Dirty Dozen: Rachel Baiman

In many ways “Shame” the new album from 27-year-old Nashville Americana songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Rachel Baiman, is an exploration of growing up female in America. “I wasn’t necessarily trying to write songs that would be easy to listen to,” Baiman says of the project. A departure from her stripped-down work with progressive folk duo 10 String Symphony, “Shame” is lush and varied in instrumentation and musical texture.

Tell us about yourselves and what you do?
I’m a folk musician (fiddle/banjo/guitar) and songwriter from Chicago.  I’ve been calling Nashville home since I was 18, and it really feels like home now. I have a degree in Anthropology. Outside and inside of music I’ve recently become very politically active (we’ve had a real wake up call), and I love dogs. I spend most of my time touring, rehearsing and recording, but have worked a number of odd jobs over the years including but not limited to serving lunch to the tech elite, and reading turn of the century novels involving the labor moment (a research gig for a sociologist).

How did you start out?
I started on the fiddle when I was really young, and over the years started playing banjo and guitar and singing.  My parents are real folkies and although they never played music, they took me to folk festivals and were really into contra dancing.

What is your future release?
My most recent album “Shame” came out June 2nd on Free Dirt Records.

What is the best part of being in a band/singer/song writer?
The best part of being in a band is collaboration, and the worst part of being in a band is collaboration 🙂 This is my first serious foray into a solo career and it has its own set of highs and lows, being fully responsible for everything that goes right and wrong.

What is your most significant moment yet?
Goinintoto a recording studio in North Carolina, working solely with white men, and singing the lines “old white men write books about faith and healing love/and old white men look happily onto others from above”.  That was the true moment of liberation. The rest of the album followed… and the white men were bought in.

What are your biggest musical influences?
John Hartford and Courtney Barnett. Different genres but equally wise, sassy and conversational in their songwriting.  Listening to either is like inviting a best friend over for a chat.

What venue/gig do you most want to play? 
The Ryman Auditorium in Nashville.  To me, it’s the dream venue, and I’d never want to be any bigger/more well known than headlining the Ryman.  A historic setting, amazing sound, and a real connection with a respectful and excited audience is kind of as good as it gets in my mind.

What is your best/favourite song you have written?
I think any writer’s relationship to their songs changes all the time, but  “Thinkin on You” is one that I believe will age well. “Shame” is the bravest song I’ve ever written, “Take a stand” the most honest… you get the idea.

What is your favourite album of this year?
Margaret Glaspy’s Math and Emotion (that was 2016 I suppose) I will say that i’m really excited for the upcoming Hiss Golden Messenger, and have listened to the single several (hundred) times.

What does the next six months have in store for you? 
I’ll be doing a lot more touring of the album “Shame”, on the East Coast of the US, Colorado and Wyoming, and in the UK and Australia.  I’m also co-leading a group called Folk Fights Back, which runs a series of politically charged benefit shows across the United States, in response to our current political climate, so I’m spending a lot of time on that as well. I get to go to Hong Kong for a gig with my duo 10 String Symphony in November.  I’ve never been to Asia before, so lot’s of exciting things on the horizon!

Where do you see yourself in ten years?  
I think part of being a professional musician is making a staunch commitment not to answer or worry about that question, haha.

Author: Rudie Hayes

Rudie is the weekly host of the syndicated radio show - The Horseshoe Lounge Music Session - playing the best American Roots and hosting terrific live guests.

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