It is no surprise that with great love sometimes comes great heartbreak; It's a theme that singer-songwriter Erick Baker explores in his recently released second record, Goodbye June. The album - produced by former Wilco drummer Ken Coomer - showcases his extremely personal songwriting style and soulful voice with songs that blur the lines between rock, folk, pop and country, and features themes ranging from greatest passions to deepest sorrows. Baker's signature sound has brought the Knoxville, TN native a slew of fans, eager to hear his truths about the sacrifices and joys in relationships, and has established him as an equally gifted musician and songwriter, landing gigs with John Legend, James Blunt, the Goo Goo Dolls and Heart. Playback spoke to Baker about his new album, his evolution as an artist and what it means to follow his dreams.
What is the story behind your new single "In Love With a Lie," the leadoff track to Goodbye June?
Well, it's actually several stories. The idea of the song actually came from a friend of mine. He was going through a breakup at the time, and amidst the tears and pain he kept saying, "You know man, I feel like I was in love with a lie." I was like, "Man I hear ya, but there is a song in there somewhere." That was kind of the spark, and I just took it from there, adding my own personal stories with relationships gone wrong. Truth and honesty must be the cornerstone to any healthy relationship and it's difficult to deal with trying to have your mind change what your heart controls.
How did the song come together?
The music actually came first. For me, a lot of my writing starts out one way and ends up going somewhere completely different. The song started with a totally different feel and had a different structure. Another friend and I just started writing, and at the time, it wasn't for a song, it was just playing with a song idea. I kind of took that idea, cut it up, and once I knew what "In Love With a Lie" was going to be, the feel and the tone changed to a more driving and aggressive style. Rarely do I say, "Today, I think I'm going to write a song about trees," because as soon as I do that, it's going to be an awful song. When I try to sit down and write a happy song, I wind up writing the saddest song I've ever written. What was funny about that song was that I had already recorded Goodbye June, and it was done - or so I thought - and I knew immediately that I had to go back in and record it. Oddly enough, it ended up being the first track as well as the lead single.
How does Goodbye June show your evolution as an artist?
Goodbye June is a huge step forward for me as an artist because I think that it really showcases so much more of who I am. Personally, there was a dramatic growth in songwriting and the song arrangement, as well as in the musicality and musicianship, and that reflects that I have grown a lot. The record for me is the "July" of my life. I'm a father and a husband now, and entering a new phase in my life, and Goodbye June is a celebration of what brought me here, all of the mistakes, the good and the bad, and the joy of everything that has led me up to this point. It's also an embracing of what's to come, and looking forward to what takes me to the "December" of my life.
What made you want to pursue music?
My story is different from most people, in that I started playing music after I graduated from college. I had always been a fan of music, and I had a guitar in the corner and I knew a couple of songs, but I never considered myself an artist. After I graduated college, I didn't know who I was, I didn't know what I wanted to do and I was completely lost. I pretty much just spent the summer in the wind and traveled, while starting to teach myself how to play guitar. I was a huge Ben Harper fan and I had been introduced to Ryan Adams's Heartbreaker, so I learned how to play their songs and that evolved into bar gigs. In my hometown of Knoxville, I played cover shows and started to write, and then I scored this amazing opportunity to open for John Legend. I quickly went from ten people who weren't listening to 1,500 who were silent and completely engaged. That show was awesome, better than I could have ever dreamed, and that was the spark. I realized that "there was something there" and I walked off that stage a completely different person from the one who walked on.
What advice would you give to a new songwriter?
That's easy: write what you know! I think the main thing that people have been drawn to in my music is its authenticity, and that's because I write what I know. I write about what it's like in my day-to-day life. Everything has brought me here to the present: trying to pay a mortgage, raise a daughter and be a good husband. I would advise someone not to try to be somebody else. The only way you're going to find your original voice is by being who you are, and by being as honest as you can be. That's part of what Goodbye June is. It's the journey that has brought me here. Embrace the good and bad, because so many people want to forget it, or bury it, or they're embarrassed by it, but for better or worse, it's what brought us here.