Baker’s love for music nearly cost him the love of his life
Erick Baker isn’t one of those singer-songwriters who began singing and playing in church as a child. In fact, he didn’t pick up a guitar until after he had graduated college in 2001.
“I wanted to play the music that I’d been listening to and, once I started, it grabbed onto me. From that point it was a hobby, it wasn’t like at that moment I was going to be a singer- songwriter,” he explains.
At that time, he was at loose ends — no career plan, mom and dad weren’t pressuring him to get a job — so he went back to college for a master’s degree in mass communications and continued practicing. It would be two years before he played his first gig, and four more until he felt confident enough to make a record. (“At the least, I’d have a thousand copies of the CD to give away to family.”)
He was playing a gig in Knoxville when a promoter walked up and offered him an opening spot for John Legend.
“I thought he was kidding, but he was serious. I was shocked, terrified and excited. Up until then, I was doing small bar crowds. I played six songs in 30 minutes — and it competely changed my life. That was my validating moment because those 1,500 people didn’t get up and leave,” he jokes as he recalls that turning point.
Baker says from there it was a “slow climb,” but as his fame grew he opened for Brandi Carlile, Gavin DeGraw, Heart, Grace Potter and more. He was traveling the world, singing his own material.
In hindsight, he concedes that every step forward was a step away from his family. But he was l iving t he dream — until he walked in his house one night and found wife Mandy had left him. She’d left her wedding ring on the table with a note that said, “I will not be sorry for the choice you made.”
Baker knew he had to walk away from music while he got his priorities straight.
“It never was t hat I wouldn’t play music again. I just didn’t know in what capacity it would be,” Baker says.
As the couple talked things through and looked to their future, they realized music was his calling. So they compromised.
His wife would leave her j ob as a neonatal intensive care nurse and they would make music the family business. He would play on weekends when his daughter was out of school so they could travel as a family.
Baker is playing two shows in Songbirds Guitar Museum this weekend — Friday-Saturday, June 1-2. It’s a rare occurrence for Songbirds to double-book an act, which is evidence of Baker’s popularity.
“We play a t on of house concerts, and I still play theaters and clubs. They make up 95 percent of the shows,” he says of the family business.
“Last year we went from Knoxville to Nova Scotia in an SUV. This year, we’re flying to San Francisco and playing the Napa Valley-San Francisco-Tahoe area. I’ve rented a 25- foot RV and we’re going to the Grand Canyon and see the country together. My daughter is 8 and she’s already seen more places than I had as a 20-year-old,” he laughs.
Having his wife on board with this plan was important to Baker because “she’s my muse. My songwriting is very personal.
“I write about my experiences and a lot of it is the love I have for my wife. Because of that, I’ve played a lot of weddings, sung a lot of first dances,” he says.
“His l ast show was so full of love. It sounds crazy but it’s true,” says Mike Dougher, Songbirds talent buyer. “We even had a guy propose onstage in the middle of it.”
Baker says the core of his Songbirds shows will remain the same, but he’ll be playing several new songs that haven’t been released yet.
“No two shows are exactly the same because I might take requests — or there might be a proposal.”
Erick Baker’s December show in Songbirds was a sell-out, so this weekend he’s booked for two shows — one Friday, one Saturday — a rare occurrence at Songbirds. “I’m super excited to grow to the point that’s a consideration,” says the singer. “It’s such...