There is a new vocalist on the scene. Now, I don't necessarily dabble too much within jazz and blues, but I love what I've heard thus far. Kaleigh Baker is one of the newest artists that I have come across recently. Baker is an artist with a voice that will draw you in immediately, particularly with the upcoming release of her EP, Weary Hours.
I spoke with her recently about the creation of her EP, sharing the stage with artists like BB King and Trombone Shorty, and much more.
This is your debut album. I read in another interview that you had compiled every song you’d written over the past four years and chose the best songs. What disqualified certain songs over the others that made the cut?
I feel like a large number of my songs could have been better. I felt like I had something else that I had to say there, or it wasn’t complete to me. So I chose eleven. We ended up pulling one after recording the rhythm section because I didn’t feel like I had the story complete with the bridge, per say.
I had a really great producer, too. He’d hear a couple of songs and then say “oh, there’s a really good thread here. This could tell a really good story across three or four tunes.” It wasn’t really about choosing singles, necessarily, but about choosing songs that would sound good together in a body of work. I like to listen to records from beginning to end.
What kind of story were you trying to go for with this record?
I think that some of the songs have a common thread about heartbreak and stuff like that. I don’t have a lot of personal experience with that necessarily, when it comes to love. But I get to hear a lot of stories from people on the road. As a vocalist, when people identify with your lyrics, they want to tell you their story. They want to tell you their deepest, darkest secrets. So I think it’s a compilation of all of the residual energy and stuff from being on the road, and getting to hear other peoples’ stories. In conjunction with mine, I feel like a lot of the background music tells a story too, about all of the places that I’ve lived.
When you finally got into the studio and started finalizing these songs and eventually recording them, was there anything that you ended learning that was significantly impactful for you about songwriting?
It happened throughout the whole creative process of it. It was really a creative endeavor between the musicians on the record, too. I write the songs in completion, and then we take it into the studio. Instead of going out on the road and hashing the songs out there, I chose to take these songs raw into the studio and bring some really great players in to create something raw and kind of off the cuff, you know? Something pure. There was a lot creativity that came from the musicians. My producer, Justin Beckler, has a vision. Sometimes I don’t hear it until he does his magic when he goes home and puts everything together.
Where did you come upon the term “Weary Hours”? I love it. Weary isn’t a word that you hear very often anymore.
I was in Hornell, New York, in a big old three-story antique store. I was picking up a bunch of stuff and I had my hands full. I tripped over this box of books, and this little gold leaflet book, really worn in. It was called “ Thoughts For Weary Hours”. I just really liked it. It came at one of those times as an artist when you’re filled self-doubt. You don’t know if you’re writing good songs or not and you just kind of have to keep working through it. I don’t necessarily identify with the stuff inside [the book]; it’s pretty God-fearing. But I really loved the title, and I went with it. I decided that it’s okay to tell people and make a whole album about dark stuff. There isn’t any happy endings, and it’s okay. There are a lot of people like that that I identify with that type of thing, so I ran with it.
I think the one of the most impressive things I’ve read about you is that you’ve shared the stage with B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Trombone Shorty, Tony Hall, the list seriously goes on and on. These are jazz and blues legends. What do you have to do to mentally prepare for getting onstage for performances like that?
I try not to be too distracted about all of that, because I am a total nerd. I’m a total music nerd. I would not even know what to say if I had even got to be in a conversation with these guys that I was able to open up for. I’m so grateful. I just try to make a set list and put on a good show. I just try to do what I do, you know? I try not to make a fool of myself.
I don’t know what I would do if I was in the vicinity of those people. I don’t listen to those genres of music all too often, but I know well enough that they’re legends.
When I got in with Trombone Shorty, Tony Hall, and Nigel Hall, that was all at the New Orleans Jazz Fest. That’s because I’ve gotten to know Roosevelt Collier from The Lead Boys a little bit, through some mutual music friends. He’s really kind to me. So when I’m in town, he says “why don’t you come out and sing a tune?” The first time, we were at the Blue Nile in New Orleans. I walk in the place, and he takes me to the green room. I didn’t know who was in the band. He said, “Come out and sing this tune, I’m around the corner.” So I ran over, and I walk in. I see these guys, and I try to walk out of there, saying “oh I’m so sorry, I’m in the wrong room”. And they’re like, “no you’re in the right room!” That was nerve wracking! I still get nerves thinking about it. It’s on and off. I’m on for one tune, and then I’m off. With those guys, they’re way out of my league. Let’s just put it that way.
And B.B. King; I can’t say enough about B.B. King. It was the Hard Rock in Orlando that gave me the opportunity to open up for him twice. Two New Years’ Days in a row. (Thank you Hard Rock!)
These last two questions I ask to every artist I interview. They’re broad, but I think they allow for nice answers. First: what kind of message, if any, would you like fans to walk away with after listening to your music?
That’s a broad question that I’ve never been asked before! Yeah! I want them to have the opportunity to interpret someone else’s music. I hope they find a place in their life where it makes them feel good about something. I know it’s a pretty dark record, but sometimes people need to know that someone else is going through some dark times, you know? You’re not alone when you’re in those weary hours. I’ve been a lot of people in my life: some that I’m proud of, some that I’m not proud of, and we all go through it. I’m there with you. I just hope they connect with the music.
What does music mean to you?
Music is the only universal language. If you can speak it, you can speak to anyone. To me, it’s community. I guess that’s what it means to me.
Kaleigh Baker's debut EP, Weary Hours, will be available on October 16.
This has been another Shameless Promotion.