How Music has Impacted the Lives of Blake Quick and Rachel Murray

Describe The Quickening’s music in three words.

Blake: Organic. Refreshing. Drinkable. Our music is organic in a way that when we get together and play everyone knows the spots that need to be filled, and the notes come out of pure feeling. And it happens in a very natural way. It’s refreshing to the ears and to the mind of the listener. Our music is usually based off of joy or taking the good from the bad. Each song has a positive message if you listen to the words. And I say it’s drinkable because everywhere we go people love our music. It’s something contagious, and it’s when we share our heart with the hearts of the people getting an earful of us.

Rachel: Genuine. Undeniable. Groove.

Where is home? What songs/music remind you of home?

Blake: I was born, bread, and buttered in New Orleans. My dad listened to a lot of Dr John, WAR, and Neville Brothers. The powerful sound coming from Cyril Neville's voice is what reminds me most of home. 

Rachel: I was raised at the beach near Jacksonville, FL, but when I think of home I think of my family. I have older brothers so growing up I would devour all of the albums and styles that they brought into the house - Classic rock, blues, r&b, country, hip hop, 90’s grunge. My mother grew up on bands like The Neville Brothers, The Band, Fleetwood Mac, Allman Brothers, and Led Zeppelin so naturally she was thrilled when her kids were interested in these bands. My family really listened to and appreciated a wide variety. Still do!  Music is home. Home is my family. It takes me to those places with my loved ones when I can’t be near them.

We read the chemistry between you, Blake, as a songwriter and you, Rachel, as guitarist and vocalist “defies the term ‘frontman’ into one cohesive partnership.” This is a neat concept and description, tell us about how the two of you came together to form this musical partnership?

Blake: Rachel was introduced to me by a mutual friend while she was visiting New Orleans for the first time. I was playing a gig at Banks Street Bar and she sang with us that same night. We kept in touch and went to a few music festivals together, and within about 3 years of knowing each other, I convinced her to move down here from Florida. We’ve played in several bands together, and when The Quickening was born we knew we had a special way of harmonizing together that it almost came across as one person. 

Rachel: Blake and I met some 7 years ago at Banks Street Bar in Mid City. I was in town visiting a friend who hipped me to a band that Blake was playing with in that day. The guys were gracious to let me call a tune, which I think was House of the Rising Sun. As cliche as that sounds, I was an ecstatic 19 year old to call it! We kept up for a few years, swapping shows with my band back home, and while making frequent trips to Nola for recording and what not. I decided to make the move here in 2012 and later that year Blake and I formed The Quickening. We’re both hippies at heart and in mind so we tend to be on the same page with styles and groove. Blake Dude is more than a band member though. That guy is one of the best friends I’ve ever had with one of the purest hearts I’ve ever come in contact with. We lift each other up, in life and in song.

Who are some of your musical influences?

Blake: Rachel and I are heavily influenced by the Grateful Dead. Their storytelling and exploratory jamming are very important when creating music. Their lyrics are very thought provoking and can take on several different interpretations. I also find influences from folk artists such as Joni Mitchell all the way to Jim James and Colin Lake. I’ve spent plenty of time with the Allman Brother catalog. The longevity of that band is inspirational all on its own. I spend a good bit of my time and money traveling to see the band Phish. June Yamagishi is my favorite New Orleans guitarist. And the order of my favorite Beatles from best to worst goes like this: 1. George 2. Paul 3. John 4. Ringo. I think that should explain where my ear has been. 

Rachel: I’m gonna have to say 1.George  2.John  3.Paul. 4.Ringo but yeah, The Beatles are giants in my world. They were such visionary songwriters and the level of competence it took for them to create those compositions inspires me focus on the message I want to portray in my own writing. But besides that, soul music is what I relate to and probably is the real reason why I believe in music as my passion and career. Sam Cooke, Donny Hathaway, Chaka Khan, Roberta Flack, D’Angelo, Sharon Jones, Marvin Gaye, Etta James, Ray Charles- These are my heroes! I’ve played a part in various genres of music in my career, but I’ll sing anything with soul. 

We read The Quickening is “saturated in soul and marinated in the love for music.” This description ties in important aspects of New Orleans culture which leads me into a question we ask each and every band during Music for the Mind Campaign interviews….Why do you think music is so important to the people and culture of New Orleans? 

Blake: Whenever you come to New Orleans, it’s an over indulgence of all your senses. From the food you taste, to the beauty of the mighty Mississippi River, to the sweat you feel on your skin from the heat, to the jasmine blooming in the summertime, the music of New Orleans is what REALLY does it for me. I mean REALLY REALLY does it. There is quality music every night of the week here, and I’ll be damned if I let that go to waste. For one, it keeps me dancing which enriches the soul. It keeps me busy. Very busy. Jazz Fest is coming up, and the amount of live music in the city is tremendous! It is what keeps good-timey people having a good time! 

