest and to create the most amazing thing possible. You were also working with a director, Kyle Davison. How did the three of you contribute to the one idea for the music video?

BM: You know, it was honestly a struggle at times, for sure, because Mia's a perfectionist, and so is Kyle -- but that's what made its amazing. ... They both wound up trusting each other and everything fell into place. Kyle's winning last year's Video of the Year MMVA for Hedley’s “Perfect” didn't have anything to do with your connecting with him, did it?

BM: Yeah! Totally! Well, Hedley was my favourite video that came out the year before, and obviously with my artistic integrity I watch everything like that. Creatively I like to see who's doing the next thing and what looks like it's next level. And that was definitely Kyle's “Perfect” video. It was beautiful how it was shot, and the editing spoke to me as well. I like to feel something when I watch a video. Exactly like what Michael [Jackson] did. You watch his videos and there was a story, there was an element that made you feel something -- you felt good, or you felt whatever, but you still felt something. And I think there was more to be said back in the day with videos, and I really want to recreate that and do something with that. What's next for you after the MMVAs? I noticed you were tweeting about being in studio. Are you working on a new album already?

BM: Oh yeah, yeah. I'm about half done. I want to do definitely more than double what I put on the album [Time to Move] so I’m thinking of maybe doing a double disc this time. I'm pretty much in the studio 12 hours a day every day, on my days off. What can you say about what it's sounding like?

BM: Being a year and a half into this journey, and people having seen what I've come out with, just from the first album, I've had a lot more people reach out to me. So I'm working with producers from everywhere -- from L.A. to Houston to Atlanta to Toronto to the UK -- everywhere. And it's different. I want to say it's -- it feels like you're in a heavenly supersonic wonderland. That's how I'd describe it. That leaves it open to interpretation. Anyone you've been particularly inspired by?

BM: Yeah, yeah. I can say it has a strong dance element, because obviously I love to dance. So it'll be filled with those tracks that will be undeniable dance smashes -- but on a next level. I want to say, like, Afrojack. I want to say Black Eyed Peas. Ne-Yo. And what's another good one to throw in the mix? Chris Brown.

Blake McGrath is nominated for two MMVAs including Video of the Year. The 2011 MMVAs are broadcast live on MuchMusic Sunday, June 19.

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