Kelli Baker is the epitome of an independent artist. She moved to New York City with $500, chasing the heels of Hurricane Sandy - and big dreams. Born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona, Kelli has been performing since a young age, and the level of practice and dedication is clear in her breathtaking vocals. Her bluesy rock inspired vocals have been compared to Liz Phair, Chris Cornell, PJ Harvey, and Aretha Franklin. Kelli herself was inspired by The Rolling Stones, Jane’s Addiction, The Black Crowes, Bonnie Raitt, and Neil Young, to name a few.
Kelli Baker’s father suddenly passed in 2015, marking a turning point in the artist’s life. Kelli states “Life before is part one. This is part two." Her singles this year include “Red Winter”, an intensifying piece that grows with the sway of the music into an explosive moment of resolve at the end, and “The Living”, which dives into everything that makes us human. It’s haunting and melancholic, but so powerful and captivating. We’re blown away each and every time Kelli sings and we’re always looking forward to hearing more. The year has been one of realization and work for this up and coming artist, but she’s well on her way to having an even bigger 2020.
Listen to Kelli Baker's music here
Welcome back to BuzzMusic Kelli Baker! It’s always a pleasure talking to you.
How have you honed your songwriting style over time, and what do you think are the main qualities that make a song truly connect and last in the long-run?
The best thing I've done for myself is not to write songs for likability - of course I want a song to be likable, but I want it to be true to the emotion and moment it represents, authentic. I write it because I need to get it out of me. If you're connecting with my music, you're connecting with me. I write who I am. I'm not writing for the masses. I'm writing for me and for you. It's a personal thing.
Can you dive into the lyrical meaning within “Red Winter”? What inspired this song?
Red Winter is easily the most stripped down, personal song I've written to date. If you read through the lyrics, it tells a very intimate story. Red Winter is about perspective. For example, two people can look at an object, a situation, a person- and view it completely differently. You'll see that theme run through my music- who is it you think you see? Who is the bad one, is it you, or is it me? At the time, I felt I was vastly misinterpreted and also left without the opportunity to speak about my end of things. Again- I needed to get it out of me, and it poured out. I wrote the core of it in about ten minutes.
“The Living: really introduces a diverse soundscape. What was the recording process like to achieve this sound?
Working with Philip A. Jimenez is great because he's a multi-instrumentalist. He does things in his brain with music that the normal human just can't do. He'll hear something and it will just simply make sense to him- he operates on a higher frequency. He creates an atmosphere, and knows what needs fill that space. I love the harmonica he placed at the beginning- he dug through three cases of them to find the right one. It's not just any tambourine he uses, it's a set of South African shakers he picked up while touring that no one else can replicate. There's a sound you get with Philip that is impossible to get elsewhere.
What has it been like working with Philip A. Jimenez?
Philip is family at this point. I'm fortunate to have been able to work with someone with such an impressive background (Philip is a multi-platinum producer, most notable work is an international hit, Teenage Dirtbag with his band Wheatus.) Philip knows who I am as an individual and an artist; he brings a personal understanding and depth to the work. He knows what I want to come out of it, where I want it to go.
How does your hometown influence who you are as an artist? How do you feel about living in New York City?
Phoenix will always be part of who I am underneath it all. There's something about the desert air on your face, volume up, windows down, freeway lit up that can't be described if you haven't felt it- the way it smells. It's driving for hours, riding air that never turns cold. California holds similar energy in some places. I think of that a lot when I'm writing- what do I want to hear with the windows down and the volume up? I love the diversity and culture of New York. I love the hustle, the sound. I love the fast pace; it's much more my style. I'm often back in Arizona, but I've truly found my best self in New York. I needed to be both of those versions to round out the artist I am now.
Thanks for chatting with us! We love hearing new music from you. Do you have more new music currently in the works?
I've been quite inspired lately- waking up in the middle of the night, writing, then falling back asleep. My newest single, Run, will be releasing in January. Stay tuned!