Caiti Baker is as vulnerable as she is fierce. The blues, beats and neo-soul singer songwriter has struggled with chronic illness, familial estrangement, and mental health issues, only to come out on top of it all in 2017 with heartfelt and warmly received debut album ‘Zinc’, followed up by several new tracks that are garnering this Darwin musician plenty of industry buzz. With a performance at Bluesfest just around the corner, we thought we’d chat to the refreshingly honest vocalist about life, music, and opening yourself up to the world.
When you have a debut release that’s been so well received, like ‘Zinc’, do you feel more pressure to deliver a follow up or is the pressure somewhat relieved from having already done something cool that people love?
I think the latter. I’m going to make music no matter what anyone thinks so I don’t let any outside pressure get to me. I just make the music that I want to make. This [album] I’m actually producing all the songs and I’m collaborating with James [Mangohig, ‘Zinc’ producer] again but I’m in the driving seat with all the directions with this particular sound… I’m really excited about it because ‘Zinc’ established what I’ve come from, my heritage in music, my influences and this next lot of songs will reflect where I want to go.
Do you think that you need adversity in life, to really embody the blues?
I think yes. I kind of have this feeling that if I can’t hear the pain or the sex in someone’s voice it doesn’t really resonate with me. I stand here, a white privileged white girl on stolen land, so I don’t have the extreme adversities that a lot of people face in Australia but I definitely have experienced my own physical and mental health issues, even to this day. Generally I think for empathetic, creative, vulnerable people there’s always some type of adversity there. I think to sing the blues and soul you need to come from a place of hurt, pain and struggle.
Your music is very personal. Have you ever struggled with making yourself open and vulnerable to listeners or is it pure catharsis?
Writing and creating music is kind of my cathartic and therapeutic release so what I’ve written about is personal and vulnerable but I kind of feel once it’s out and recorded I kind of relinquish the meaning to it, and it’s up for interpretation for whoever wants to interpret it. That’s art I guess, it’s subjective. So the intention of my vulnerability is there and if people can relate or understand then that’s beautiful – I mean it’s that human connection we all desperately crave – but I can wedge boundaries in there for myself.
Are you totally well now?
Mentally well now, maybe not physically. I definitely need to take better care of myself when I’m not on tour because it’s quite amazing an exhausting but I need preserve myself in my downtime.
I know your father was a blues musician who raised you surrounded by music constantly. Was there ever a point in your life where dreamed of being something other than a musician?
I wouldn’t call myself a dreamer really. That sounds pretty uninspiring! [laughs]. At the risk of sounding serendipitous, I feel like a lot of people have a purpose and they may or may not discover, and I feel like I’m pretty okay at music and I enjoy doing it. And I’m resilient and I kind of need to do it, so whether that is the dream, I don’t know. There are a lot of things I’d like to do – I’d love to study health stuff, do a mechanics course but I don’t feel the best and I feel cranky if I don’t get to create and perform so that’s what I do.
What are you up to between now and Bluesfest?
Recording, finishing the next collection of songs and reworking where I’m at style-wise and musically, and getting my head around how I want to present myself and the music.
What can people who’ve never seen you before expect from your show at Bluesfest?
I would say I perform all my vocals live and it’s one of my favourite things to do, and I’m generally pretty in my element. I have an amazing band who support me and we will actually be performing songs we haven’t performed yet – new songs, so Bluesfest will be one of the first places to hear them.
What do you love about Bluesfest?
I kind grew up at that festival. I think it’s just a really well run festival. I love the musicians, the artists that come to play, I love the family-friendly aspect. I think I just love the energy and the vibe, it’s so unique, I can see why it wins awards!
Catch Caiti Baker when she hits the stage at Bluesfest between 18-22 April 2019. Tickets here.