James Lee Baker – Artist Interview
Written by Matt Zin on September 25, 2020
Ready, get set, let’s do this interview. What makes James Lee Baker?
What I mean is… if you were to explain yourself to someone who has never met you, what would you tell them about, you?
I am a songwriter and performer originally from Texas. I strive to blend lyrical depth with musical familiarity. I focus on subjects that are important to people, yet told in a way that is unique.
How has your music career changed your life?
It has taught me the value of community. I have never been around a more loving and inclusive group of people than the music scene. I have found that by investing into my peers, I gain wholesome relationships that become symbiotic.
When did you start song-writing? Can you remember your first song you wrote? What was it about?
Gosh, I think I wrote my first song when I was 16 years old, though I can’t tell you much about it. I ended up playing at a high school talent show in front of 500+ people, which was nerve wracking but awesome. I think it was called “Sweet as the sky”.
Who were your music influences growing up? Do you find these influences have helped mold your music today?
My collection of influences is quite broad. I grew up inspired by the stage presence and precision of Garth Brooks, the lyrics and complexity of Rush, the exploration of the acoustic guitar of Michael Hedges, the rich stories of Ellis Paul, the uniqueness and sophistication of David Gray, and the breath of fresh air that was/is David Mead.
I see you are a classically trained musician, what instruments do you play and when did you start playing?
My primary instrument is my voice and that is the instrument I was classically trained in. I spent two years in college as a vocal performance major. Prior to that, I competed in vocal competitions and attending music camps in the summers. Singing has been in my life since I was very young, probably 2 or 3 years old. Guitar was something I discovered when I was 15.
Congratulations on your John O’Hara Singer-Songwriter Performance Grant for your song “Two Cageless Birds” I love the title and the song. Could you tell our listeners what this song is about? How long did it take for you to write it?
The song is about a long-term, mature relationship between two budded lovers. I wanted to talk about all the things one might love about their partner that are often unspoken. It was a song I wrote in a couple days, if I recall. It came very naturally.
Could you tell us about your EP “The Canadian River?”
The EP was cut from the same cloth of the LP but has a stripped down version of the title track. This EP was released primarily to target the Folk scene, as some of the songs on the LP are more pop and country-focused.
I would like to talk about your newly released album “Home Again.” There are ten brilliantly written songs on this album, nicely done. Which song totally melts your heart off this album and which was the hardest to write on this album?
Thank you. I really enjoy _If I Stay Here With You_. This song’s arrangement was particularly moving for me. It’s not every day session musicians come back with something well-crafted and detailed like that. It’s quite moving.
The hardest song on that album to write was probably _A Place for You and Me_. I started writing it in 2010 and didn’t finish it until 2017, mostly because I didn’t know where to go with the story.
You also have two more albums you have written before this. What could you tell us about your previous albums?
Both of these projects are more rock/pop focused. When devoting myself to a more stripped down sound with these newer projects, I almost removed the old projects from streaming and purchase. However, I received good advice – those represent my journey and I should be open to showing my growth and change.
When you are not writing, what are you spending your time doing?
Well, I have a full-time job and a family. I’m surprised how many professionally-touring musicians also have jobs outside of music. I am a software engineer and enjoy my career. When i’m not doing that, i’m spending time with my family.
Out of all the things you have done with your music career, what really stands out?
I just finished writing a song called _The Last Cowboy of Hutchinson County_ that will be recorded in the next few months. Writing this song and sharing it with others has been a highlight, as i’ve had a lot of really positive feedback on it. It was an intentional extrospective effort to write about someone else’s story.
Now it’s time for your sales pitch, tell our listeners why they should check out your music.
If you like catchy songs that also have lyrical substance, I think you’ll enjoy what I have created. I focus on a song very holistically so all the parts need to be crafted well for me to want to release it.
We are coming to the close of this interview but we would like to give you this time for any shout-outs. Make sure you let everyone know where your music can be purchased and touring information and any new projects you have coming up.
I’m also available on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, or any other common online streaming and purchasing site.