Go ahead. Ask me who my favorite band from Newfoundland is.
Well, Hey Rosetta! of course!
Now, for full disclosure, I have to admit that Hey Rosetta! was the only band I knew of from Newfoundland before I wrote this, but they were a damned good one prior to taking a hiatus in late 2017, having garnered numerous JUNO and Polaris awards in their native Canada.
Now, founding member and singer Tim Baker is returning with his debut solo record, Forever Overhead, which will be hitting the streets next week.
Drawing from a wellspring of 70’s era songwriters whose songs punctuated his childhood, Baker, on his new record, has curated a simply gorgeous set of songs.
In the run up to the album’s release, Baker also released a tremendous video for the single “Dance,” which was directed by long time friend and fellow Newfoundlander Jordan Canning, known for his work on the delightfully irreverent comedy Schitt’s Creek.
I recently caught up with Tim Baker to chat about venturing out as a solo artist, finding time to get outside, and where I should go if I find myself in Newfoundland.
BRO – How does if feel to have your name on the cover of this record after years of recording with Hey Rosetta!?
TB – Well, not to take the question too literally, but I feel good when I look at it, mostly because the design of the record, by Nico Paulo, is so good. As to whether it’s strange to see my name there instead of my band’s name, I hadn’t really thought about it. Just today, actually, I was laying my copy onto my record shelf and had a moment where I couldn’t decide whether to put it next to the Hey Rosetta! records, in their own little section, or whether to put it off on it own with the Ts. I lay it there with the others. How far we should read into that, I don’t know.
BRO – Nature seems to be pretty important to you. How do you satisfy the itch to get outside while living in Toronto?
TB – You know, it is important to me. And I knew that, of course, we all know that, but it hit me really hard when I did move up to Toronto. At home in Newfoundland, I used to be a five minute drive to the ocean or the woods. Now, it takes me an hour to get to any real sort of open space. I suppose an hour, but I don’t really know to be honest. I don’t get out into it much. It’s been a busy year here in the city. But I walk and run in the park by my house, which is a real park with trails and such. And just yesterday I was walking and I had to take out my phone and take a picture because the trees looked so good and I thought how amazing it was that, after all I’d seen that day, as I’d been working on my computer in the seven hours prior to this on the internet, which has anything you could ever want to or not want to see, that I was still so moved by a couple of trees in the dirt that I had to capture it and then digitize it to share it! I believe the Earth is the purest and wisest and most fundamental, important, and beautiful thing we have and I try to live according to that.
BRO – Any other musicians from Newfoundland that our readers should check out?
TB – Ron Hynes is a legendary songwriter from home that never fails to inspire me to write harder. Amelia Curran is similarly gifted. If you’re ever in St. John’s and The Pathological Liars are playing, you should see that, but they haven’t recorded now in years. And I just saw this new band, Villages, the other day. They’re actually from Nova Scotia, but they are very much worth mentioning because they are doing their Cape Breton Celtic thing in such a cool and refreshing way.
BRO – We are featuring “All Hands” on this month’s Trail Mix. What’s the story behind the song?
TB – This is a song about my past and growing up in the west end of St. John’s, a place and a time I’ve thought about more than ever now that I’ve moved away. More than ever, too, I’ve been really into making songs that are personally significant to me. So, slowly, this chorus that I couldn’t stop singing grew into a sort of nostalgic anthem about going back home and back to the past, if not in life then at least in death. I guess it’s a song of homesickness and youthsickness on my part, and perhaps, to a degree, I was thinking of the Newfoundland diaspora at large, or any diaspora really, of which you may encounter many here in Toronto. But it ends up celebratory, sort of reveling in the fact that there is this place that is an inescapable part of me, along with all the people there that I’ve loved and learned from and been shaped by. And it feels like an inescapable part of your past must inevitably be part of your future as well. One of my favourite things is when a reason for despair turns out to be also a reason for celebration, almost simultaneously. It feels good to sing this.
BRO – If I had to spend one day in Newfoundland, what is my one can’t miss destination?
TB – Oh my. Well, it depends on what you like. If you like mountains and sun and wildlife and walks by the water, then I was say you out to go to Gros Morne National Park. If you like a pint and a tune and a few tall tales, then I’d go roam around downtown St. John’s, namely Bannerman Brewing Company or Mallard Cottage or The Duke, but there’s plenty of places to find. Really, wherever you go, you’ll be alright. You’ll want to find someone older and have a cup of tea with them if you can. And get out in a boat. But, for Godsakes, bring a jacket.
Tim Baker will be celebrating the release of his new record with two shows in his hometown of St. John’s – most likely jacket clad – next weekend. Early May will find him in the USA, with shows in New York, New Jersey, Virginia, Vermont, and Massachusetts on the calendar.
For more information on Tim Baker, his touring schedule, or how you can grab a copy of Forever Overhead, please surf over to his website.
And be sure to check out “All Hands,” along with new tracks from The Yawpers, Shovels & Rope, Mekons, and Driftwood on this month’s Trail Mix.