Musician Tim Baker and his bandmates in Newfoundland indie rock band Hey Rosetta! put a huge capper on their impressive musical journey in late 2017, headlining arena shows in St. John’s before going on an “indefinite hiatus.”
Now less than 18 months after those shows Baker is launching his solo career with his debut album Forever Overhead. It’s a project he immediately dove into without any reservations.
“It became clear to us what lay ahead of us prior to the actual final show,” he says before tying up some loose ends with tour merchandise in early April. “So I was working on it and I just decided or discovered very quickly that I was going to go ahead and continue to make music. I didn’t really fancy doing much else. I honestly enjoy writing music more than pretty much any other activity so I didn’t really stop or anything. In hindsight, I guess I should’ve taken a little vacation or something.”
Baker, who plays three shows at Toronto’s Great Hall (April 23, 24, 25), says that separation from the group was a double-edged sword in terms of creating Forever Overhead.
“It was sort of challenging to me, like so many other things with this transition there’s been good things and bad things, pros and cons,” he says. “I’ve always written on my own and demoed things on my own. I like the freedom of that so I enjoyed that part. But I did feel almost dizzy with an excess of freedom or lack of opinion or a sounding board.”
After “stretching out in new directions” Baker ended up with “heaps more material” in order to find what worked and what didn’t. He knew he was on the right track after sending out demos to those whose opinion he valued and getting “all caps responses” of positive feedback.
That feedback will most likely grow thanks to the album’s leadoff song “Dance” which quickly sets the album off on the right foot. Baker says it was the first song he knew would end up on Forever Overhead.
“It felt really strong just on its own and it touched on a lot of places that I really was feeling,” he says. “In terms of just what it’s about but also the overtone of it and the style of music. It’s sort of a simpler singer-songwriter thing but sophisticated enough in terms of timing and harmonically. When we added the snarling direct in slide guitar that doubled what I hummed to the vocal take I felt like, ‘We’re onto something here.’ That sort of coloured the rest of it.”
And while “Strange River” and “All Hands” are also strong tunes Baker strikes a chord in the listener with the extremely moving “Two Mirrors.”
“The inspiration for ‘Two Mirrors’ was and is about a dear friend of mine who lost her partner to cancer a couple of years ago,” he says. “We’ve been friends since we were very young and very important in each other’s lives. That one just kind of came out, it’s a very personal one.
“We happened to be doing this listening party last night. That song last night somehow managed to stir some chills in me. I guess that’s your reward for going so personal is that it just resonates so deeply in you.”
Baker has plenty of touring coming up in April, May and early June while festival slots are still being worked out for the summer. An extensive fall tour is also in the cards with a trek across to Europe also tentatively slated for the late fall. Those shows will see Baker with a new ensemble of musicians, something he is also adjusting to.
“It’s been on one hand really exciting to play with new people for both the recording and live now too,” he says. “Bringing these different flavours into the tunes is very exciting and cool. But it’s tricky putting the show together. Certainly not because of the calibre of the musicians but with Hey Rosetta! we all lived it and breathed it. We had the music in our blood and we were just very prepared all the time. It was all we all did.”
The tour will also see some very interesting merchandise available including a songbook “stitched on cougar notepaper” as well as pennants and even tea towels.
“I’m very, very happy we did that,” he says. “My partner Nicole did all the design for all of the merch and for the record. We spent so long working on that, she’s so good at that. It’s been fun. That songbook probably took a year off my life putting that together.
“I have to hop in the car now and collect the last few tea towels that have been hemmed by a friend of her aunt’s up in North Toronto here. Every day a different fire to put out but that’s all part of it. I’m very ready to leave this part, the merch, video, pre-release madness behind and enter a whole new madness of being on the road.”