Ahead of the world music festival WOMADelaide on the 10-13th of March, I chat to Darwin based vocalist and songwriter Caiti Baker. Trust me when I tell you she is THE new comer you will fall in love with!
WOMADelaide have just announced the final lineup for this year including Darwin based Caiti Baker who if you are yet to hear her solo work, you may have heard her guest collaborations with A.B. Original (who recently also got announced to play WOMADelaide) and Briggs or her electro-soul act Sietta. Caiti is a rising star who you need to listen to right away (if you haven’t already)! I chatted to Caiti to find out more about her unique sound ahead of her WOMAD debut.
INTERVIEW: CAITI BAKER
Hi Caiti, thank you for taking the time to go through some questions with me. I am excited to check out you set at WOMADelaide. Your debut singles have been replaying in my office for the last fortnight, they are so catchy and fun!
You have recently featuring on many collaborations with rapper Briggs and his side project A.B. Original and toured together, how did you get involved with working together?
A few years back, Briggs asked if I wanted to collaborate with him on a track about his daughter called Bigger Picture, which went out on his ‘Sheplife’ album. I wrote the lyrics and recorded the track, my production partner James Mangohig worked on the production and we’ve all been hanging out ever since!
You released your solo debut single late last year, “Heavy On My Heart”. You have been touring, have just released the second single “Make Your Own Mistakes” and working on your debut album, are you ever at home? How have things changed for you after the solo releases?
Am I ever at home? Haha, not really! I have multiple ‘homes’ around the country in friends and family but as soon as I make it back to Darwin, I feel as if I haven’t left… even if I am only home for a couple of weeks! It’s where my stuff is – my family, my cat, my community… and my studio and production team.
I come home to record and work on my music which is very satisfying. I’ve lived a ‘nomadic’ existence for quite a number of years now so I’m used to the constant travel. The only difference since releasing my solo material is that I’m just away longer and travelling to different places, which I’m super grateful for.
How would you describe your sound to new fans?
Blend low fi gritty blues and trad jazz; sassy RnB melodies and harmonies with fat hiphop production aesthetics.
Who would you say are some of your musical influences?
The music I grew up listening to and the music I discovered in late primary school. The blues, big band and soul greats such as Little Walter, Muddy Waters, Big Mama Thornton, Cab Calloway, Count Basie, Wilson Pickett, Irma Thomas, Aretha Franklin, Jimi Hendrix, Tina Turner, James Brown etc… 90s R&B icons Missy Elliott, Aaliyah, TLC, Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu, Faith Evans, SWV, Destiny’s Child, D’Angelo etc. On the production side, I’m heavily inspired by the RZA (wu tang clan), Timbaland, Just Blaze, Rich Harrison, Dr Dre, Teddy Riley, Jermain Dupri and the Neptunes.
You were born into a musical household, when did you pick up and start learning and writing music for yourself?
I must have been about 12 when my father gave me an 8 track digital recorder. I had friends who would give me hiphop instrumentals and I would write songs over them, with up to 8 harmonies, 16 when I worked out the extension tracks! I don’t play any instruments and I don’t read music. I was lucky to have a good ear for pitch, melodies and phrasing. My lyrics were cheesy but I got better at that over time!
After reuniting with your then estranged Father, a blues musician himself, he gave you a whole bunch of his recordings, which you have said inspired your solo career. Listening to them for the first time, did you have a lightening bolt moment or had you been working on some ideas already?
There’s over 600 files sitting on that usb key. James Mangohig, my production partner goes through them and picks out bits to loop and weave into his production. The first track he showed me, I remember my head just began to nod and my feet started tapping and I couldn’t wait to write to it. I definitely feel that the music that raised me comes out in more prominence when I write to the tracks that sample my father’s guitar playing. It’s a lot easier and definitely feels the most natural.
You have combined some different influences in your music and even dancing that are quite unique. Is this a kind of marriage in inspiration from your childhood and later years? Did this combination flow naturally for you or was it a process to really find that style?
