Julien Baker returns to New Zealand next month.
The electric-guitar-wielding musician’s two upcoming New Zealand tour dates (Auckland’s Tuning Fork on February 15 and Meow in Wellington on February 16) will mark her first double-date tour to these shores and the first performance here since releasing her second album Turn out the Lights in late 2017.
She told Second Hand News via email that the vulnerability in her songs is a reflection of what she also seeks in the music she listens to.
“The songs that I have always felt comforted by are the works that do that, that portray an experience in vivid honesty.’’
Despite the fact she writes lyrics “pulled directly’’ from her own experiences of life, penning lines like “You’re gonna run when you find out who I am’’ (‘Everybody Does’) and “If I could do what I want I’d become an electrician / I’d climb inside my head and I’d rearrange the wires in my brain” (‘Happy To Be Here’), her songs still connect with listeners across the globe.
“Maybe when people see others being vulnerable, it becomes a catalyst to explore their own vulnerability, or a conduit that helps them feel something that they relate to in some way. That’s ultimately what I think music, or poetry is – a catalyst for empathy, a way to understand and then feel reciprocally understood.’’
With two albums of “sad songs’’ to create a setlist from, including her 2015 debut Sprained Ankle, she still tries to “keep it pretty balanced’’ when working out the line-up of songs for a show.
“I change the set almost every night, so it’s always a little different.’’
The 23-year-old says the songs she particularly enjoys performing at present are those that let her build piano and guitar loops at the same time – particularly ‘Sour Breath’ or ‘Appointments’.
“It depends on the vibe of the crowd which ones are the most enjoyable, though. I really love playing any song that people are going to sing along to, because I like singing with people.’’
Other “singing with people” she has done of late includes last year’s collaboration with fellow rising stars, Lucy Dacus and Phoebe Bridgers.
The trio, performing as boygenius, went on to release a six-track self-titled EP of co-written songs and launched a multi-date US tour, garnering plenty of positive reviews along the way. They were even described as the “the Egoless Supergroup of Your Indie Rock Dreams’’ by Pitchfork, which Baker says was an “incredibly flattering’’ description.
The band came together after the three songwriters were brainstorming about collaborating on stage during an upcoming tour they were booked to do, when the prospect of writing together grew and grew.
“We decided to meet up and write as much as we could. Lucy and I flew out to LA where Phoebe was and we spent 5 days together writing and recording– it all happened very spontaneously but very organically.’’
She said one thing she cherished about Dacus and Bridgers was “their lack of ego’’, along with them both being “incredibly compassionate, communicative people’’.
“I think for each of us this project felt like a very special refuge, a place where we could create with less apprehension or pretext than in our individual careers; it was very freeing.’’
Alongside the boygenius album, her second solo album and several new tattoos, Baker has also gathered a few new pieces of gear since she first discussed her rig with Second Hand News in 2017.
“I recently got a Fathom reverb from Walrus Audio that is amazing and an Excess from Old Blood Noise that is really neat and versatile.’’ During the previous interview with SHN, Baker also discussed the less overtly-political nature of her songwriting, while also recognising she had a platform with her stages to discuss issues.
“At that time, I thought that it was crucial to use the platform I had to further the ideals that I wanted to see enacted in the world even if I didn’t think my music was presenting any agenda.’’
She said she still believed that she should “absolutely’’ use her platform, even if not overtly. “[My presence] still has a very political significance– at a time when dominant narratives are being challenged by female voices and queer voices, I think that the mere act of presenting yourself to the world is something that has a measurable social and political relevance.’’