INTERVIEW: James Lee Baker

How would you classify your music?

Some songs are Americana, some are Folk. My main focus is creating rich stories and focusing on the details that pull the listener in. Sort of like reading a good book, how you paint a story in your head is different and personal. I aim for the same thing with lyrics and the Folk genre, particularly, is a great genre to do that in.

Who are some of your top 5 musical influences?

As a songwriter, I look to artists like Garth Brooks and the writers he’s worked with over the years. I also admire the talent and artwork of Folk artists like Ellis Paul, John Gorka, and contemporary acoustic artists like Ruston Kelly and Gregory Alan Isakov.

What do you want fans to take from your music?

A personal experience with the song. If the words pull people in and they feel like they can relate to the human condition on some level, i’ve succeeded.

How’s the music scene in your locale?

It’s steady. Denver has a great market and is receptive to all kinds of music; it’s a very eclectic scene that is accepting. There are good venues to pursue the acoustic arts.

What is the best concert you have been to? What do you like most about playing live?

I admit it would be Nine Inch Nails. Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, and their entire team showed just how powerful the coordination of many people can be, especially with technology, to create a stellar and powerful experience. The amount of equipment and expertise on that stage was fascinating to watch.

I enjoy connected with people – looking in their eyes and seeing their smile while I tell them a story they have never heard is the most rewarding experience of playing live. I also enjoy the dynamic that comes with a listening room environment.

Is there a song on your latest CD release here that stands out as your personal favorite, and why?

I really enjoy If I Stay Here With You. I wanted to take an unconventional approach to writing a breakup song. For me, it was about asking “how can I make a breakup song uniquely personal”. The idea of the narrator feeling a restlessness in their bones to be on the lonesome road of touring and traveling and all the contradiction and irony that came with that really resonated with me.

How have you evolved as an artist over the last year?

Absolutely. I’ve spent a lot of time (and still do) listening to what others have to say, especially those I look up to. Opening my mind to the prospect of constructive feedback and deferring my ego has helped me shape my songs in a way that I never would by myself. I’m now searching deeper for the human condition in songs and trying to convey things in a way that doesn’t seem conventional.

If you could meet, play a gig, co-write a song, have dinner, have a drink with any band or artist (dead or alive) who would it be?

Right now, Ruston Kelly or Gregory Alan Isakov. I’d probably have a drink or two with Ruston and hang out in a garden with Gregory. Both guys are incredible songwriters in their own right, partly because they paint emotions so well with their words and music. It’s intoxicating at times to hear some of the great lines they have to say.

What’s next for you?

I’m going to spend the next 12-18 months doubling down on writing, re-writing, editing, and exploring songs. I’d like my next project to be leaps and bounds above what i’ve produced to date. I’ll be investing into the right session musicians and producers. I hope to make it a self-titled debut album, but we’ll see. Otherwise, investing into the music community by getting to know artists, venues, and other cool people.

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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