Songwriter Erick Baker not bidding his blessed life ‘Goodbye’ any time soon
By Steve Wildsmith (email@example.com)
Erick Baker has had less than three hours of sleep out of the last 48, and he couldn’t be more grateful.
Not for the lack of slumber; without a doubt, he’ll crash soon, and hard, and get in as much shut-eye as he can before taking the stage as Saturday night’s headliner at The Bijou Theatre.
But the jet-lag and the 30-hour jaunt from the Pacific Rim back to East Tennessee ... he doesn’t mind those things at all, because he’s spent the last two weeks performing for American troops in places as far-flung as Japan, Guam and Diego Garcia. He brought them a little taste of home and gave a little thanks for their sacrifices, and it’s a humbling honor to have been a part of, he told The Daily Times this week.
“It was amazing; we were playing Naval bases all over Japan and in Okinawa, then we were in Thailand and Guam and then to Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean,” Baker said. “The best part is playing these bases for Americans who are half a world from home, and just any touch of home is a huge, huge thing. There were guys coming up excited to have driven through Knoxville one time, because me being from there is a connection. It was a bridge to home. That was awesome, and in a very small way being able to say thanks for providing the life that I and my family have was a huge honor.”
With his soulful delivery, heartfelt lyrics and songs of hope and love and loss and vulnerability, Baker has long served as a bridge for his fans — to emotions they felt but couldn’t articulate, to life’s milestones that send ripples of memories rolling over the miles and years. He doesn’t set out to provide such a soundtrack, but in so chronicling his own life, he’s managed to put together a loyal, dedicated fanbase that cherishes every line he writes. They have a new reason to celebrate his music this summer with the release of his new album, “Goodbye June,” which he’ll mark with Saturday’s performance.
“It comes easy, because the songs are real experiences,” Baker said. “A lot of it is day-to-day feelings. Some of those monumental hurts and joys of our lives can echo, and each ripple can be a song. For me, what this record is, is kind of a full spectrum of experiences. It has that balance of hurt and healing.
“Some people have said to me, ‘There are some really sad songs and really angry songs on there! I thought you were really happy, man?’ And I have to tell them that I am happy, but it’s about the path that’s brought me here.”
Baker grew up in rural Halls, Tenn., about 70 miles north of Memphis. His exposure to music was limited until he went to college in Murfreesboro, where he discovered the power of songwriters who could unlock a listener’s heart with a deft turn of phrase. During his sophomore year, he taught himself to play Ben Harper songs on the guitar; a year later, he moved to Knoxville to attend the University of Tennessee. There, he met fellow musician Matt Brewster, and the pair became the duo known as Matt and Erick.
They made a name for themselves as a cover band playing the college circuit, and Baker started writing his own music for the first time. Additional players helped them transition into a the full-on rock band Down From Up, but eventually Baker bowed out, wanting to connect with fans on a more intimate level. In 2008, he released the EP “It’s Getting Too Late to Say It’s Early,” following it up two years later with the full-length “Holding the Pieces in Place.”
For “Goodbye June,” he partnered with former Wilco member Ken Coomer, who serves as producer; together, they give “Goodbye June” a richer, more full sound that lends deeper meaning and emotional resonance to Baker’s songs. Lyrically, he’s making his peace with the past, acknowledging old hurts and putting them in their place so he can move forward as a husband and a father. It’s all about making peace with the path he’s traveled down, he said.
“A lot of people are bummed out about getting older, but for me, I fully embrace what brought me here — all the mistakes and pain and joy and everything,” he said. “But I’m also embracing where I’m going. If I had to give up what I know now to get that time back, I wouldn’t do it, because where I’m at is a great place. I know so much more about myself and what I want and my priorities, and that’s invaluable.
“Hopefully, every new record is a step forward. Before, people didn’t know where to put me, genre-wise; I was just in this gray area. I think ‘Goodbye June’ is a step forward in terms of a more defined sound, but everything is still rooted in me on a stool and strumming an acoustic guitar. That’s where every song started, and we built it from there.”