If you were only granted a first impression of Erick Baker to determine his profession, you would quickly come to the realization that what he defines as his "nine to five" is a whole lot cooler than what you and I do for a living. However, after your first conversation with Erick, you can also quickly come to the realization that in addition to his 'star quality', he is one of the most appreciative, genuine, compassionate, and non-pretentious people you will ever meet. Erick graciously opened the doors of his Knoxville home to us and spent the better part of his Friday afternoon discussing his humble beginnings, career highs and lows, love, family, music and what the future holds for this talented singer, songwriter, musician, and family man.
It's a grand understatement to say that Erick Baker has certainly come a long way from playing in front of a meager audience of only seven people, which consisted mostly of family, friends and two bartenders, to selling out venues such as the Bijou in such a relatively short span of time. Last year alone, Erick released his first full length album, Holding The Pieces in Place, released a live CD/DVD of his first sell-out crowd at the historic Bijou Theatre, released a second acoustic DVD, Stay Awhile, toured the country opening for rock veterans, Heart, and was found singing with the praise and worship band at Cokesbury's West campus on any given Sunday, not to diminish his most important role of being a loving and dedicated husband and father. How does he balance it all? More importantly, how does he remain so levelheaded and down to earth after watching his career take off in such a short period of time?
If there was an over-arching theme that summarizes the hours we spent with Erick and the message that permeates through his songs and music, it's love. After graduation from the University of Tennessee with a degree in Public Relations, Erick's parents lovingly supported his decision to follow a career in music. (I can only imagine what my parents reaction would have been if when I finally graduated, I told them I was planning to write songs and pursue my dreams. But then again I wasn't born with the natural talents and abilities that Erick Baker was born with either.) Erick has never had a single voice or guitar lesson. Watching him perform you would think he was literally born on a stage somewhere but, truth be told, he didn't play guitar or sing until his later college years at UT during various open ‘mic’ nights in Knoxville.
After playing mostly cover songs with various local Knoxville musicians, his wife, Mandy, who was his girlfriend at the time, encouraged him along with the rest of his family to perform the many songs he had penned in front of an audience. His debut gig was special to the modest crowd of only seven people who witnessed Erick’s departure from playing cover songs and the birth of a career playing his unique "blood on the floor" brand of passionate, romantic, and original songs at the World Grotto in Knoxville.
Erick cited his experience of opening for R&B singer, John Legend, in 2007 as a major breakthrough moment and one that even made him a believer in his choice to create music for a living. It was so early in Erick’s career that he had no CD or merchandise to sell, so after his opening act concluded, Erick met all of his newest fans, and had nothing more to offer than a handshake and a slip of paper that read “Erick Baker-Album Coming Soon.” With the confidence he gained from his opening slot at the TN Theatre, Erick booked some studio time and recorded his debut EP, It's Getting Too Early To Say It's Late.
The better part of 2008 and 2009 was spent touring behind the release of his EP and building a strong and diverse following of fans along the way. By the end of 2009, Baker could make the claim that he had shared the stage with artists such as: Natasha Bedingfield, Gavin DeGraw, and James Blunt, not to mention playing in front of a crowd of several thousand people at Bonnaroo.
Erick Baker's career continued to take off exponentially in 2010. The endless touring and live performances culminated the release of his first full-length album, Holding The Pieces in Place, in which Erick's growth as an artist and songwriter is noticeably apparent. The collection of songs on Holding The Pieces in Place capture the brutal honesty and range of emotions that Erick so effortlessly displays when he performs his original music in a live setting. For his CD release, Baker sold out the Bijou Theatre in Knoxville, TN on April 9th, 2010 and everyone in attendance, myself included, witnessed a special evening of music. Undoubtedly, one of the highlights of that night came during the encore when Erick strolled back onto the stage with an acoustic guitar and the sold-out crowd participated in a sing-along on the fan-favorite, 'My Two Left Feet.' Watching Erick soak up that moment, I couldn't help but think that all of this success couldn't be happening to a nicer and more deserving guy. When asked about that evening at the Bijou, Erick did admit that the encore was one of those 'validating moments' of his career and created 'happy memories' that he will never forget.
The success and growth over the last year also included Erick opening for rock veterans, Heart, in addition to releasing his first live recording, Live At The Bijou, two live DVDs, and continued songwriting and preparing for his second full-length album which is slated to be released later this year. Aside from all of that Erick has accomplished professionally, the glimpse into his life that we were able to see revealed that he is most importantly a devoted family man-a loving husband and father who lives a pretty normal life in the suburbs of Knoxville. Erick continues to be grateful and appreciative of the many ever-growing fans that continue to fill the venues he plays yet remains approachable and down to earth without letting any of the success change the person that he is.
There is no doubt that Erick Baker's star is rising. He is going to make it in an industry that is very difficult to thrive and be successful in, and it couldn't happen to a nicer, more genuine guy. To be continued...
-Will Fisher, The Showbiz Kids