Foto-© Sebastian Madej
Der US-Amerikaner Rayland Baxter tauchte letztes Jahr unvermittelt auf unserem Radar auf und will uns seitdem nicht mehr aus dem Kopf gehen. Was daran liegt, dass er mit den 10 Songs seines letztjährigen Albums Wide Awake eine eingängige Sammlung von Pop-Hooks, die Beatles-Melodien mit einem Bottom-End-Groove mischen, veröffentlichte. Mit diesen Songs kam Rayland dann auch mit seiner Band zum Wohnzimmerkonzert nach Darmstadt und nun veröffentlichte der in Nashville lebende Musiker Ende Juli auch noch eine EP mit ausschließlich Coverversionen von Mac Miller Songs. Zwar haben sich Rayland und der 2018 im Alter von 26 Jahren verstorbene Mac nie persönlich getroffen, doch wurde der US-Rapper eine der wichtigsten Inspirationsquellen für Rayland Baxter. Wir trafen den charismatischen Musiker zwischen Festivalauftritten in Berlin zum Interview!
I heard that you lost your guitar today. How did that feel for you? What does this Instrument mean to you?
I didn’t lose my guitar. I never lose my guitar. Someone else lost my guitar. It never made it on the plane. I’ve had this guitar for ten years. It’s the first guitar I bought. I got it from Ebay for 700 bucks. My dad paid for 500 of it, I gave him 200 and then I paid him off. It’s a Gibson from the 1960s. It’s awesome. It’s the red and yellow guitar. I play it all the time. It sounds great. I love it.
When did you start playing guitar?
I started when I was 22 or 21. It was my first instrument. Like a baby starts walking with some guidance from the family.
Do you like playing on festivals? Are you a person who enjoys going to festivals?
I used to go to festivals a lot when I was younger. Like to Bonnaroo which is a big festival in the United States. I went to the second and the third year when I was in college and we camped out in the sun, wake up sweating and stinking. I did enjoy doing that. I don’t really enjoy that so much these days. Because I’ve seen the other side which is playing at festivals. Camping under trees with a bathroom. I love playing at festivals. We haven’t played at any festivals in Europe until this summer. I’m into it and excited!
Do you like the camping life? Are you a camper?
Yes, when I can. I have a big sprinter van at home. I lived in it for eight months two years ago when I was writing songs for Wide Awake. I used to do it a lot more when I was younger. I lived in Colorado. I lived in the woods for 3 months.
You just released the EP good mmornin which is honoring the rapper Mac Miller who died 2018 at the age of 26. Which impact had his music on you?
I was at a festival in Florida called the Okeechobee three years ago. I stumbled upon the stage. I didn’t really know who Mac Miller was. I watched the set like millions other people. He was the star. I saw him playing and was blowing away. One guy on the stage had 60.000 people in front of him for the entire show. I wasn’t interested in seeing any music that day, but I walked by and I loved it. I had a 15 hours’ drive a head of me so I bought his albums, I bought everything I could. I grew up with hip hop when I was in high school. I lived in Baltimore, Maryland and this was a tough place. There is some hip hop in my blood and when Mac died last year. Him and Leonard Cohen – when they died, I cried. Nobody else like David Bowie or Tom Petty. When it was time to pay my respect. We were on tour booked some studio time in L.A. it just came together really beautifully. You bring flowers to the grave; this is my way of doing if of paying respect although it is more public. It’s my way of letting him, his family and people know that I’m a fan and enough of a fan to get a couple of people together and make it a cool sound with his framework. It was easy because the songs were written and the baselines were essentially in the songs.
Did you get any feedback from his fans or family?
I wrote his mum a letter. I don’t know if she has gotten it yet. Everybody other than one person has liked it. I looked on Instagram last night and one kid from California called me a cloud chaser. Other than that, is has been all positive.
Your last record Wide Awake was done in an abandoned factory, where you isolated yourself for writing. Could you tell a bit about the production process and when it was done?
Compared to the last record I didn’t had to write any of the songs. It was in the middle of the tour, so we did the production of the seven songs in two days. We just pressed record and we just started playing. It was six people playing together who have never played together before. A couple of the guys just came in three days before to join the band. It was amazing: It was quick, we had no time, small amount of money to make it and we did it and it was cool. It was always magical and felt important. When somebody dies you don’t know if they are walking next to you, if they are listening to you. They could be in your heart or in your head. We don’t know what happens to the spirit when the body leaves.
How do you feel about writing songs? Are you one of those people who gets up in the night and starts writing?
No, but I do it all the time. It’s like the filter how I see the world. It’s like an inventor or engineer would walk around and see “Oh, this could be under the bridge stabilize the wood”. I write down notes on my phone just snippets. Sometimes a year later I write and record the whole song. Sometimes I combine songs.
Is your famous favorite guitar always with you when you write songs?
A different one, an acoustic guitar my dad gave me 5 years ago. An old Gibson from the 1950s. that’s usually what I have. The electrics take up too much space. I don’t have a solid process of writing.
That’s also special about singer songwriters compared to pop singers. Their songs sound to me always the same.