Rachel: Music is the greatest connector that I’ve witnessed in life, and there is certainly no denying the magic or rate of connection here. The laws of attraction are heightened in New Orleans and I believe that music plays the key role. The vibrations in the vibrant, vivacious, unapologetic atmosphere bring people from all walks of life together and encourage them to smile, to feel, really feel all the things life has to offer and the gifts that we offer to each other. To come as you are and feel good about it. It’s ingrained in the way of life here. Naturally, a town that celebrates life (and death for that matter)  has an extremely deep connection to music as it heals and mends us. When life gets tough, we still have this diverse community to dance in the streets with just about any time of the day or night. We can see eye to eye in hardship and in health when we’re connected to the same groove. It’s some powerful stuff. Music Y’all.

Do you believe music has the power to change your mood? How exactly does music affect you?

Blake: Absolutely!!! Even if I’ve never heard the particular song, or even if it’s in a different language, I can feel music speak its own language to me. A language that’s been around far longer than any other language I’ve attempted. It has the power to heal us and give us insight during certain obstacles in our life that someone else may have previously gone through. I’m also a huge fan of instrumental/improvisational music. When a band takes its time to create something out of thin air. And if you listen close enough, these people are playing what actually lives inside of their souls. Music has made me burst into tears of joy without having to say anything at all. It has the power of a time machine that can take me back to a point in my childhood that I haven’t thought about in decades! Also, on a totally different level, there is an industrial band by the name of Swans. The band’s trademark was playing at deafly loud volumes during their shows. The lead singer said he wanted to literally make his audience vomit by how loud their shows were. Almost like their music was punching you in the gut so hard it would make you puke. What a sight that must have been….

Rachel: No doubt! It has this way of drawing so many parts of the human experience out of us and bringing them into reality. Our emotions are consistently affecting our reality. Music incites ideas that I hold for the future. It connects me to the past and the lessons I’ve learned and reminds me of ways to apply them to the present. Music is that for me. It helps me stay on course. Music reminds me that I have purpose when I start to feel off.

Which is more important to you? The sound or the lyrics?

Blake: For me, it’s all about the lyrics. There’s a way of adjusting syllables and rhythmic rhyming of words that make me pay closer attention to songs. I love when an artist can pinpoint an emotion and make you feel as though they are talking directly to you. I also love when an artist can take complete nonsense and turn it into something people will be singing till the end of time. Groove and sound are equally just as important. Most lyrics I write have a chord progression or melody in mind that I carve the words around, but the words are what I try to spend more time on creating.

Rachel: This one is a draw for me. As a vocalist, having a song to sing is essential and portraying a clear message really is a responsibility. Thats pretty obvious. But to me, the entirety of a composition holds the most importance. When you break a song down to the different components and instrumentation, the idea is to layer beautiful sounds successfully. When you have that and a concise and relatable message, you have a really good tune. 

Allen Toussaint once stated, “Music is everything to me short of breathing. Music also has a role to lift you up-not to be escapist but to take you out of misery.” With that being said, how has music gotten you through hard times in your life?

Blake: Music is a metaphor for everything in life. It has its highs and its lows. Peaks and valleys. Chaos and order. It’s right there with you basking in glory, then it’s off with the wind and dispersed in the air never to be heard from again. It’s the ongoing evolutionary art project of life unfolding in the present tense! Music was my first love and the only one that has put up with me the longest. I can feel the big bass drum in my heart, and it tells me keep on marching no matter what gets in my way.

Rachel: Expression is essential, and we all have to find our personal outlets to sustain a healthy mental state. Music has always been that for me. It’s this endless source of reassurance that yeah, life can be brutal, but the beauty that comes from these experiences makes it worth the struggle. Getting through hard times means being resilient, and being inspired by so many others who have made it through fuels that resilience. We can turn these struggles into the exact thing that heals our suffering.

You mentioned playing at Bayou Boogaloo in May, what are some other upcoming shows and/or projects for The Quickening? 

Blake: That’s right! We play Friday at the Bayou Boogaloo this year. We are really looking forward to that gig. After that, we plan to go on the road a good bit. We just got a new van dubbed “Big Red Bean” and we plan on taking it up the east coast and possibly a Colorado tour. We also have plenty of material we plan on recording in the near future!

What song best represents your attitude towards life? Your music mantra if you will...

Blake: Since there are close to a hundred I can name written by others, I’ll chose one written by me. “My Place In the Universe” is a song all about trusting that you are exactly where you need to be. It’s about giving for what you take, and the reciprocity the universe provides will be all you need to live a full happy life. The song came to me as I was riding my bike home from Tipitina’s one night from all the way Uptown to the Marigny. I was reflecting on all the good things happening in my life at the time, and it was though I could do no wrong. “You shall not be intimidated/ go ‘head and make your love duplicated/ your true path will surely come with time/ a new experience is what you’ll see/ you can go ahead and take it from me/ that flame gonna shine on through your life.”

Rachel: Space Captain - made famous by Joe Cocker

It is a really simple song, but it is written as if it was a sole choice to visit this planet and along the way re-discover the reason you are here. I like to think that if given the choice I would have made it. I also like the idea that we’re supposed to be here moving peace forward and pushing for the greater good and learning what we’re capable of as living creatures in this vast existence.