Florida via New York songstress Kaleigh Baker has one of those voices that stick with you. With its deep, bluesy quality, her voice is both soulful and powerful.
Since starting her musical journey, Ms. Baker has released one EP so far, 2011’s the Weight of It All, which received critical acclaim. She has had the opportunity to share that stage with big name artists such as Trombone Shorty, B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Boz Scaggs and Juliette Lewis, among others.
Ms. Baker is currently preparing for the release of her new album, Weary Hours, out October 16. The 10-song album is the follow-up to The Weight of It All. Influenced by her gypsy roots, Ms. Baker’s music combines blues-rock, jazz and Appalachian soul. Her powerful and soul-felt delivery makes songs like “Shoot Down” resonate deep down with the listener. Even slower songs, such as “Pittston Pistol,” have this cool, jazzy, Amy Winehouse vibe that really show off the richness in her voice. Weary Hours is currently up for pre-order in the singer’s web store.
Over the next couple of months, Ms. Baker will be playing shows across the country in support of the album. She will be playing two shows in New York; one on September 23 at Arlene’s Grocery and the other on September 25 at the Jalopy Theatre.
I had the opportunity to correspond with Ms. Baker via email to discuss her sound, the new album, cultural influence, playing live, getting noticed as an independent artist and tour memories.
Elise Yablon (New York Rock Music Scene): You have this very deep, beautiful bluesy, soulful quality to your voice that goes extremely well with the passion that you put into your delivery. How did you develop your sound?
Kaleigh Baker: I try not to focus too much on my tone. I’m a backing singer at heart and I love to change my voice slightly to support the lead’s vocal but when I sing my songs I just try to sing. If I have to think hard about something, I end up losing my connection to the performance as a whole.
EY: What inspires you to write music?
KB: Music is the universal language. If you can speak it, you can speak to anyone. I’m addicted to the feelings. Completing a song, finding that common thread between a group of instruments and making something that will move me is exciting.
EY: How did you know you wanted to be a musician?
KB: I was taking journalism classes at Buffalo State College while finishing up my soccer season and heading into the basketball season. There was a campus sports rule that you weren’t to be out at the local clubs 48 hours before a game. I didn’t listen. I sat the bench. I quit basketball to continue playing music around town. I’d rather sit on a bar stool.
EY: You are releasing your debut full-length album, Weary Hours, in October. Can you tell me a little about the writing/recording process for the album?
KB: I compiled every song I’ve written in the past 4 years and chose the best 14. We ended up recording 10 for the album. My producer, Justin Beckler, really took the reins on building these songs up to where they are now. I write the song with just me and a guitar and Justin comes in with me and the musicians and he just really pushes us to play until he hears something that clicks. We hashed everything out in the studio rather than spending months playing the songs on the road. One example is this bad-assed riff that Harry Ong (Bass) threw on “What Would Tom Waits Do” during the bridge. It’s off the cuff stuff like that that really makes these songs honest and pure in a way. I don’t really have experience with the road method, but I’m hoping to hit gigging hard with a full band in the coming year.
EY: How do you think your sound has progressed from your ‘The Weight of It All’ EP to ‘Weary Hours’?
KB: I think in terms of progress, I’ve become a bit more honest with my lyrics.
EY: In a press release, it says that your gypsy ancestry has influenced your sound. How so?
KB: My music is a representation of my surroundings. I lived in quite a few places in the last 4 years and I don’t plan on putting any roots down anytime soon. The mountains of Blue River, CO led me to listen to more bluegrass, lending to some pretty cool harmonies and finger picking on this album. NYC cut me with Rock and Roll; Florida gave me soul and all the people I’ve met along the way, the ability to tell a story.
EY: You have had the opportunity to share the stage with top artists such as B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Trombone Shorty and Juliette Lewis, among others. Further, you have been named Orlando’s best singer-songwriter by Orlando Weekly and won Best Female Performer at the Orlando Fringe Festival. What do you make of all the attention you have been getting?
KB: It’s distracting to pay too much attention to all of that. I will assure you though, I’m so very grateful for the love and the vote of confidence.
EY: As an independent artist, what do you feel is the hardest part of getting noticed?
KB: Booking the gigs. It’s what you know and who you know. I know I gotta play the gigs to get in front of the right people.
EY: What do you enjoy most about playing live?
KB: The singing, the beautiful people bobbing their heads, and the free drinks.
EY: Do you have any memorable onstage or tour moments that stick out in your mind?
KB: After I released “The Weight of It All”, myself and a band of rock and roll heathens headed north to NYC playing up the East Coast in the dead of winter. A week before we departed, my drummer at the time decided that it wasn’t in his best interest to play the tour. Needless to say, I was crushed and panic stricken.
I reached out to fellow singer/songwriter Peter Baldwin and asked him to join the tour. I saw him play drums a few times and knew he could jump on with only a few rehearsals under his belt. About halfway through the tour, we all became fairly comfortable with each other. We reached the “shit talking” phase a few dates later and the fun began. The lead-up to this bet is a bit hazy for me but we have proof in the form of video footage that Petey B. claims he can chug a gallon of whole milk in under 3 minutes. Because he still has yet to complete the self-imposed dare, I will always have that surprise upper hand. We’ll be friends, forever. That is until he throws up a gallon of curdled milk on my lap.