Wisdom Words from Louis Baker
There is power in both ‘yes’ and ‘no’, but own your place and don’t be afraid to say ‘no’ when it's needed
At age 22, I used to be the person who found it hard to say ‘no’. At jazz school, I would spread myself too thin, take on too many commitments which would put me further and further down a hole - whether it was gigs, rehearsals, bands. As a result, perhaps I didn’t focus on the uni work I needed to do. It is a tough place to get out of.
When you reach your late twenties, you get a sense of independence; you know who you are and you’re clear about what you want to do and where you want to go. It’s important to be decisive. It’s about making decisions that are true to who you are - and knowing where your ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ is.
Take care of yourself
This is an important one. I would party late into the early morning hours, go to uni the next day and miss valuable things that needed to be done. It doesn’t work too well and you can’t expect much of yourself.
When you deal with sickness on tour, gargling baking soda is the ticket. Baking soda has natural anti-bacterial properties and acts as an anti-inflammatory remedy. It tastes terrible but it absolutely works.
Touring is a huge commitment. The jetlag cheat is staying up as long as you can (literally until you’re dog-tired) and go to sleep on local time. That is Jetlag 101. Eating the right food is another important tip - making sure you’re getting your vegetables, fruits and vitamins. This is especially important for singers as you won’t eat too much before a gig, so you leave space to breathe. Afterwards, you will get this ravenous hunger because you’ve spent all your energy on stage. When you deal with sickness on tour, gargling baking soda is the ticket. Baking soda has natural anti-bacterial properties and acts as an anti-inflammatory remedy. It tastes terrible but it absolutely works. When you’ve finished a gig, keep the voice down and take an ibuprofen or lemon and honey drink to keep the fuel for the next gig.
Louis Baker 2019 © Abe Mora - photo supplied.
Be proactive about goals
Around the age of 22, I met my manager (Cushla Aston) and she taught me how to be time specific with my goal setting - making them achievable, measurable and relevant. Instead of saying “I want to play in London with my band”, you would say “I want to play X festival in London with X people by X date, and this is how we’re going to do that…” for example.
It’s also about being proactive about goals. At the heart of everything, music comes first. But setting clear goals and making it an active process is important. We use google docs as it’s real-time and interchangeable. Me and my manager can look over it and change things when we need to. Time works in a funny way, and sometimes your goals happen at a different time to when you anticipated them but nonetheless, you should keep walking that same path towards your overarching goal. All the other steps are there to prop up that main goal.
Finish what you start
Getting the job done and seeing it all the way through is huge. I look at artists who have released five, ten, twenty records and think that’s incredible. That’s prolific. To achieve this and see things to the end, I’ve found it’s helpful to have a like-minded, positive and active community around you - people you can seek advice from and dialogue with. It helps to normalise your own situation, and keep your perspective in check when the going is rough.
Human beings, we are innately ignorant beings. We forget things quickly - we get stuck in our own bubbles. It can help to talk to a friend, and sometimes you might find that their situation is 100 times worse than your own. It keeps everything in perspective, everything is relative. Having a community around you to understand yourself from a wider perspective helps you move forward.
Be accountable, and open to feedback
I think being accountable for your own actions as a human being is part of being a good person to others, but it’s also about being a functioning artist. For me, having a manager to be accountable to helps. The volume of work a manager will do for an artist is huge. She [Cushla] is a great manager. It helps having someone there who can be honest with you and hold you accountable.
Over the years, I’ve become better at taking feedback. It helps you move forward. When you’ve just played a show and you’re getting feedback on the night, or at any point in receiving critical feedback, your initial reaction and response is everything. In short, keep calm. Listen. Sometimes you will get feedback that hits home but it's important to take that on. If you can’t front up, look at your own technique and see what you’re doing wrong, how can you expect to do better? You have to be open to taking that next step. You have to be accountable to yourself.
Louis Baker 2018 © Russ Kleyn - photo supplied.
Louis Baker’s debut album Open is out now, and he is touring Aotearoa this August. Tickets available now from louisbaker.co.nz
August 8 - Blue Smoke, Christchurch
August 9 - The Tuning Fork, Auckland
August 10 - San Fran, Wellington