A common sentiment I hear when interviewing artists of all disciplines is that it takes a certain kind of courage to present your most open and vulnerable self to an audience. The process of creation and performance often involves opening yourself up in a way that is not common in society (outside of the arts). There are two sides to it. The first is that artists often reveal intimate aspects of their inner-selves through their work, providing a raw honesty about how they see themselves in the world. That is a vulnerable place to stand. The second is that they are offering up their worth as an artist to public judgement. They write themselves into their work which is then unashamedly scrutinised in the form of comment, criticism, review, or even just the applause at the end of the show. That takes courage.
Louis Baker is renowned for having a voice that stops you fully in your tracks. It has a beauty to it that holds the attention of the listener in a kind of wonder. Listen deeper and you’ll hear the stories of someone that writes from a place of openness and authenticity, offering his expressions of life and love to the world. When we spoke, he admitted that bravery, tenacity and self-possession are all essential qualities to cultivate.
“It takes courage for anyone to go and be themselves.”
“It’s a big thing for any creative putting your deepest thoughts and emotions or ideas out to the public eye. Essentially you’re saying, I’m up for being judged, because I believe in the music and what this message is. In the music industry, people can get knocked. You can have one person say one thing and you hold onto that for a long time. It can stunt your growth and stop you moving forwards.”
For Louis, an essential support mechanism for being able to sit comfortably in this position is to surround himself with the right people. He has never been afraid to turn to friends more experienced than him when he has found himself faced with new opportunities or territory in the industry.
One key member of his team is his Manager, Cushla Aston, who has worked alongside Louis for the last six years. As well as being someone that he can trust wholeheartedly, Cushla ensures that he works to a plan or timeline for every campaign, release or tour that they are organising.
His friends provide the essential feedback that helps him grow as a person and as a musician. Louis describes it as “being around people who will take care of your essence and encourage you to be the best person you can be and aren’t afraid to tell you the truth of it all.” Having trusted people surrounding him allows a mechanism for receiving essential critical feedback and means that he’s never facing the knocks alone.
“We are the ones who decide what we can and can’t do."
The team is essential for support, but ultimately he says success comes down to you having enough faith in yourself. “We are the ones who decide what we can and can’t do, and sometimes we can almost self-sabotage in believing that we can’t do something. I’ve done that to myself.”
He has found that formulating a strong direction and regularly creating clear goals have helped to maintain his believe in himself and his art. Since the age of 20, Louis has sat down at the beginning of each year and written down his ambitions. This has not only helped to keep him on track to reaching his long term goals, but it also provides something to look back on and reflect on the progress made in a year.
The advice he gives to others is:“Define your objective, your dream. Write down on a piece of paper what you actually want to do because that can help your trajectory. If you never sit down and write specific goals, you won’t know how to reach them. It gives a tangible thing for seeing forward momentum.”
In 2013, Louis was selected to participate in the Red Bull Music Academy in New York. A truly global experience, this Academy brings together up-and-coming musicians and music legends from all over the world and from every part of the industry for two weeks of learning and collaboration.
This experience propelled him to step his creative ambitions up a gear. “It drove me to set my sights higher as a creative in general,” Louis explains.“If you don’t set your sights high there’s no way you’ll ever come close to what you want to do.”
Directly following the Academy in New York he went to London where he recorded his debut self-titled EP which debuted at number three on the NZ Album Chart, and his song Back On My Feet was a top five finalist for the 2014 APRA Silver Scroll Award.
He has since released four singles and has spent the last year travelling in the United States, the UK and Australia writing songs. He’s excited about what the new year will bring and promises a new album will be coming our way.
Louis takes full responsibility for achieving his creative ambitions and believes that the only thing that can hold him back is himself. The rest comes down to simply taking action. “At the end of the day nothing happens if you don’t do anything. You have to take action.” Personal drive bolstered by the beautiful combination of a supportive team and clear goals, offers Louis all the courage he needs to continue to present his most honest and open self through his music.
Catch Louis Baker perform live this summer on:
Sat 13 Jan at Leigh Sawmill Cafe, 142 Pakiri Rd, Leigh, 8pm–12am
Sat 17 Feb at Coastella Music Festival, Southward Car Museum, Paraparaumu, 1–11:30pm
Louis Baker website, Coastella Music Festival