Julien Baker on going solo, her upcoming album and her love of Fender guitars

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Julien Baker on going solo, her upcoming album and her love of Fender guitars

Julien Baker has become renowned for her harrowingly raw autobiographical lyrics, detailing personal struggles she has endured. Her sound combines her striking vocals paired with mellifluous guitar melodies, resulting in earnestly awe-inspiring sad songs which has earned her a massive following across the globe.

Hailing from Memphis, Julien Baker’s music career began when she co-founded her band Forrister, formerly known as The Star Killers, in 2010. It was by chance that Baker went on to record her solo album, Sprained Ankle. “I recorded the record with a friend from college who had an internship at a studio,” she says. “The reason I went up there and recorded the record was because we couldn’t move the whole band up to Virginia.”

“Honestly, the idea was that I would not leave Forrister,” says Baker. “I put out the solo record expecting it to be the situation like Jeremy Enigk and Sunny Day Real Estate, I love that Jeremy Enigk solo record, but Sunny Day Real Estate is his first priority and I thought it would just be like that.

“It wasn’t like other projects where you sit down with a concept or you have a sonic idea fleshed out of what you want it to sound like and then you follow through with that. It was just like a collection of random songs that I’d written while I was in college.”

It wasn’t long before Baker was signing with Matador Records, simultaneously catapulting her solo career and halting her work with Forrister. Since then, Baker has toured Sprained Ankle extensively across America, Europe and the UK, with plans to head to Australia in July to perform at Splendour in the Grass and a handful of sideshows.

Despite her busy touring schedule, Baker has a follow up record on the way, due for release at the end of 2017. “I’m really excited about it, I think mostly just because I’ve been touring Sprained Ankle for so long, I’m just excited to have some new material out there,” she says of the record. “It’s going to be interesting, there’s more piano and strings. It’s equally as sparse, it’s not like a full band [with a] drum kit and like eight guitars, but I think I took the time to be meticulous and make the best art I possibly could.

“At the end of the day it’s all I have to offer so I’m really nervous because when it comes out I have this thing and I’ll be like ‘I did my best’. It’s your baby, you put this nascent idea and nurtured it into maturity and now you’re releasing it out to behave and interact with the listener on its own and I hope it fares well.”

In terms of creating her sound, Baker speaks fondly of Fender guitars, specifically her Telecaster which she began playing whilst she was in high school. “I think the Tele is one of the most versatile guitars,” she says. “You can get so much variance out of that particular guitar. Say with a Strat, it’s going to sound like a Strat, or a Les Paul you buy because you’re after a particular Les Paul sound, but a Telecaster can have a wider range of tone.

“I think that’s really useful for what I do, especially since a lot of the time I’m the only one on stage. That’s why I use a lot of pedals too, it helps to create dynamic and differentiate the songs instead of me just playing the same sound over and over again,” she says.

“I also love that the Fender was originally an everyman guitar that they used to sell in Sears. In the 50’s and 60’s you could just go to the veritable Walmart and just pick up a Fender, they were kind of one of the first companies to say ‘we’re going to make this a consumer item’ instead of being like a cello or violin where it’s a specialty musical item, that’s so cool to me.”

When & Where: Karova Lounge, Ballarat – July 13

Written by Kate Streader

Image by Nolan Knight