Exclusive: John Strohm Reuniting Blake Babies For Nashville Show

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John Strohm

Before Nashville resident John Strohm was well-known as a senior counsel for Loeb & Loeb’s Music Industry Practice, where he represents artists such as Bon Iver, Sturgill Simpson and the Alabama Shakes, Strohm spent a decade as a full-time musician and recording artist.

Much of that time in the late ’80s and early ’90s were spent as part of Boston indie rock outfit Blake Babies, alongside Freda Love Smith and Juliana Hatfield. The band was formed while Strohm was studying at Boston’s Berklee College of Music. He served as guitarist and co-writer for the group. The band will perform Saturday (Oct. 15) at The Basement East, along with Blank Range and Phoebe Bridgers. The show starts at 8 p.m.

Strohm tells MusicRow, “Back then at Berklee, it was probably more stark than other places. You could look at somebody and just know what kind of music they were into. The jazz purists would walk around in suits and the metal guys with the super-tight acid-washed jeans and the poodle hair. The indie rock people, the rock underground had a very signature look. We could tell at a glance that Juliana was into the same bands as we were so it was a natural fit.”

The trio became critical darlings, and though they didn’t enjoy widespread radio success, they released three projects, 1987’s Nicely, Nicely, 1989’s Earwig, and 1990’s Sunburn. The group disbanded in 1992.

The idea for a reunion sparked after Strohm found early demo tapes, including one for Earwig, in a basement in Indiana. “I just sort of dumped them there and forgot about them,” recalls Strohm. “The demo had been our reference tape for our album pre-production. I don’t think we regarded it at the time as anything more than a working tape, but it was a good representation of where we were as a band at the time,” recalls Strohm.

The trio crowdfunded an EP release of the music, and as an incentive, they vowed to reunite for a few select shows if they met their crowdfunding goal. The trio did reunite onstage, performing shows near Chicago and in Boston.

“It was enjoyable,” says Strohm. “I’ve been helping Juliana with her business for years so we’ve stayed in touch. Freda was my girlfriend for nine years and we are like siblings now. So when we get together, it’s fun and easy. I don’t play golf and I don’t really have hobbies, so I just wanted it to be easy and fun.”

blake-babiesPerforming Blake Babies material is as nostalgic for Strohm as it is for those in the cult following of fans the trio amassed in Boston in the late ‘80s.

“You’re singing lyrics that are very personal and sort of close to the bone, that you made up when you were 20, and now here it is 20-plus years later, and I relate to that because there is music I wrote in there too. I enjoy it for what it is. It’s been 15 years since we played these songs. It was the year before I started law school. It was my last chance to play music publicly before I went into my bunker for a long time,” he laughs.

These days, Strohm spends the majority of his time representing top-shelf artists as part of his career at Loeb & Loeb. Hatfield went on to find success as a solo artist and as part of The Juliana Hatfield Three. Meanwhile, Smith works in Northwestern University’s Department of Radio, Film, and Television.

“I’m not trying to do this professionally. I’m just finding time to do something I enjoy with people that I love,” Strohm says of his music career today. “That doesn’t take away from my family time and work, which is important.

“There is really nothing to do beyond that, unless in the coming year we decide to make more music. That is the next challenge is what does that look like? How can we pursue writing and recording new music, where it feels organic and natural? It’s something we can sort of gas up the tank every three or fourth months and do something.”

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About the Author

Jessica Nicholson serves as the Managing Editor for MusicRow magazine. Her previous music journalism experience includes work with Country Weekly magazine and Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) magazine. She holds a BBA degree in Music Business and Marketing from Belmont University. She welcomes your feedback at [email protected]

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