Interviews

Veröffentlicht am 25.10.2017 | von Dominik

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JULIEN BAKER – Interview

Ihr Debüt kapultierte die junge US-amerikanische Songwriterin Julien Baker auf diverse Jahres-Bestenlisten und bescherte ihr einen Plattendeal mit Matador Records, sowie weltweit ausverkaufte Konzerte. Seitdem ist sie gefühlt durchgängig unterwegs, fand aber anscheinend zumindest genug Zeit, um an einem neuen Album zu arbeiten. Denn dieses erscheint in Form von Turn Out The Lights am kommenden Freitag. Wir nahmen diesen glücklichen Umstand als Anlass Julien mit Fragen zu löchern – das Ergebnis gibt es hier:

– Your debut record resulted through a move to college and with that leaving your band – was this the first time you wrote songs/lyrics for yourself and how did it feel to be alone in the writing process at that time?
It wasn’t the first time I had written music by myself, before I was in a band I used to write alone but I just always wanted to play in a band lineup. I had a number of songs that I would play on just acoustic guitar but once I joined the band, I think writing and performing with them constantly made me approach writing with the frame of mind that the songs would be in a band setting always. Although we were continuing to play shows, share ideas and try to write long-distance, maybe when I moved away and could not have the same consistent outlet of writing at practice,together, the songs started to materialize in a more solitary way and reflect the environment I was in.

– Between tours and being on the road – when did you have time to write new songs and was the long time being on the road, with your private life kind of on hold the reason why you’re focussing more on experiences and stories from your friends / surrounding? Or what were the reasons for that?
Because I write so much from life that I tend to apply a lyrical songwriting lens to how I perceive the world and all the things that happen to me, it feels like I’m always writing–songwriting and processing emotions are sort of collapsed into one experience for me, channeling things creatively is a huge part of how I cope with things. Most of these songs came together on the road, because that’s where I happened to be, writing in the back of the van or hotel rooms. I was also away from my friends and family, and I think trying to overcome my physical absence by being emotionally present for them still caused me to spend time ruminating on my relationships with others what my role was to my loved ones, to strangers. Songwriting is a tool that I use to sort of uncover or unravel emotions, I write a song and then ask myself why I wrote it that way, and answering that question often teaches me things I did not even know I needed to learn. Many of those lessons were in the consideration of others, their feelings, the external factors and the world outside my internal turmoil.
In a similar way, I think playing shows much more frequently and having music as my profession meant I was in a performance environment more often than when I was DIY touring. The farther I traveled, the more people I met, the more my ego and my idea of the self shrunk. Every night that I meet a crowd full of individuals containing a world of experience I am reminded that music isn’t really something I create, it’s much more a force that can be invoked and shared. Being reminded of that is something that really helps me put the subject matter of the songs (my personal stories) into a perspective of how they could be relevant to a community or how they could be utilized as examples of practicing empathy.

– Could you tell a bit about the production process and how your new record „Turn Out The Lights“ came into life? Where and how was it done, who was involved, what was the best and what the worst moment during production?
I recorded this record in Memphis, Tennessee, which is my hometown. Calvin Lauber, who engineered and recorded the record, has been my friend since I was close to 13 years old, his band and mine have played shows together my entire life,so he’s a very close friend of mine. The strings on the record were done by Camille Faulkner, who I met in the music program at my university (Middle Tennessee State University), and Cam Boucher, a dear friend of mine who also plays in Sorority Noise, came down from PA to track woodwinds and just be a part of the recording process. I wanted to record in Memphis, with people that I trusted and who I was comfortable around because I thought it would be the most conducive atmosphere to create in.

– Also you’re now not only playing guitar anymore – how come and when did you learn to play piano?
Piano is actually the first instrument I learned. When I was in elementary school, I used to go to piano lessons. I never learned to read sheet music because I was a complete delinquent about practicing, which I’m sure frustrated my instructor. But, I first encountered music through the piano and taught myself guitar later. When I started playing in band I switched to focus mainly on guitar because everything was written wth a band arrangement in mind.
When I moved away to college, it was harder to find ways to play the piano because there wasn’t one in my living space. I had to use the practice rooms at the school, and so I wrote more often on guitar, but then after I started touring full time and moved back to Memphis, I had much more time to sit down and write on that instrument because it was more readily available, which makes me really happy. I missed playing piano, it’s a really precious activity for me.

– Will the new and bigger sound also result in a new touring set-up?
Yes! On this tour I am bringing a Nord Keyboard that I use for the piano and organ sounds live, and I am also touring in the US with Camille Faulkner who plays strings on the record.

– Shadowboxing is one of our favorite songs from the record – could you tell us a bit how/in which situation it was written, what it is about and if there is a story behind it?
Shadowboxing is based on the premise of doing just what the title indicates, sparring with an opponent that is not visible to anyone but you. When a boxer practices shadowboxing, they are fighting something visible only to themselves, that is pulled from a place within their mind. Someone observing a person shadowboxing can never perceive things the same way the boxer can— I think thats an apt metaphor for the internal struggles faced by an individual. Ultimately we can communicate and have empathy for each other, but we have to learn to cope and confront the obstacles we face for ourselves in order to grow and improve.

– It feels like a lot is going well for you, but your new record seems very melancholic and it seems it is focussing on sadness again – are those themes for you more interesting to write about or how come that you seem so torn to sadness and darkness?
I wouldn’t say that those themes are more interesting to me, or that I intentionally choose to remain inside sadness or exist within a state of melancholy purposely because I think it contributes to better art. I don’t really subscribe to the idea that art must be suffered for, or that good art can be born only from suffering. What I do think is that sadness is inevitable, and while it cannot be ignored or suppressed, sadness does not negate or prevent hope and joy. I think that being honest and vulnerable about our negative emotions helps to overcome them, that’s the function music serves for me to cope with the difficult and challenging parts of life, and maybe that’s why so many of the songs deal with those topics.

– What are your next plans?
After the record comes out I am on tour until the end of December, I’m taking some time off of the road at the beginning of the year but will be back to playing shows in support of the record in spring!

– What did you learn in 2017?
I think I learned more that it’s okay not to know all the answers, that there is hardly ever an empirical correct answer for our most difficult questions anyway, I learned how to be comfortable in the midst of process instead of feeling discouraged about not having reached a resolution. I guess I learned that maybe the resolution never completely happens and the task of living is embracing the liminal space with no resolution, learning to accept the idea of perpetual work-in-progress

– Which song makes you dance makes you dance every time?
Severed Logic by Half Waif

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