6LACK On Finding Balance In Life, Music, And Fatherhood


Photo Credit: Jack McKain

Last March, 6LACK released the critically acclaimed Since I Have A Lover. It was his first album in over 5 years—and for good reason. For the East Atlanta native, placing an emphasis on the simpler, more important facets of life have helped in his growth as an artist.

His most recent studio project earned the 31-year-old a Grammy nomination for Best Progressive R&B Album, and also spawned a prominent tour that 6LACK is grateful for due to the range of positive emotions that came from it. “This tour, more than any other, was really healing for me—it was really fulfilling,” he tells ESSENCE. “It’s the first tour of the three of my own that I’ve done where I left the stage at peace and, as far as the storyline goes, I leave feeling like I’m ending on a good note.” 

Between the collection of new music, a lucrative tour, and heightened visibility within his industry, the “Prblms” singer is bigger than ever. In the time that led up to his recent success, he began to prioritize his mental health with self-care methods and therapy. These aforementioned experiences, along with the presence of his daughter and loved ones, put him in a beautiful, enlightened space, and he’s now ready to share that with the world.

In this candid interview, 6LACK speaks on validation, being a father, and how he’s maintained balance in his life and career.

ESSENCE: You recently wrapped up the American leg of your Since I Have a Lover tour. Tell me, what was that experience like and what are the biggest contrasts when you’re performing in the States as opposed to overseas?

6LACK: Every show, I got to see just the reaction from people and also how I felt within myself as far as just feeling at peace and feeling at ease and feeling happy by the end of every night. So that was probably the biggest and newest takeaway from this tour.

And the difference between the U.S. and anywhere overseas—I hate to say it, but we got a million filters on ourselves in the States. We think about things that don’t really matter, like, “Don’t step on my shoes. This is my nice outfit. So-and-so who I know is here. I don’t want to look not cool.” We think about a lot of stuff that prevents us from having fun, the most amount of fun that we can have. And when I go overseas, that’s probably the biggest difference. Those filters become a little bit less, depending on where you are. So Europe, London, and Australia, these are places where people are literally coming to leave everything on the floor. So that’s the only thing as far as the biggest difference between the States and overseas. And I pray that we can continue to grow to just take off some of those extra things that we think about when we go to a show.

It was interesting you said that this is the first one of your tours that you leave the stage at peace. What do you attribute that change to? Why do you think it differs from previous tours?

Just natural growth, personal growth, spiritual growth, emotional growth. I’m just not crafting stories from a bad place, or I’m not crafting stories with no resolution. I’m working through things as I’m writing through things. So I think that’s the biggest thing for me, is I’ve been able to write songs that have a start and a finish to them. And with that, knowing that I know better, when I leave the stage, I just feel more conditioned. I feel more aware. I feel more in control of my life and my narrative and my story. Yeah, it’s been nice to see the difference and to see the contrast. But I do love and appreciate where we are because it’s a testament to what the goal was in the beginning.

I wanted to congratulate you on your fourth Grammy nomination. Can you tell me how you felt when you got that nod?

Oh, man. It’s crazy because I’m normally on my toes about everything. I’m fully aware of what’s going on industry-wise, what specific dates and whatever’s coming up. But I had thought about it, just if we would be nominated, probably every other week leading up into the nomination. And then for whatever reason, that morning, I just blanked and I completely forgot. Probably slept in a little bit later than I normally sleep in. And yeah, everybody just started blowing up my phone. First, it started with a couple FaceTime calls that I wasn’t ready to answer because I just didn’t start my day yet. And then the texts started rolling in. And from then on, it was like, “Ah, shit. We actually did it. We actually created something that was rooted in love and rooted in positivity and it’s being recognized.” I’ve been nominated other times before, but this one just means the most to me because this album wasn’t necessarily about a specific playlist or about a specific radio or about a specific opportunity or partnership with anybody else. It was something that I did for myself and for anybody who resonated with it. And to be recognized for it just shows that you can do exactly what you want to do and that it doesn’t have to measure up to anybody else’s standards, just your own.

