The last time we talked to New Zealand’s soulful national treasure Louis Baker, he had just released his self-titled debut EP. Three years worth of songwriting, co-writing, recording, touring and teaching later, he’s working towards a debut album. Before that however, comes a remarkable series of singles the talented musician and lyricist has recently teamed up with Red Bull Music to release.
“Red Bull have been really supportive along the way, and the producers I’ve been working with have definitely impacted the way I’ve written these new tracks,” Baker acknowledged. “In London I’ve been working with Brad Ellis, also know as Brad Baloo, one half of The Nextmen hip-hop duo. He produced Fade, Rainbow and also actually wrote 25 percent of Rainbow. Then here in New Zealand at the Red Bull Studios I’ve been working with Ben Lawson,” Baker concluded.
With Rainbow, Fade and Gave It All Away already possessing a special place in our hearts, Baker today reveals the fourth and final instalment of this mini-series, a track titled Addict.
“Addict is completely different to the previous three,” Baker admits. “I wrote it at SongHubs with Grammy nominated Sacha Skarbek who is also a two time Ivor Novello award winner, which is the equivalent of the Silver Scroll in Britain. Then Em-Haley Walker [Theia] and Josh Fountain who is a part of Leisure and the main producer for MAALA also came to the party as co-writers,” he declared. “Initially, I think Sacha and I started the bones of the song as he was on the wurlitzer and I had this beautiful gold-top 60s Gibson Les Paul, which was as heavy as anything,” he added with a laugh, “but basically we got off on the idea that it was going to be a soul track and that it is,” he confirmed. “I’d describe it as a ‘smokey 70s soul ballad with a modern twist.”
“I just really enjoyed the process of writing this song and talking about the addiction of love,” Baker explained. “Obviously it’s quite a subjective thing, but I just wanted to paint an expressive and experimental picture to put out there.”
As for Rainbow, Baker describes the theme of this song as ‘loss of love.’ “It’s about that feeling you have when you lose someone but you’’re wanting to get them back. If you have someone that stands by you, then don’t let go of them. I think too often, for whatever reason, we fall out of love and then sometimes regret it.”
“Fade is about a long distance love,” Baker continued, dishing the in-depth details of each track.
“It’s for those times when you realise what people mean to you, when you’re on the other side of the world and missing them. The Director Ben Hawkins and Simion Godsiff the Director of Photography built on that concept of being lost versus being found for the music video too,” he revealed. “I was actually in London when the video was shot, so felt pretty stink that I couldn’t be there, but we had to get it done, so it was actually filmed down Stone Street Way in Wellington, using a real snow machine,” he chuckled.
“Then finally, Gave It All Away is the determined person, who will never give up and won’t back down, that lives inside of me,” Baker disclosed. “I wrote it on the road when I had been alone for about 30-40 days, and even just in that small amount of time I think it can be testing, by yourself. You have to pull on energies that you didn’t know you had when you’re up against things, especially when you’re pretty much doing all of it yourself,” he confessed.
“The video for this one was all about staying as true to the song as possible,” Baker admit. “The song fell out of me in fifteen minutes in a hotel room, which certainly doesn’t happen to me with every song, so we chose the Museum Hotel as the location, because we wanted the video to truly depict what actually happened. I can assure you that the hotel in England, where the song was written, wasn’t nearly as swanky as the the Museum Hotel though!” he laughed. “But hey, I lived to tell the tale!”
With both an acoustic and electronic version of Give It All Away, Baker let us in on the story behind how and why this track ended up with two different versions released.
“I have a musical love for house music,” he confessed. “So I initially asked Mu [Fat Freddy’s Drop] if he would be interested in mixing my stems for me, just to see how it sounded mixed-well, so I knew if it was worth releasing. I’ve always admired his beat-making, mixing and distinctive sound with Freddy’s. So when he came back to me and said he’d love to produce something from them, which is obviously quite different from mixing, I was absolutely blown away,” Baker confessed. “I still wanted to honour my acoustic sound, so we ended up with the two different versions and released them both on a 45’ thanks to the support of Red Bull Music!”
“I want people to take it how they will,” Baker honestly responded, when asked what he hopes people take away from Gave It All Away. “People have their own subjective views on things and that’s just the way it is and that’s cool. While some people don’t like my music, it brings others to tears.. and then there’s always everything in between,” he continued. “However, if I was to choose, I would just like them to listen to it and gain something good from the song. Whether that be some sort of inspiration or whatever.”
“The whole vibe and musical feel of all four tracks is really inspired by soul music and that kind of Smokey Robinson, sweet-soul touch,” Baker proclaimed. “I think that’s where Brad and I really connected, because we both have such a deep love for soul music.”
Whilst working on an album, Baker confessed that he wanted to give these singles their own room to breathe. “In terms of the album, I’m just writing towards it until I feel like I’ve got what I need. I’ve got over 20 songs right now, but still don’t think I’ve quite got what I want yet and it’s not one of those things I want to rush.”
With more new music on the horizon, and rehearsals for a new live show underway, nothing could hide Baker’s excitement about hitting the stage with a full band. “I’m really excited about the whole prospect of playing, full stop, but also with a band!” he enthused. “It’s something I haven’t done a lot of in the last little while, so it just feels so good to be able to get back out there. We’ve been rehearsing for the past few days and just having that unity and energy that comes with communicating with one another is absolutely amazing.”
“Not having to hold the weight all by yourself is such a nice feeling too, it’s like a safety net of goodness,” Baker added with a laugh. “So for the upcoming Auckland and Wellington shows I’ve got Johnny Lawrence on bass and Cory Champion on drums, both who have played for Electric Wire Hustle and Dan Hales on keys who has played with Hollie Smith. They’re all amazing jazz cats, so it’s such a good feeling to have them on board. It really allows me to access a part of my expression I can’t really get in to any other way,” he honestly concluded.
Addict is out now – Listen here
LOUIS BAKER plays REC, Auckland on Friday 19 May & San Fran, Wellington on Saturday 20 May.