2020 alumnus chases country music dream
In the last two years, alumnus Blake Seydel, who uses the stage name Blake Robert, went from studying neuroscience to working a job in construction to writing and producing his own country album. Robert released his debut self-titled album in March.
Robert grew up in San Antonio, Texas, and knew he wanted to live in a place with a rich connection to the music scene. After he graduated from Virginia Tech in 2020 with a degree in neuroscience from the College of Science, Robert found himself in a comfortable job working in construction in Austin, Texas. Though he chose Austin because of the opportunities in construction, the city’s musical heritage was a big bonus.
“Coming out of college, I wanted something that paid. I had very little savings, and music is known for being hard to break into. So, I got a job in construction, but I found when you’re making good money it is easy to get wrapped up in it. But ultimately, I was miserable,” said Robert.
Robert has been producing and writing music since the age of 16 and learned to play the guitar before he came to Virginia Tech. In Blacksburg, his roommates were in a band and music was still a large part of his life, despite his own musical endeavors taking a back seat to his education.
“I chose neuroscience because I was fascinated with the brain. I wanted to investigate it further, and I thought neuroscience would be a good starting point. My school was mostly paid for by a government grant, and I probably wouldn’t have gone if that hadn’t been the case. So I had the luxury of studying something I was genuinely interested in, rather than choosing the most practical subject,” said Robert.
In Austin, Robert is surrounded by other musicians, music venues, and people who share his love of country music. There, he is able to connect back to his roots in 2000s country music, finding inspiration in artists such as Keith Urban, Thomas Rhett, and Morgan Wallen.
“Though I regressed financially and I lost that sense of stability, there is no plan B. I want to be successful at it. I am working every single day, dedicating the time and energy it takes to succeed,” said Robert.
Robert is working to set himself apart from other artists trying to make it in the industry by producing his own music. Writing music and producing music need different skill sets.
“The creative process is different for each person. For me, I start with cords. I pick up my guitar and start strumming, trying to find the right melody. From there, I start writing lyrics. After, you have a skeleton of a song. Followed by drums, keyboard, guitar, and bass, which turns it into a whole production. You have to be able to navigate all the instruments, but luckily with 20th century technology, you don’t have to be amazing at each instrument. Luckily, having experience with production, I was much further along in the learning process than my peers,” said Robert.
Doing his own production also helps him maintain his independence throughout the creative process.
“I hope to stay independent even if it means not getting big streams. It is important to have a say in the creative process, and I want to maintain control over the music I am putting out,” said Robert.
Robert takes pride in his art and although his journey is anything but conventional, he has fully embraced the unknown. Each step in his journey has taught him different lessons.
“I have learned so many valuable things, but in the moment, I wasn’t happy or fulfilled. Looking back, it’s easy to say quit and follow your passions, but it isn’t that easy. There is so much outside pressure to measure up to the expectations set. I was so focused on getting that piece of paper, I thought I just had to get through and endure it. But it helped me find what I love and how to pursue it professionally.”
After finishing his country album, he has been toying with the idea of different genres including pop and dance music. Robert has plans to release another album by the end of the year.
Written by Caroline Reed, a senior and a student writer for Communications and Marketing