Bridging the gap between the legendary soundscape of Nashville and the forward thinking electronic landscape of D.C. is an artist named Patrick Baker. A singer, songwriter, and producer whose voice has been featured alongside major talents like Giraffage, Lane 8, and Autograf to name a few, Baker consistently pushes his talents beyond what’s expected him with each release. But while his status in the indie dance world seems to be moving up at a rocket’s pace, with even more high profile projects on the horizon, Baker is also known for his very humble, very down-to-earth demeanor.
I recently got a chance to chat with Patrick Baker, one of the indie dance world’s most recognizable voices, and captured a wonderful glimpse into the mind of what will be the dance music community’s biggest talents in the years to come.
ZACH: For those who aren’t familiar with the man Patrick Baker, tell us a bit about yourself. What makes you tick? Who are you?
PATRICK BAKER: Sure. Well, I consider myself a songwriter first and foremost, but I also produce my own music and collaborate with a lot of other artists and producers as a vocalist and writer. I came from a fairly musical family with my father and uncles all playing in bands, so I was drawn into music early on. Although guitar is my main instrument, I actually started out with a keyboard making beats, doing a little rapping. I played in some bands, but only got serious about production and electronic music later on. But at the end of the time, I love a good song regardless of genre.
Z: You’ve been very busy as of late between features with Autograf, Giraffage and Viceroy, Lane 8. For the past year or so, your notoriety has increased exponentially. Does this feel real? What’s been the most awe inspiring moment for you so far as a vocalist? As a musician in general?
PB: I’ve definitely been very fortunate getting to work with some really talented people. At times it’s hard for me to fully appreciate it because it feels like I’m always on to the next project! But I’ve certainly taken the time to celebrate some exciting moments. It’s hard to pick just one moment, but highlights as a vocalist would probably be hearing Pete Tong premiere my Lane 8 collaboration on BBC Radio 1 and also being in the car and hearing myself come on the radio for the first time.
As a musician and producer I’d say charting on Billboard’s Next Big Sound chart was really exciting and more recently having Sirius/XM add my new single was a great feeling.
Z: Being a singer and a songwriter seems to be a little bit different in the dance music community especially since much of it seems to be done in a space that’s largely inorganic. What’s your approach been for projects that you’ve been asked to do? Do you feel like there’s a difference for vocals in between different genres?
PB: Yeah, that’s a really interesting question. In some ways some of most important fundamentals are common such as having a great melody and lyric, but there are definitely nuances and plenty of small differences that can add up. I came from more a traditional songwriting mentality where you have a verse, chorus, and bridge section. A lot of electronic music is less vocal centric, so I’ve had to adapt my writing style a bit to that. For a collaboration, I usually get a track that I will just improvise over in my studio until I come up with a melody that I like. Sometimes there is some back and forth on different ideas. A few times I’ve sent someone a vocal and they’ve built around like “Impression of You.” But I can honestly say that each project and artist is different and requires a slightly different approach.
As far as genres, I think it’s important to be familiar or educate yourself to a degree. For instance, on a classic house track, there is usually a certain vibe and sound that tend to work and a vocalist from outside that world might not realize that. I know for myself I’ve tried to really explore all types of electronic and house music because I came from more of a pop and rock background. Having said all that, I think most singers or songwriters will tend to have a part of their own style and personality that will always come through, so it’s important to be aware of that and your own personal sweet spot where you can shine the most.
Z: Much of your individual work swings between influences like nu-jack swing and 90’s R&B to indie dance. What would you say inspires you the most? Do you find yourself gravitating towards music from your past more than new sounds that come around?
PB: Well, certainly I have a soft spot for 90’s R&B and Teddy [Laughs]. And what excited me about that was taking some of those elements, like the particular way the hi-hat and kick drum swings, and updating other elements with a modern aesthetic. Of course pretty much all new music is taking the old and making it new, but that specific idea was inspiring to me because I hadn’t really heard many people doing it.
But I actually get as much inspiration from new as old. I think it’s just as important to reference the obscure 90’s R&B record as it is to explore the newest, micro-genre SoundCloud artist. And that’s what I love about someone like Wave Racer who sounds hyper new, but at the same time he’s incorporating these great jazz gospel chord progressions you’d hear on an older R&B track. For me personally I can’t operate in a musical vacuum and I want to be plugged into what new things people are coming up with, while also being aware of the past.
Z: Do your prefer performing live to spending time in the studio?
PB: Well, writing and the studio has pretty much been my MO for a while now, so I think I naturally gravitate towards that. Writing songs is probably what I’m best at and what is the easiest. But I’m actually working on putting a live show together at the moment and in talks with some people to start getting out there more and hopefully do some touring.
Z: These are a series of lightning round questions. What’s the perfect recipe to a grilled cheese?
PB: Bread, butter, mayo and cheese. I think I could actually make that.
Z: Who’s the bigger diva. Chaka Khan or Whitney Houston?
PB: For me, definitely Whitney. “I Have Nothing” is my jam!
Z: Would you rather have one really big dog or a few much smaller puppies to play with?
PB: Well, I have one big dog, and puppies are a lot of work, so I’d say the one dog!
Z: Back to the serious stuff. We can already tell you have some major stuff in the pipeline. Anything big coming up that you can divulge?
PB: Yeah, I actually have a new single with Viceroy. It will be the lead single of his new EP. Also, should have a track on an upcoming album of a very well respected German deep house duo. And I have been in talks with a few labels on some of my own music, so hopefully lots of new stuff this year!
Z: D.C. is increasingly becoming a go to place to make music. Why do you think that is? How does it compare to your other stomping ground, Nashville, for instance?
PB: Good question. I’ve definitely noticed how vibrant the D.C. music scene is, specifically for electronica. I would say just being a more urban area with good proximity to NYC is probably at least part of it. And I’m sure having good venues that support acts like U Hall and 9:30.
Nashville is a great city for music as well, but it’s definitely geared more towards singer-songwriters and bands. There are definitely some great electronic acts there like Cherub, Jensen Sportag, and Future Unlimited, but I never felt connected to the local scene the way I do here. D.C. seems to have a legitimate electronic music scene. Plus, there wasn’t a club in Nashville like U Hall where you could see people like FKJ or Autograf.
Z: If you had to describe a major key to success for the youth, something you wish you had known years ago, what would it be?
PB: Start collaborating early and often. I know it’s opened a lot of doors for me and I feel like it’s an important way to learn. Plus, it opens you up to things you otherwise wouldn’t experience.
Take songs you love and really dissect them down to the smallest level as far as structure and production. Then try to immediately apply those concepts to your own song. Or try to recreate a track from scratch.
Also, get out there and meet people.
Z: Thank you so much Patrick for taking the time to speak with us. We look forward to seeing what else the future has in store for you.
PB: Thanks for having me! It’s been a pleasure.
You can follow Patrick Baker on SoundCloud, Facebook, and Twitter. Be sure to check out his latest track, Viceroy’s “Next Escape,” below.