JAZZ, BLUES AND FOLK-ROCK AT SONGBIRDS

Singer-song­writer Ray­land Bax­ter finds cre­ativ­ity in seclu­sion

Chattanooga Times Free Press - ChattanoogaNow - - SPOTLIGHT - STAFF WRITER BY BARRY COURTER

Ray­land Bax­ter likes to fin­ish what he starts, whether it’s house­work or song­writ­ing.

“I close the book,” he says of his pre­ferred way of work­ing.

“I clean my dishes when I’m done.”

Bax­ter, who will per­form Fri­day night at Songbirds South, says song lyrics and melodies are con­stantly run­ning through his mind, “ex­cept maybe when I sleep, I’m not sure.” So when he starts a song, he likes to fin­ish it. And he likes to be alone for lengthy pe­ri­ods of time to do noth­ing but put them down on pa­per or into a recorder.

Which is what he did back in 2016 when he holed up in an old rub­ber band fac­tory-turned-stu­dio in Ken­tucky for three months and did noth­ing but write. He cov­ered the win­dows, threw a mat­tress on the floor and wrote and recorded demos.

The re­sult was 50 new songs that were culled down into what be­came “Wide Awake,” his third al­bum. Choos­ing which num­bers would make the cut was easy, he says.

“It was ob­vi­ous,” he says. He added that one of his go-to ways of know­ing whether a track res­onates is whether one of his best friends starts do­ing “air bass.” If he starts play­ing along, it’s a win­ner, he says.

The al­bum came out ear­lier this year and is earn­ing him a de­cent amount of buzz, in­clud­ing get­ting him fea­tured in the new­est Relix mag­a­zine. His pic­ture was used for the CD cover. “Strange Amer­i­can Dream” is the open­ing track of the “Oct./Nov. 2018 CD” disc.

“Things are start­ing to groove,” he says. “It’s cool.”

He recorded the al­bum in San Mon­ica, Cal­i­for­nia, with a top-notch band that in­cluded Dr. Dog’s Erick Slick on drums, Butch Walker on bass, Cage The Ele­phant’s Nick Bock­rath on gui­tar and pi­ano wizard Aaron Em­bry on keys.

Bax­ter says the song­writ­ing process fas­ci­nates him.

“They [songs] start in a bed­room or the back of a friend’s car or walk­ing through a city, and they start in th­ese teeny-weeny forms, like hu­mans. Some of them are so per­sonal that, when I’m play­ing them in front of peo­ple, it kind of trips me out. I kind of snicker.”

He says if peo­ple en­joy the al­bum, they will love the live show.

“That’s where we re­ally shine.”

PHOTO BY SHERVIN LAINEZ

Ray­land Bax­ter

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