Soulful singer-songwriter Louis Baker possesses a voice that can register as an intimate croon or soar to dizzying heights. And when twinned with his prodigious fretwork that he’s cultivated over many years as both a student and a teacher of the guitar, his voice is a tool that he’s able to wield to jaw-dropping effect.
Emerging from the rich musical landscape of Wellington, New Zealand – a city that’s given the world singular musical voices like Fat Freddy’s Drop, The Black Seeds and TrinityRoots – Baker has been announced down under as one of the leading voices of a new school of Kiwi soul music.
Crafting his work with a deep artistic integrity, Louis has gathered a loyal following that spans the world over. Everyone from India Arie (“Louis Baker, you sing my soul,”) to the international music community (BBC 6 Music, Clash Magazine, The Line of Best Fit, Earmilk) have shown love for what he is, and has become.
Baker spent nearly a decade consolidating his many influences and honing his song writing skills. He released his debut EP in March 2014, a self-titled effort recorded with Breaks Co-op frontman Andy Lovegrove at North London’s Snap Studios, with an additional track ‘The Way’ recorded with engineer Erik Breuer at the 2013 Red Bull Music Academy held in New York City.
Baker secured one of only 60 places on the 2013 Academy, after being selected from a list of 4000 candidates who put up their hands. This was the young soul singer’s first major overseas sojourn, and a programme that included guest lectures from musical heavyweights like Brian Eno, Questlove, Just Blaze, Benji B and Q-Tip served as the ideal set-up for the set of songs he went on to commit to tape in the UK after his New York stint.
The four tracks that Baker and Lovegrove captured at Snap Studios serve as a stripped-back, intimate showcase of Baker’s rich but restrained vocal and fret work.
In May 2014, Baker took charge of Red Bull Studio Auckland, teaming with New Zealand-born, keys player and producer Jordan Rakei to record a box-fresh Baker-penned tune, ‘Just Want to Thank You’, a soul-style track powered by a 4/4 hip hop pulse. Baker used his time at Red Bull Studio to also capture a solo version of the new number, with his fragile, revealing vocal backed only by acoustic guitar.
While his self-titled EP was pushed out via digital delivery and a CD pressing, ‘Just Want to Thank You’ was released as a 7-inch vinyl courtesy of the Red Bull Music Academy, marking the first time Baker’s voice has been committed to wax. And it wasn’t the only noise Baker made through RBMA channels that year, playing prestigious slots on the RBMA stages at Field Days in London and Sonar in Barcelona, a festival known for its long-time love affair with Baker’s Wellington compadres, Fat Freddy’s Drop.
“For me, it’s always been about finding ways that I can lay down my defences in the space of a song so listeners can lay down theirs,” he considers. “It’s about allowing yourself to be really honest and say what’s on your mind. I don’t want someone on stage to tell me a whole bunch of stuff that they don’t really connect with. I want to hear some kind of truth and honesty and sincerity and purity, and that’s what I want my music to bring.”
Throughout 2016 and 2017 Baker released four stand-alone singles, ‘Rainbow’, ‘Fade’, ‘Gave It All Away’ and ‘Addict’. Accompanied by an equally stark video, which has since seen over a quarter of a million views, long-time New Zealand music critic and author, Grant Smithies said of ‘Rainbow’, “A glorious song this – sad and sparse, wise and true, with a restraint to the vocal that suits the vulnerability of the love-lorn lyric.” Baker’s next release ‘Fade’ was co-written and produced by Brad Ellis (Wilkinson, James Arthur, Sam Smith) of London based duo The Nextmen. ‘Gave it All Away’ saw the release of two distinctly different versions, a strikingly raw acoustic version and an electronic version produced by Fat Freddy’s Drop’s Mu. Finally ’Addict’ saw Baker team up with two-time Ivor Novello winner and Grammy nominated songwriter and producer Sacha Skarbek, fellow New Zealanders producer Josh Fountain (LEISURE) and Theia. The four tracks saw Baker accumulate over 7.5 million streams within the space of a year and make the top 20 finalist list for the APRA Silver Scroll in 2017 with ‘Rainbow’.
Over the years Baker has toured New Zealand, Australia, the UK and Europe multiple times, he has also played at key international festivals including Field Days - London, Sonar Festival - Barcelona, Sziget Festival – Hungary, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Glasgow Commonwealth Games - Scotland and Splendour In The Grass - Australia, as well as Rhythm and Vines and Homegrown back in his home country of New Zealand.
Baker now prepares for the release of his long-awaited debut album ‘Open’. Written and produced in London, Los Angeles, Sydney and New Zealand, the album sees him reflecting on being open to opportunity, to change and to acceptance. Working with Grammy-nominated Engineer and Producer, Steve Rusch (Kendrick Lamar, Solange, Cody Chesnutt), multi-platinum selling songwriter Lindy Robbins (Andra Day, Chromeo), ’Open’ takes it back to where it all began for Baker, drawing on experiences and feelings from the past, to help him better understand the present, whilst also looking to a brighter, more open, future.