Published on November 5, 2013 | by Chloe Watson0
Joel Baker’s rise to stardom
Tucked away in a café in North East London ALN sits down with a large coffee to chat to talented soul-folk singer Joel Baker.
He fills us in on his recent success in the music world, his love of Reggae-Reggae eggs (No, we’d never heard of them either) and why Fearne Cotton would be his perfect celebrity wife.
Born and bred in Nottingham, not only is Joel talented, he’s also quite the intellectual; apparently some people do have it all. “I studied Politics for three years at Leeds University,” he explains. “Then I got an internship in parliament, I thought I’d do that and then go back up to Nottingham, but just ended up loving it here so much and stayed.”
“A lot of artists on labels don’t get the opportunity to take their time… of course it was hard to fund but it meant we had freedom.” – Joel Baker
I know what you’re thinking, a job in parliament, and a musician, bit of an unusual mix, right? But Joel insists he loves keeping busy. “It is hard because parliament is quite intense, loads of meetings and stuff, but I’d bring my guitar to work then go straight to a gig in the evening.I really like being busy and I am literally as busy as I could possibly be.”
With the massive array of his music on YouTube, including some amazing hip-hop covers, it’s clear that Joel is a hard worker. “I take so much inspiration from rappers lyrically,” he explains, “I think people in hip-hop really talk about their emotions and convey their message really well.” Joel admits he’s got a serious man crush on Drake. “I love Drake! You feel like you actually get to know him through his music; singer songwriters tend to create a distance between them and their songs, but I always want to be truthful. I want people to get to know me through my music.”
Joel was asked to perform on the BBC Introducing stage at the Reading and Leeds festivals this year, but when he got the call, he was simply blown away. “It was really amazing,” he explains, with a beaming smile. “I’ve watched that stage for five or six years and always wanted to be up there, and when I got that opportunity, it was such an honour and a privilege.”
We took a guess that this was one of the best gigs Joel has played, but he also tells us that big isn’t always best. “When I supported Jacob Banks, there were only 500 people there, at big gigs it can get quite noisy, but this one was almost silent, as though everyone had come to just hear the music. “I think that was one of my favourite gigs, I could communicate my songs the way I intended when I wrote them, it was such a special evening.”
After submitting his track Further Than Feelings to BBC Local Radio, he received amazing feedback. “The DJ said he was going to play my song every week until it got noticed by national radio, he played it 25 weeks in a row!” With this much-needed support and after his performance at Reading and Leeds it wasn’t long until Joel’s track was being played by Fearne Cotton and Huw Stephens on Radio 1.
We did a little digging and found that Mr Baker may have a soft spot for Fearne Cotton: “I do actually love Fearne,” he confesses. “She’s really supported me, she loved my track and played it three weeks in a row. When someone like her likes your stuff, it means the world.” We have a feeling this love might stem as far back as Fearne’s Diggit days, a first love perhaps? “It’s Fearne Cotton! I mean I watched her growing up, I’m glad she received my love letter. She posted it on Instagram, which I was super pleased about. The next step is meeting in person, then we can be homies, that’s the dream.”
Back to more music, with all this much appreciated exposure, Joel’s debut EP Long Sleeves has reached the top five in the iTunes singer/songwriter chart. “It’s so crazy, but I’m so pleased, you can work on music up to a point, but then whether people like it or not is a completely different thing,” he explains. “We were grinding away and gigging for so long and no one was taking any notice, but off the back of radio plays it’s really snowballed.”
Joel’s EP was completely self-produced, with no funding or label, just hard graft. He says that finding his sound was difficult, but being unsigned was a help more than a hindrance. “A lot of artists on labels don’t get the opportunity to take their time, it’s all about money, but no one knew about us, so we had time to find what we really wanted to do, of course it was hard to fund but it meant we had freedom.”Joel is also incredibly down to earth. When asked who the best person he has worked with was, he chose his producer Jo with no hesitation. Jo spotted Joel’s talent when he was uploading YouTube videos. “ I have collaborated and worked with a lot of people. But Jo is really the one I click with musically,” he explains. “I mean Drake has his producer ‘40’ and I feel like Jo is my ‘40’. It just works beautifully.”
After all this serious music talk we put Joel to the test with some nosy quick fire questions. He reckons he doesn’t have any bad habits – don’t know about that, Baker, even super smart and talented musicians have their flaws. His biggest guilty pleasure is E4’s Made in Chelsea and when we confess we find it fairly boring, he seems somewhat offended! “What do you mean? I can understand the TOWIE criticisms, but Made in Chelsea is just brilliant!”
He says his ideal wife would be Fearne Cotton (could have put a fair bit of money on that one) and his favourite food is Reggae-Reggae eggs…er what? “It’s eggs! You fry them on both sides with herbs and stuff, then you get bread, then you put Reggae sauce on it, Reggae Reggae eggs!” Sounds tasty…ish. Joel explains that he is strictly boxers on the underwear front and his favourite song right now is Too Much by Drake ft. Sampha. He also wants to let Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber know he has a lot of love for them. “Everyone hates them at the moment, they need some love in their life! Justin, Miley, I’m here for you.”
Finally we made one last effort to get to know Joel by making him shuffle his iPod for us. We were hoping for some super embarrassing show tunes to pop up. First to play is Nick Brewer’s I Like who happens to be a very good friend of Joel’s and recently released his own EP. Next is Michael Kiwanuka, Bones. “That’s good, quite credible I think” Joel’s looking a bit smug by this point. Finally up pops Sam Baker with Ride “This is my brother!” he says happily.
Seeing as we can’t make Joel’s iPod shuffle up some embarrassment for us, we take the easy route and just probe him: “OK, OK, so I do have some Simon Webbe, from Blue, on my iPod” he admits, “but that song Coming Around Again cuts me deep.” He seemed a bit too willing to admit that, not-so-secret Blue fan alert!
It is clear that Joel is not only talented and down to earth, but he is a genuinely nice guy who has worked hard for his success; he may not be a household name as yet but his music is definitely worth a listen.
He says: “I think the most important thing in music is to not forget who you’re making it for, make it for yourself, I think people get distracted trying to make it for labels or radio or to fit with a trend or hype. If you work on your craft and stick to it, sooner or later people will recognise you. Just enjoy it, making music is the best.”
Film and audio: Jenine Ebanks and Sharayne Jones
Edit: Suzie Shepherd