By Jake Ebdale
Louis Baker has been on a bit of a journey in the past year. He's recently released his second single ‘Birds' to great acclaim and is now prepping up his self-titled EP before playing Rhythm and Vines this summer.
As I ask him how he is, Baker says he's excited preparing for Cody ChestnuTT's show in Wellington. "I can't wait to get on stage and play, and then see (ChestnuTT) play. He's the man". The 24 year old Wellingtonian, a musician and guitar teacher, is no stranger to playing with his heroes. I'd previously met Baker after a gig for the 9 piece band he is part of, full name: Brockaflowersaurus Rex and the Blueberry Biscuits. He made theAuckland gig with minutes to spare, having opened for soul-funk giants Fat Freddy's Drop that same night in the capital.
For Baker, that rush was a rewarding experience - he's a humble guy indeed and his speech permeates in stream of consciousness waves. Hearing him today, I definitely get the feeling his accomplishments haven't gone to his head.
Last year, Baker secured a coveted spot at the Red Bull Music Academy in New York, rubbing shoulders with his idols. He was the guy who asked Questlove about the forthcoming D'Angelo record, then gifted him with a paua shell.
He also met hit making producer Just Blaze and actually hung out with him. "I went up to his apartment in Harlem and he wanted me to sing on a hook, which didn't end up working out - but I also sung backing vocals on a song for (hip hop supergroup) Slaughterhouse. I got to meet Royce Da 5'9 very briefly too. It was a buzzy experience for me, man. But I got on really well with Justin (Smith, Just Blaze's real name) on a human level, laughing together and having him demonstrate heaps of new things. Seeing all the platinum plaques on the wall, it was intense. I'm just a boy from New Zealand."
You also know that home is where his heart is for him.
"(Before going on stage), I think about what matters to me. I think about my family and my friends, as well as where I come from and what music has always been about to me personally. That's a big part of the process, and it's growing. I'm getting to that point where I'm getting more confident on stage. It's constant. I'm just trying to find the right sound."
It is that sound that gained Baker a spot at the Rhythm and Vines and Rhythm and Alps festivals, having already played at the former last year. He's planning to keep things interesting this time around. "I'm doing the solo thing, but also have the four piece band there for a part of the set". For his new single, Baker keeps a simple approach. "I try and do (Birds) solo as much as possible. Other songs that I've written, like Movin' and Alone, include the band. It's the light and dark in my music that I want to keep, the different colours that take you to a different place."
We talk about the indescribable vibe that Rhythm holds. I say it's quite isolated, being in Gisborne. Baker is just grateful for being able to play there.
"It is quite isolated - when you catch a flight up there, you go on a 15 seater plane and it's swingin' round all over the place, which is a cool part of the journey to R&V. I have really good memories and it's just a pleasure to play at a place like Gisborne. The stage I played at last year, the Red Bull Music Academy stage, was small with a tiny grassy bit for people to sit on, so I had many people come and talk to me afterwards. After my set, I walked out there and got amongst it, saw heaps of amazing music. I've also been (as a punter to R&V) around 06/07. I probably drank a bit too much as one does in such an occasion...I think I enjoy being a musician a bit more. The vibe is really cool."
Baker isn't really aware of the acts playing on the bill this time, which explains who he is. He'd rather show up and "not know what's happening". I tell him Shapeshifter is playing, and he says they're always a good time. You can tell he's instead focusing on where he's going, and his self titled EP that comes out next month, produced by Andy Lovegrove from the recently reunited Breaks Co-Op.
"It's all about the EP at the moment. I've got a North Island tour late November in support of it. Now the EP's finished (being written), I'm focusing on writing for my album. Who knows when it will be out."
Whilst we wait for his new tunes, the 9 headed Brockaflower also have their album coming out in January.
A lot is on this guy's plate. As covered before, being in the presence of his heroes hasn't fazed or bewildered him. When he called himself "just a boy from New Zealand", you'd think he'd be shit scared of all this pressure, a pebble thrown into a large, looming lake. But he's calm and collected about everything.
This boy from New Zealand is on the way to something great. One humble step at a time.