Interview : Mike Baker by Rock Star Journalist Eileen Shapiro

Quiet, until now, behind the scenes producer, singer/songwriter, Michael Baker has come into his own. The father of up and coming music sensation, Baker Grace, formally Bitter’s Kiss, Chloe Baker, Mike has had the experience of helping her and the rest of his family record for years. Finally it’s his time to rise, Mike has teamed up with record label owner Tom O’Keefe for different projects while producing his own and other people’s music recordings as well.

Sharp, eclectic, message based lyrics lend their way to melodic, genre defying sonic encounters, and musical poetry, something Mike says he has always done. “The Magic of music is that you don’t have to tell the story as it actually happens”, according to Mike, “It can be coated, so that it means something to you, but that meaning can be different to the listener. There’s this power in it”. 

 I spoke with Michael in depth regarding his producing and his music, his desires for the future, his permission to succeed, and his value in production for other people.

So I heard some of your music, and was wondering why you are an attorney and not a rock star.

I tend to write a little bit eclectic, it’s not formulating. If I were to have pursued it, it would’ve been more of a niche following.

I’m sure that’s what Bob Dylan said when he first started.

I very quickly figured out that I would have wanted to do this behind the scenes. 

Well you are now?

That’s sort of what’s developed. I’ve done that over the years for different people who have passed through. Friends and family who have passed through the house. It’s something I like to do. I like to personally write and record. What has happened since I was the first to discover Chloe, I would say, is it sort of motivated me more to find talented people who could benefit from whatever I have to offer, with a view not to be the destination but to be a bridge to the next place that they are going. I would almost think of myself as pre-A&R. It actually could evolve into being destination and production, I suppose. We come across anybody who is a music listener, someone who’s eyes and ears light up whenever somebody says they do music. One of the most interesting things about somebody is to discover they do this. Then I’m always interested in, what do they do? There is a lot of talent out there, a lot of people who just have never really developed their ideas with a way of doing things in turn. In other words, let’s twist this around, turn it around, and see if there’s a way to say it that’s a little more true to your message.

I interview hundreds of talented musicians that will never be heard by the masses because they just don’t know how to go about doing it.

Yeah, and that’s the other part of it. If there is some talent that I believe in I feel very fortunate to be in my circumstances, it’s not that there was no hard work put into it but I do feel like I’ve benefited from some kind of fortuitous things and opportunities. One of the things I always impress on my kids is that life is very serendipitous, and you need to live that serendipitous life, and seize these opportunities when they come, and take them. You have a lot of people sitting in their rooms making amazing music, maybe doing some shows, but they’re not out getting the opportunities or they are not seeing them. I was a massive pre-disco Bee Gees fan. This is “New York Miming Disaster, ” Lonely Days”, anyway I was teased by my older siblings because they never sat down and listened to the songs that I was listening to. When I met Tom it extended to meeting Samantha Gibson, and I wound up playing on Maurice’s piano. You know life is funny. It’s about the people you meet and the places that you go. 

So how did you come to doing what you do now?

So from the time I was very young I can remember, from the first time I learned to play chords on the piano, I had never felt constrained by the musical library in the house. I’ve always written my own music. Rather than learning a song I preferred to make one up. That went through high school, I guess I had some aspirations or maybe lacked the confidence to really do much with it other than being in a French language music competition when I was 21 in Canada. Then after that I went to law school. I got married really young and this was a thing I hoped we would do together, I sort of felt like I needed somebody else. And that never happened, but I never ever stopped writing music. It was always like a diary catharsis personal therapy. If you have a listen to my songs you would see what that was about.

I did.

My kids we’re growing up in this home where this was just the thing that you could do. It was like a permission to do it. You could write your own music. So they would do it. Now I regret that there was some that I recorded but that I didn’t take it more seriously as they were doing it. This became a thing in the family, this idea that you dialyze through song. What I’m doing now really kicked off. I have enough equipment to be dangerous. I could actually record stuff, and have it be listenable. But I was never trying to become an expert producer, because I wasn’t thinking any of the stuff was destined for anything. Years before people in my band were telling me that I should sell my songs, so I guess maybe that was why I would record them and have them, so if I ever decided to do that I would have some version of them. Once I started working with Chloe, I was so aware of my own lack of education, it became an exercise in restraint, staying out of the way. Her voice sort of shined through. The idea was let’s get her working with other people, but the more I did that the more I wanted to do. The more I wanted to do on the production side, the more I would listen to something and try to figure out why it sounds a certain way, and how to do that. It also taught me to be a lot more patient. There were still some stuff on her first CD that I would go back and clean up, but maybe the magic of it is that it isn’t perfect. When I don’t have someone else to work with I’ll just do my own stuff, but I really do enjoy it. It was inevitable, and I wanted that to be the case, but she’s moved on. So I spent the last two years learning the language, different production techniques, different styles, different sounds, all the language of music, and wanted to continue that thinking that maybe there was a place in the market where I could have some value for people. I feel that the production tells the story as much as the melody and the lyrics.

Do want to get more and more involved in this as time goes on?

Yeah, I would like to get more into this. If I had a dream, a goal, for where I would like this to go, is to probably establish a non-for profit music and production company which would give access to these resources to kids who otherwise couldn’t find or afford them. Basically create a song house. I think of it as “The music room”. My kids have gone to musical arts schools and there are a lot of bands around, finding a home for these people who don’t have the resources but have something to say because there is so much power in having that, and having that memorialized. It’s a greater gift than most things material. I believe I do have a way of hearing songs, and hearing how they can be unique. It’s taken me three decades to get to where I am, my objective is to help people get there a whole lot faster.
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