Growing up on the music that I did – blues, jazz, soul, gospel, big band, rock n’ roll etc, I was exposed to a large variety of drum and rhythm patterns, song arrangements, instrumentation and vocal stylings. Having that rhythm engrained into my being, my soul and my ears, I think has influenced the way I hear and create music as well as respond to it – in dance form. We’re all inspired by our predecessors and in my case, I’m inspired by the predecessors’ predecessors. Who were ahead of the game all the time, constantly changing and evolving. Respective dances were evolving too and I had access to that history.
As I got older and fell in love with New Jack Swing, R&B and Hip Hop, it was the obvious progression in music that made sense to me and so I’m heavily influenced by artists of the 90s. Combine that with the music I was raised on, and you have the music I make!
You have worked with Darwin based Haute Couture Fashion Designer Matilda Alegria who has custom pieces for your videos, and online cult favourite Black Milk for performances. How important is it for you to express yourself through your personal style on stage? Who influences your style?
Fashion and style has always been a tricky one for me. It didn’t really start to make sense and feel good until I improved my health and fitness. That of course bumped up my overall confidence and now I find it inspiring! Comfort and dressing for my body type are the two most important things to me when it comes to style. Matilda Alegria specialises in custom designs that cater to both those needs and we’re good friends so the collaboration has been fun and organic. Every Matilda piece I wear makes me feel like a boss so I get excited when a new piece is in the works.
When I perform with A.B. or Briggs, I’m more in my hiphop element which is the comfy Black Milk leggings and a dope top with some fresh custom jewellery (see Haus of Dizzy, Sarah Seapony). Everything I wear says a little bit about me in some way – I love bright colours, style reminiscent of the 90s, food, movies, comedy, the artists that I grew up listening to and the art of the people and land that I’m from.
I don’t really think about it too hard – I see something I like, I acquire it, I rock it and most importantly, I own it. On the other hand, when I’m home in the north, you won’t see me wearing anything but house dresses and sarongs! If I’m in the south, it’s hoodies, sneakers and beanies.
It’s all about comfort and dressing for your body type!
You are soon to take to the WOMADelaide stage, are there any surprises that fans can expect?
I’m not sure I know what to expect! I’m just excited to have my friends on stage with me, playing songs that I’ve been working on and seeing how people respond to them. I don’t make conventional music and Womad isn’t your conventional festival. I’m hoping people will wanna dance and have a good time with me!
Are you excited to check out any other artists in the WOMADelaide lineup?
Yes! I’ll be sticking around for A.B. Original’s set on the Monday night so I’ll be floating around the festival soaking in as much as I can. I’m looking forward to seeing SA’s own Mane and Electric Fields, Uncle Jack Charles, Austria’s Parov Stelar, Tago from South Korea, Inna Modja from Mali, Rich Medina and the Hot 8 Brass Band from the states… I’ll see as much as I can!
What do you like to do in your down time?
I love my down time, I love my own company but I’ll most likely spend as much time with my friends and family as I can when I’m home. I like being outdoors, I like the sun. I like bike riding. I love reading and listening to podcasts and of course, I’m a fan of netflix. I love hunting out new music and watching video clips too. And sleep. Sleep is a great downtime activity!
Thank you again for taking the time out to answer my questions Caiti. Very looking forward to catching your show in March!
DON’T MISS CAITI BAKER PERFORMING:
Friday 10th, 10:00pm at the Zoo Stage at WOMADelaide. Find Caiti online here.
WHY WOMADELAIDE IS MY FAVOURITE FESTIVAL
WOMADelaide 2017 will be held in the Adelaide Botanic Park on March 10-13th. With another impressive line up, head here to secure your tickets and do not miss out. We headed along last year (pictured above) and loved it!
The festival is one of the most beautiful, held in the lush botanic park, north east of the Adelaide CBD. It is an immersive festival for all ages, complete with a global village of world food, a design market and healing village where you can pretty well have any treatment you can dream of! You can head in early for a daily yoga class, stop by for one of the planet talks or be part of a sustainability, music or dance workshop.
I have a few more interviews with some of WOMADelaide’s strongest and most inspiring female performers to come over the next couple of weeks. Stay tuned!
Have you been to WOMAD? Which are your favourite music festivals? Got a good one in your local area? I’d love for you to share it with us below!