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Savannah Stopover: Julien Baker pinpoints deeply human emotions of a seasoned songwriter

 

Savannah Stopover: Julien Baker pinpoints deeply human emotions of a seasoned songwriter

07 Mar 2017

Emerging from the endless array of voices in indie rock today, one seems to be cutting through the babble.

It’s not that Julien Baker is doing anything particularly different from a score of other singer/songwriters. However, her demeanor, delicate ambiance and powerful undercurrent propels her music above the noise.

Baker’s elegant voice, accompanied mostly by a Fender guitar, pedal board and occasional looping machine, collide to create an ethereal wall of folk rock that transcends her music with preternatural bravado.

The Memphis native has garnered national attention for her unique approach to the singer/songwriter style, but also because she claims an identity within three aspects of our culture that seem to be at perpetual odds with each other. She is a gay, southern Christian who plays rock ’n’ roll. She eloquently defends her own identity and her southern home’s reputation.

“I had a hot-pink mohawk in high school, and when I came out everyone was like, ‘We don’t care,’” Baker said in an interview with Pitchfork. “I hope we can dismantle the idea that the entire south is sitting on our porches spitting tobacco and hating gay people.

“I have friends who moved far, far away because ‘the south is so oppressive and backwards,’ and I wonder, who is gonna fix it if we all leave? I choose to stay in the south because I think it’s redeemable.”

Boldly facing off with some of the most contentious debates in our society, the 21-year-old pulls no punches and uses her platform to inform a much-needed conversation.

“Ultimately, I’m not going to change my behavior to accommodate that fear,” Baker told Pitchfork. “I would rather be authentic and risk making people uncomfortable. That’s a boldness engendered in me by the people I’m surrounded by.”

Baker’s 2015 album “Sprained Ankle” grabbed the attention of a lot of people. The saccharine melodies, mostly plucked out on her guitar, provide a haunting background for Baker’s swooning soprano vocals and introspective, mostly metaphorical lyrics about love and pain that echo her unique musical voice.

Toward the end of “Sprained Ankle,” Baker sheds her metaphorical approach for a more poignant breakup song in “Something.” Repeating herself with gut-wrenching lyrics, she hits precisely on all the regret inherent of heartbreak: “I should have said something, something, something/But I couldn’t find something to say/So I just said nothing, nothing, nothing/Sat and watched you drive away.”

Tracks like “Something” highlight Baker’s ability to pinpoint deeply human emotions and moments, that without knowing her age, would seem the product of a much older and seasoned songwriter. With only one album out, Baker is ripe for a larger national spotlight in the years to come. In that sense, she is a quintessential act for a festival that showcases bands on the verge of breaking out.

MusicFile Productions, parent company of Savannah Stopover, has wisely put Baker in Trinity United Methodist Church. Baker has recorded a wide swath of live performances in non-traditional venues: stadium bleachers, parking garages and a library, to name a few.

Julien Baker playing Trinity could prove to be one of Stopover’s more special shows.

Julien Baker

8 p.m. March 11

Trinity United Methodist Church, 225 W. President St.

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