This is more like a laboratory: you’ve got 5 writers in a room, all coming up with their best stuff. In a day’s time they wrote the song and it’s done. And the next day they go to someone else’s studio and write a new song. That’s not making art to me. That’s making a meal millions of people want to eat. The beautiful part is when you write on your own and it becomes a hit. I don’t have that.
I think your most played song on Spotify is Olivia…
Yeah but that never even went to a radio. It wasn’t even a single from that record it was just a song. I would have been my choice.
You were on a tour with The Lumineers so you know bands, who had a hit single and became famous. How does the collaboration and tour life feel for you?
I met the Lumineers 3 years ago when we were on tour with them. That’s when I met them, not before. I had no idea what the tour would be like. We played the first show in Toronto and it was huge. It was an amazing show. Wes and Jeremiah became really good friends. I could probably say that I wasn’t even a fan at the time, but it was a good opportunity. And then they played the first show and I thought: it’s massive! The sound was massive, the performance was massive. I was really impressed. At the last show we did a Talking Heads song. We kept in touch and when I go to Denver, I stay with them, we have diner and we became mutual respecters of each other’s music and songs.
Are there any artists you would like to collaborate with?
Feist! I love Feist. I was living in Israel for 6 months and I started writing there 11 years ago. I was listening to Feist and Yael Naim. Feist’s first album still sounds great today. I saw Feist in an elevator in Paris 11 years ago. I came to Europe for the first time and was a guitar tech for a band my dad was in. I had no idea who she was at the time. If it had been now, I would have been like: “I don’t know how to tell you this but I would love to go on a tour with you or make a song with you!”
Your father is the well-known musician Buck Baxter. When did you decide that you wanted to follow him in that profession and which influence did he have?
He has been the biggest influence. I’m extremely lucky to want to do what I do. And not have him pushing it on me. From my childhood I knew that he was different because I grew up in Tennessee and most of my friends were like mechanics or businessman. My dad was in Japan playing rock’n’roll and came back with bleached hair and a goatee. He was always the coolest guy in the room. I started playing guitar in college. When I moved back to Nashville with his encouragement. He told me: “Rayland you should move back to Nashville!”. I was living in Colorado for 2,5 months working at a ski resort as a snowboard instructor. I was playing open mic nights every Wednesday playing Sublime and Tom Petty and Talking Heads. A bunch of people would show up and on the last evening the room was packed. I moved back to Nashville and my dad was able to coach me because he had worked for Steve Earle and Bob Dylan and R.E.M. and Sheryl Crowe and Beastie Boys. He gave me very valuable advice that lot of other people wouldn’t get form coaches. He is my coach, he is my dad, he is not in it for money. He wants me to succeed. He wants me to know what he knows.
Your hometown Nashville has a certain reputation as mekka for musicians – how does the music scene feel for you as a local? What is special about the place? How often do you go back?
Nashville has becoming really crowded as a popular city to visit beyond music. It was really cheap to move there and live there. It was great to start there because you are around excellent musicians, you are around people who push you (whether they know it or not). It is a competitive place. You see how people succeed and how they don’t succeed. Like hanging out in the bars, I saw that. I saw how hard people worked. The legends have come and gone through Nashville over the last 80 years. It is a special place.
Would you also consider Berlin as a special place for musicians?
Hell yeah! Because you can live here so cheap. You don’t have to have a job and can play music and learn.
Music is a powerful tool that many songwriters have used as a means of protest. Do you think that songwriters have become less political in the last years or even decades? Would you consider writing protest songs?
There are so many artists these days, so I don’t know whether there are less protest artists then there were back then. I don’t think the best writers these days are writing protest songs. There are some shitty writers that are writing protest songs. When you aim the gun, you have to have a beautiful bullet. Personally, I’m not a protest writer. I’m just an observer whether it is about love or struggle or gun laws or how strange it is to be an American. (starts singing) The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind – Bob Dylan way of doing it is poetic and then you have Pete Seeger way of doing it which is not my favorite at all. The high and mighty or the silent poetic type. I write about indifference and imbalance and humanity. Beyond protest is being a human being.
What do you like to do, when you’re not doing music?
Inventing things like household inventions! In the basement of my house is my little tinker zone. How do I keep the remote control to my TV? How do I get it without moving from here to there? My mum is an engineer, my dad is an engineer. They both have these minds, so I have got it from them. I like household engineering. I also like cleaning and sweeping and redesigning things around the house. I like to drive. I’m the main driver on my tours. There is a right way to drive that makes the passengers comfortable and feeling safe.
Which song make you dance every time?
Ocean Man by Ween
What are your favorite movies?
Dazed and Confused, Dances with Wolves, The Sandlot
What is your favorite album?
Blood On The Tracks by Bob Dylan
How would your Bedroomdisco look like?
My bedroomdisco would be a hotel room, one light on two beds jumping back and forth with a bunch of gummy candies all across the floor. You jump off the bed into the gummy candies and eat them and fall asleep after the sugar rush. And then you wake up and listen to Ocean Man by Ween (lacht).