I’m glad you said that because with that, I think you’re an amazing artist already. Free 6lack—classic. East Atlanta Love Letter—I love that one too. Is there a heightened sense of validation if you receive a Grammy this year?

I think anything extra that we can get in the industry is a plus. It’s a bonus. I could never look at recognition or look at an award or look at being recognized as something that doesn’t mean anything because to me, that means that it means something to somebody else. So if enough people come together and agree or vote or love something, then for me, it’s definitely an extra sense of validation. But the validation already exists within the work. We made it because we believe in it, and we put it out because we believe in it, and we tour it because we believe in it, and we love it.

So the album that’s up for the Grammy—Since I Have a Lover—it’s been six years since your previous album. Why do you think so much time passed in between your second and your third album?

I think a lot of time passed because I just needed to take my time in general with my life, with my music. My creativity kind of mirrors my personal life. So if I don’t have everything in order, if I’m not in a good place or in a good motion or in a good flow, then I can’t really fake it and just go to the studio and make things that don’t reflect where I am. So for me, I needed to get my life in order, and however much time that takes, there’s no true limit on it. At moments, I thought it would take a couple months, and then that turned into a couple years, and then the pandemic hit. And we already know what that consisted of and how that felt for all of us. So for me, it was just taking as much time as I needed, not feeling like I needed to rush for anyone, because the worst thing that you can do is to step prematurely or to not believe in something that you’re doing and then to put it out into the world and have to deal with those feelings.

So, do you think with the six-year break, was there any pressure or expectations for this album as opposed to previous releases?

Yeah. I think that’s natural from other people, for myself as well. But over time, I just learned to let them go. I made Free 6lack already. I never need to make another one. I made East Atlanta Love Letter. I never have to make another one. And every other thing that I do, as far as these projects and this music and this catalog, is not to repeat any steps or to do anything over or to become a specific era and to let that be a persona. These are moments in time, and however they come, however they’re delivered is what it is. Since I Have a Lover had a bit of pressure when you look at it from a general standpoint, but that’s just the main thing that I’ve been learning as an artist, even if it exists in the beginning, to just let it go, shake it off and focus on what you can, which is the present.

So, I’ve been following you for a long time, and I have seen you growing as an artist too. I’ve also seen you grow as a man. You have a beautiful, beautiful daughter, and I see that you interact a lot and just the things you do. What’s it like, sharing these moments of success with your daughter?

It’s cool. This last show that I did in Atlanta was her first time being able to actually digest what I do for a living. I’ve told her about it. She listens to songs. She’s able to point my voice out. I’ve shown her pictures to videos. But the last time she was at a show, she was a baby. And I don’t really like to bring her on the road or tie her up too much in the tour life or music life because she’s a kid and she deserves to be a kid. Yeah, this last show in Atlanta, she got to see it, and she got to have fun and experience it and jump around. And it was just really reassuring. And it was a happy moment for me to be able to walk around with her and do soundcheck while she’s in the building and let her know, “These are the people that are here to help you if you need anything, and this is what we’re going to do at this time, this is what we’re going to do later.” And yeah, she’s an easy kid to hang with. So it was definitely fun, and it was a nice full circle moment.

Between fatherhood, music, touring, things of that nature, how has 6LACK maintained balance in his life?

I’ve maintained balance by just continuing to set boundaries for the people in my life, trying to settle into a routine. And some days are better than others. But I know that I work my best and my creativity is at its peak when I’m holding myself accountable and I’m doing certain things like going to sleep on time, starting my day early, exercising in some way, shape or form, reading something or watching something good for me. Having a routine, for sure, is another way to keep the balance. And besides that, just staying on my toes. I need to get back into practicing and writing as much as I can now that tour is over, and I need to keep my sword sharp. And I am ready to just push myself and test myself in as many ways as I can. So a good balance of those things is what keeps me at ease.


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