“I was raised on bluegrass and gospel in the Bible Belt of Asheville, North Carolina, and I always fancied myself a folk songwriter,” says Matthew Blake, who — with rapper Haley Hill — is one half of Americana hip-hop duo Girlboy. “My hallmarks were nauseatingly introspective, inward-facing ballads and acoustic pickers. Meeting Haley, who’s been rapping since she was a ’tween and whose biggest influences are Common and Macklemore, has brought out my fun side.”
...off of Girlboy's new record, Late Bloomers
Blake met Hill after both had failed to launch solo projects. “She convinced me to sing ‘Drunk in Love’ with her at karaoke night at Redwing bar in North Park. Even though I was a little inebriated and it was a dive bar full of fellow drunk singers, it felt like a little bit of magic, putting on my best Beyoncé and singing ‘I been drinking’ through a lip curl while Haley channeled Jay Z. From there, we quickly formed the band, became roommates, set up a studio, and started writing.”
He says it took a while to gain a foothold in clubs. “We’ll just say that we learned some valuable lessons about the need to come prepared with our own equipment. That’s mostly on us, though. Most bars aren’t set up to do a plug-and-play performance.”
The duo’s debut full-length, Late Bloomers, is being released this week. “We’re late bloomers in that it took a minute to find each other,” says Blake. The title also refers to coming to terms with sexual preferences. “Both members of Girlboy happen to be gay,” he says. “Haley and I both feel it’s taken us a little longer than many to come to terms with who we are, and to live authentically. We both grew up with a lot of conservative Christian cultural influence, and that environment tends to unnecessarily impede the coming-out process....
“For me, I spent most of my 20s slowly evolving from closeted condemner of all things LGBT, to out-but-not-proud gay Christian, to responsibly single and celibate gay man, to full-blown rainbow-emblazoned LGBT activist. It wasn’t until I was 28 years old I let myself fall in love for the first time.”
That particular tale is told in their song “28 Years,” a staple of their live set. They’re also still known to whip out “Drunk in Love.” After all, says Blake, “Beyoncé always brings people together.”