The world should be a concert venue: Bastian Baker

The world should be a concert venue: Bastian Baker

Dubai - Singer and songwriter Bastian Baker talks to us about his latest album Facing Canyons, making music and the enigma of fame before his first performance in Dubai tonight!

By Maán Jalal

Published: Sun 29 Jan 2017, 1:50 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Feb 2017, 4:40 PM

Dressed in jeans, boots, a denim shirt with a missing pocket, three rings ( two on his right hand. one on his left), with a (for a lack of a less cliché phrase) spring in his step,  Bastian Baker is ironically the visual personification of how his music sounds and what it's all about. Cool with a tad of hipster, open but direct, unique but universal, deceptively simple but incredibly smart. It's pretty clear that we found Bastian interesting to listen to on stage and talk to in person.

Visiting Dubai for the first time, we met him when he performed at the Swiss Scientific School last Wednesday to crowds of students cheering him on and eager to get a photograph with the singer and songwriter.

Bastian actually comes from a sporting background but always had a fondness for music. When performing for some of his friends at a party, the father of a friend saw something special in him. Next thing you know, Bastian found himself in the studio making his first record. Six years on, Bastian has recorded three albums and has toured across the world. He's also won some pretty impressive awards including five Swiss Music Awards, two platinum albums, a MTV European Music Award, a Swiss Award and a World Music Award. He's opened for artists including Bryan Adams, Mark Lanegan, Johnny Hallyday and Elton John and has had some cool gigs on TV.

We love his unique mix of pop-folk songs that show off the texture and emotion of his voice along with his undeniable talent of songwriting. City Times sat down with Bastian after his performance at the Swiss Scientific School and had a long discussion about making music, fame and his first impressions of Dubai.

Thoughts on Dubai so far?
It's very impressive. I'm very interested in architecture and history so it's hard to imagine that a couple dozen years ago there was absolutely nothing and then this. it's one of man's greatest achievements. I want to see Burj Al Arab and Burj Khalifa!

How did you come up with the name of your latest album Facing Canyons?
I was travelling with a group of friends in the United States in 2015 and my life philosophy is to always take a step back and try and see the overall situation, analyse it all and not to take anything too seriously. When we were at the Grand Canyon, we all went silent. You're just standing there in front of these rocks that have been there for thousands of years and will be there after you're gone. I focused all of my thoughts and feelings there, so I thought Facing Canyons was a good title, it was a good resume of my thoughts of the moment.

How have you seen your sound evolve from your first album to your third?
You have to understand that my first album was a miracle. I was coming out of the hockey world, I was playing songs for my friends and then all of a sudden this dude came up and said, I think your songs are good and they will work. Then all of a sudden I was in a studio and I was producing all my work. That first album was all about getting the songs done and having them sound OK, but obviously I want to do better. And like every artist will tell you, I think my last album was the best one I've done so far. But the sound is way more folk, maybe a bit more US influenced, like instruments I've never used before. And in terms of writing lyrics, before I was very descriptive and now when ever I write one sentence, I like for them to have more than one meaning. I'm trying to make a complete text, I'm always trying to be better or do better.

How does an idea for a song come - is it random, organic, planned?
It's always very different but it's always a very exciting moment. Because it happens in my head most of the time and then I take examples I've had from the last days, I've had one melody popping in my head and I instantly record everything in my phone. Because you think you're going to remember something but you don't. Then within half an hour I have a melody and the lyrics and structure in my head. But I've learned now, because of all the travelling, that I have less time. I'll have a verse, then two weeks later, I'll have a chorus, then try and make a patch work to make it work together. It's a very spontaneous type of writing that I do. It's a very. it's hard to explain what happens, it's a mixture between your head and your body and the energies that come together. It's very exciting when that happens. You feel like something crazy is happening.

Have you always been exposed to music?
Yes, my family are not music players but they are music lovers, which I think is maybe as important. There was never a place that we wouldn't listen to music; there was always music in the car, music in the house; there was always a relationship with music. And I was always interested in music, I did my first "concert" when I was five, standing on the bar of my dad's restaurant singing Losing My Religion by REM.

For many artists it seems that their personal lives along with their craft are as equally important to keep them relevant. Your personal life is never in the media. Was that a conscious decision?
I think there are different kinds of artists. There are artists that survive through the press, through gossip and that's a business too, I understand. Not really my kind of thing. I keep everything . not a secret, but you're never going to see a picture of my parents or my sisters; you're not going to see that. People don't need that, they just need to hear my music and see me in concert.

What about social media?
With social media I try my best (laughs). As an artist you just want to express your songs but people want to know what you think about this, and who do you support and who are your inspirations, what do you eat, where do you go and what underwear do you wear and this is. I would never ask these questions to someone I don't know. There's nothing negative about it, it's just my way to do it. Also I'm Swiss, and we are born and raised in a way where you have to be humble, you have to be protective, you have to stay away from the drama and not show too much.

In saying that you were also involved in some reality TV, you were Dancing With the Stars, right?
It was really weird. It was at the very beginning of my career. I was 21 and I was from the hockey world and dancing was definitely not something I was up for. I didn't want to do it at first, I thought this is a reality show and it's not bringing anything to me and now years later I realise that it taught me a lot. I learned a lot about myself on this TV show. I learned exactly who I want to be and exactly who I don't want to be. It was a very important moment in my life. And I also have some good dance moves and I use them (laughs).

And about being a judge on The Voice Belgium?
I enjoyed The Voice more, it was all about music and I'm all about music. Also because it was on Belgium TV, it was way more relaxed then it would be in France. It was about music, it was a small production. And I really got to do everything; so the talent chooses you and you have to fight for them, you have to sell yourself to them, which was interesting. You pick the song, you pick the key, the tempo, the arrangements, what's going to be on the screen, you go talk to the sound engineers, it's a real producer's job. Even the camera angles and where it moves and I was so into it. I really enjoyed coaching too, it was fun.

What advice do you have for young singers here in Dubai?
I always recommend that you write your own songs because that's the way to show that you're different, that you can be a little more than just a singer. I would say avoid being shy. This is where you would get the attention of people. That doesn't mean not being shy is being over confident or arrogant. It just means that if you feel like doing something, you just do it. And I would say never believe that it's easy. First you have to make it and more importantly you have to last and I think that's the tough part. And you really have to make sure that you're doing it for the right reasons. If you want do it to be on TV then you're not doing it for the right reasons. You want to do it for the right reasons, I think that's very important.

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