Joel Baker is a singer/songwriter and guitarist from Nottingham, UK . Joels’ sound is a blend of his two biggest influences, UK Hip-Hop & Soulful Folk, fusing the two into his genre. This unique concoction is perhaps best described in his own words as being, ‘ somewhere between J Cole & Joni Mitchell”.
His latest track ‘Good Things’ is an upbeat summer anthem that encapsulates Joel’s gregarious and fun loving personality with his patented style. The influence of artists like Frankie Stew & Harvey Gunn, Loyle Carner & Kate Tempest on Joel appear loud and clear in this track as he builds his verses to offer plenty of pockets for him to glide through. Good Days is our first look at. the upcoming album, so we had to catch up with Joel to find out a little more about his time working with legendary rapper Abra Cadabra, his love of UK HIP-HOP and guitar tips for bored artists.
THIS IS A 2&6 INTERVIEW WITH:
Your spotify bio, ‘Somewhere between Jcole & Joni Mitchell’, is a hilarious but very accurate way of describing your sound. But who were some of your biggest musical influences growing up?
Glad you like the description! J Cole and Joni are kind of like my book ends which prop up everything in the middle. My heart lies in lyrics, and for me, folk & rap are where to find the best lyrics. Growing up, my mum would play a lot of Christian worship music, and my dad (when my mum was out) might play Bob Dylan, pink Floyd, van Morrison.
I’m really into soulful folk, things like Leif Vollebeck, Phoebe B, Julian Baker, Christian Alexander, more recently – Casandra Jenkins. I also love rap music. Both US and UK. I’ve discovered Conway The Machine recently and I’m obsessed. Otherwise I’d consider Chance, Kanye, Cole, The Streets, Kano, Ghetts my favourites. Kate Tempest too. My most listened to artist is Frankie Stew & Harvey Gunn. In many ways they sit between my two favourite genres, using folky harp samples whilst rapping.
Your most recent single ‘Good Things’ is an absolute tune, how did this track come about? What inspired the positive message about good things coming on the horizon ?
I wrote good things in a very hard time of life. I was very lost. But for some reason I felt hopeful. My brother had told us the night before he was having another baby, and we were excited! After my mum died things had been hard, but the news helped shed some light into the darkness. The song was written around chords that Sam Tsang was playing, a great friend of mine who is going to be a Grammy winning producer one day.
You really do build your verses like MC’s do with complex wordplay and plenty of pockets for you to glide through. Where did you develop this atypical singer/rapper hybrid from and have you always had a love of hip-hop?
I really appreciate you picking up on that. Genuinely. And I feel like I’ve still got a way to go in developing it. I try and explain this way of thinking in a lot of songwriting sessions and get lots of blank looks! I am in love with the art form of rap, and I think understanding the way rappers use words makes you a better songwriter. Rhyme schemes and flow patterns can make it easier to say something super unique.
Raleigh Ritchie & Dermot Kennedy & Spooky Black are already really good at it. I’m still developing the fusion, but on my album you’ll see a lot more of it. I’ve loved hip hop ever since Luke Radford copied some Wu Tang CDs from the library – I’m hooked!
When was the first time you picked up a guitar and do you have any tips for other guitarists to help keep rehearsal interesting during lockdown when everything can begin to feel repetitive as progress becomes harder to notice or track.
Great question. I was 14 when I learnt. Learning guitar is hard at the start. It hurts your fingers and sounds bad! But it’s worth it. My advice would be learn songs you love first, and learn the blues scale. Once you know the blues scale you can have so much fun making up riffs over other songs. Unfortunately it all comes down to discipline which is hard these days. When I learnt I didn’t have social media to distract me!
One of my personal favourite tracks of yours is ‘Story’ featuring Abra Cadabra. How did you and Abra Cadabra come to work on this track together? Do you hope to work with more MC’s in the future?
Abra – that was a great experience. I felt honoured to work with him. Truthfully I’d love to do it again and work on something a bit darker and harder. But still. It came about because we were managed by the same guy at the time. He’s a real professional. I would love to work with more rappers.
For sure. Ghetts would be top of the list. Roots Manuva. Kano. I’d love to do a song with Loyle. I’m a big fan of Jordy. I’ve been privileged to work with Frankie Stew & Harvey too, and I’d love to do more with them. One day, an Andre 3k collab, one day.
Lastly: we always like to end on a non music related question, so i would love to know where would you take someone who has no clue what Nottingham is about to show them real city?
Nottingham ! I would take them to the Malt Cross for a burger and a white Malteaser hot chocolate, maybe pudding pantry for a great desert, and then Bodega to see a show. I’ve had so many good nights in that venue. It’s an iconic Nottingham venue = magic.