YouTube Star Blanks Opens Up About the Opportunities the Internet Provided, the Road to His Debut Full-Length, and More

In the late 2010s, Simon de Wit—the Dutch producer, singer, and songwriter known as Blanks—started making skillful reinterpretations of popular songs in a unique electro-pop-meets-the-1980s style… in 2018, he struck gold and went viral with his cover of Bazzi’s “Mine.”

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After that, Blanks decided to switch his channel over to English (he was speaking Dutch beforehand) and target a more mainstream audience… within a few months, he had begun building up a loyal following. Now, he boasts over a million subscribers on his YouTube alone. But Blanks didn’t simply stick with cover songs (although his series where he remakes a song in under a single hour remains quite popular)—in 2019, he started putting out his original compositions as well.

And as you might imagine, having gained so much experience through dissecting the most popular songs on the planet (like Olivia Rodrigo’s “Drivers License,” Billie Eilish’s “Bad Guy” and more), Blanks is a phenomenal producer. Utilizing the nostalgic sounds of the past and the chilled-out, hyper-electronic techniques of modern recording, his signature sound is a serene blend of indie rock, dancey beats, and introspective songcraft. On October 29, he unveiled his debut full-length album, Nothing Lasts Forever And That’s OK.

Speaking with American Songwriter, Blanks opened up about how the internet has been an invaluable tool in his career, not only because it’s been the main platform connecting him to his audience, but also because he himself learned almost everything he knows about music-making from watching videos online. From there, the 24-year-old talked about the early days of his success, the process of incorporating his original music into his output, and the journey of writing and recording his debut record. Read the interview below:

American Songwriter: You’re an artist who’s obviously found a lot of success on the internet, yet you also came up at the same time so many of these platforms were becoming what they are today. How did the internet influence the development of your artistry?

Blanks: It played a huge role! YouTube did not introduce me to music, but it helped me advance in it. When I was younger, I took guitar lessons and played in a school band. At the age of 18 or 19, I started writing my own songs and producing them. Basically, everything I learned about producing and songwriting, I learned on YouTube the first few years.

AS: When did you first get the idea to upload cover songs?

B: I already posted videos as a YouTuber and started to gain some following (all in the Netherlands). After a year-long YouTube break—because of the passing of a friend of mine—I really missed creating the content, so I decided to combine it with my love for music in “one-hour song challenges.” These did so well (and even went viral in the U.S.), so after a while, I decided to switch the videos to English and start my journey as Blanks.

AS: What was it like once the channel started picking up steam? Do you feel like it gave you a sense of validation that allowed you to go into new creative directions?

B: It was so cool! It really felt like people were starting to acknowledge my music! I always want to challenge myself and try new things, so along the way I came up with series like “Styleswap” (of which ‘Better Now’ went viral) and later on “My Instagram followers write a song with me,” in which I asked my followers to answer Instagram polls—then, I used the winning answer as an element to write songs with, like “Higher” and “Bittersweet.”

AS: What was it like to bridge into working on your original music? Did that add an extra sense of urgency?

B: I always write from personal experiences, so it definitely has more meaning than whenever I do a cover! I produce and write (mostly) all of my music, and I also love how I can decide exactly how it’s gonna sound. 

AS: When did you start working on Nothing Lasts Forever And That’s OK? How did the concept for the album start coming together? 

B: Nothing Lasts Forever And That’s OK is based on the Portuguese word “Saudade,” which describes an emotional state of nostalgic melancholic longing for something or someone that one cares about, knowing the object of longing might never be had again. I have so many memories that I’ll never forget (summer nights with friends, going to Paris with a loved one, people you meet over summer, get really close with and then never see again) that I wish I could relive and feel exactly the same, but I can’t. So when I learned about “Saudade,” I related to the feeling immediately. I started working on the album at the beginning of the pandemic. I got really inspired and started writing as many songs as I could, which eventually resulted in this album!

AS: One of the highlight tracks on this record is “Classic Armstrong,” which has such a great nostalgic, electro-indie vibe. What can you tell us about it?

B: “Classic Armstrong” is a song about completely falling in love with someone. It’s inspired by my memory of having my first crush, where I just felt such a feverish teenage love I just wanted to dance in my bedroom and listen to that person’s favorite song! It’s kind of like every high school teen movie.

AS: Another highlight is the album’s closer, “Except For You,” which is such an intimate and sentimental way to close the record. What can you tell us about this tune?

B: “Except For You” is one of my favorite songs on the album. I wrote this song all by myself in a cabin in the woods. I remember waking up, looking at my setup, and realizing I was actually living the life I always dreamed of: writing music for a living. But somehow, all I could think of was that past relationship that had seemed so promising but didn’t work out. I imagined what I would say to that person if I ran into them. That thought sparked something, and a few hours later the song existed.

AS: So much of your work has that nostalgic vibe that goes along with the art and imagery from the 1980s—why do you think that era is so popular right now?

B: For me, the ‘80s give me some sort of fake nostalgic feeling, which seems to happen to more people. Maybe it’s a longing for analog authenticity? Or a simpler life, with fewer distractions? I wasn’t even born in the era, but the music sounds so good and the sounds are so warm, I just love it.

Blanks’ debut full-length album, Nothing Lasts Forever And That’s OK, is out now and available everywhere—watch the music video for “I’m Sorry” below:

Photo by Jantina Talsma / WMA

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