Interview: Bastian Baker
The Swiss pro hockey player turned country singer-songwriter and coach on Belgium’s ‘The Voice’ talks about touring with Shania Twain
From professional hockey player to Switzerland’s most loved country artist, and even appearing as a coach on The Voice in Belgium, Bastian Baker has had quite the journey. He recently wrapped up the US and European legs of the Shania Now Tour where is the opening act for Canadian country legend Shania Twain, and is currently promoting his latest studio album before hitting the road once again for the Australian and New Zealand leg of the tour.
His new self-titled release feels like an introduction but it is, in fact, his fourth LP. However, it is his first official release in the US and UK so this feels like a brand new start for an artist who is a household name in his native country.
With all the excitement and buzz around Bastian at the moment, we thought it was a fantastic time to catch up with the intriguing singer-songwriter to find out more about touring with Shania and, of course, his album…
You’re currently on a break from touring with Shania Twain. How’s that experience been so far?
“It’s been wonderful. Touring with Shania is like touring with my family! It’s truly been a monumental experience. I’ve met the most incredible new fans and friends along the way. This was my first official tour in North America and the UK and I knew the moment I stepped out on stage that the crowd most likely didn’t know me, so I had to bring my A-game. I like to have meet-and-greets at the merch table after my set each night and it was cool to get to meet new people up close and personal. I already can’t wait to get back! Everyone has been so warm and welcoming.”
What’s it been like going from a headline act to a supporting slot?
“Since the very beginning of my career I’ve always played a lot of support shows – Bryan Adams, Roxette, James Morrison – and I have to say I love it. It’s always great to meet new fans who may not know me before I take the stage. And it’s great to not feel as much pressure while opening for someone else because the audience didn’t necessarily buy tickets to see me! The Shania tour is the first time I’ve been a support act on a long world tour. I’m looking forward to going back to my headlining shows. I will be touring most of 2019!”
How did the tour with Shania come about?
“We’ve known each other for many years – we met in Switzerland at the Montreux Jazz Festival. From the moment we met, she’s been very interested in my music and has really taken me under her wing as far as giving me advice on next steps in my career.
“Three years ago, she asked me to open the last three shows on her Rock This Country tour and I felt like her audience and I were really able to connect. She must have thought so as well because here we are now out touring the globe! On my new album, she’s really followed the whole writing and recording process really closely. I’d play her some songs I had come up with and she’d always offer feedback which I greatly appreciate. She’s such a lyrical genius! She says she loves how everything turned out.”
What are your major highlights so far?
“Oh, there are so many. The Nashville show at Bridgestone Arena was incredible. I have such a strong connection with Nashville. Most of the songs on the new record were written and recorded in Nashville! My good friend Roman Josi is the captain of the Nashville Predators hockey team, and since I played pro hockey myself it was surreal to play in the same arena as him.
“The second would be Montreal. I played a cover of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah and not only did everybody light up their phones, but I got a two-minute standing ovation at the end of the song. Chills! The third was Brazil, a country I love. We played in front of 100,000 people and there I was standing there alone, just me and my guitar. It was quite a special moment in my life. I made sure I learned enough Portuguese, to be able to speak it in between the songs. And I really enjoyed that too. With each stop, I make sure there’s time to go explore the town, find a good bar and food and sight-see. I’m an adventurous guy. It’s been fun getting to know different parts of the world.”
What are you looking forward to from the Australian and New Zealand leg?
“I’ve only been to Australia once to watch my tennis player friend Stan Wawrinka at the Australian Open! So apart from that it’s all gonna be pretty new! I’m happy to extend my summer a little more this year and will be looking forward to seeing the great natural landscapes both these countries have. Plus everybody keeps telling me I sound like I’m Australian; can’t wait to find out if that’s correct!
“Along with touring with Shania Twain you have also recently announced your own headlining tour for next year, what can fans expect from your shows?
The shows are going to be such a fun time! We’re currently working on the aesthetics, lighting and the set list! Preparing a new tour is something I love! Fun fact: I usually get most of my ideas in a super hot shower. We’re going to play a lot of new songs and I will, of course, add some of the older songs to the set list, especially when playing places that have known us for a longer time.”
Do you plan on adding any UK dates?
“I hope so. That would be a dream! I had never toured the UK before the Shania tour and I really loved it! Made so many great memories and met some really incredible people! Hopefully, it’ll work out and I’ll be back really soon!”
The new tour is in support of your new LP, how excited are you to be sharing your new record?
“I can’t wait! Although, it’ll come with challenges. I’ve really pushed my singing limits on this record and I will have to be very disciplined with my voice on the tour in order to be able to perform the best I can every night!”
What can listeners expect from the album?
“It’s a vast mix of a lot of different styles and sounds that I’ve been working on over the past two years. I’ve done a lot of travelling and played a lot of shows in that time frame and this album is really a reflection of influences I’ve picked up along the way. My older records gravitated more folk and I feel like I still have that to some extent, but I’ve really grown to branch out into other genres of music. Kind of like how Nashville as a whole has – it’s not just country anymore. You can find shows of any genre every night of the week!”
We love the LP, and we did noticed it has a lot of genre styles, was this a conscious decision?
“I wrote over 60 songs in the last year and a half and of course they were all very different! I love a lot of different music styles, to listen and to play! It was a conscious decision! It’s a little bit pop, a little folk, rock, country. I’m just a fan of really good music! I hope it’s something people all over the world can enjoy.”
Which song off the record are you most excited for the fans to hear?
“Probably Yokko. I’m really proud of it. I had been listening to a lot of Justin Timberlake and The Weeknd and you can definitely feel those influences at play. This is my most singer-songwriter song on the album. And yes, I intentionally spelt Yoko Ono’s name wrong!”
Did you approach the album any different knowing it would be your debut US and UK release?
“No, not really. I guess that’s what makes me an indie [laughs]. I think a big part of being an artist and songwriter is knowing who you are and not straying from it. It’s worked for other artists that have come into a new territory from other countries. I think, from time to time, people like something fresh and new to listen to!”
How do you feel this compares to your previous releases?
“It’s more ambitious. The work and effort I’ve put into this record allows me to say so. It was really hard selecting those 14 tracks amongst the other 60. But I tried to pick the songs that I thought were intriguing, surprising and different than what I had done before!”
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Bastian’s eponymous album is out now on Swiss Mafia. Discover more at bastianbaker.com