Singer-songwriter Michael Baker asks How Come You Sleep as he heads to Southsea
In March 2020 singer-songwriter Michael Baker released his critically acclaimed second album, Salt, just as the lockdown was about to hit.
But rather than wait until life returned to normal so he could tour in support of it, Michael threw himself into making music.
Lots of music.
He has since recorded another four albums’ worth of material – plus an EP of covers.
Now ostensibly promoting a special edition release of his third album, How Come You Sleep, Michael is explaining how he ended up with this glut of new music.
Speaking from his flat in Brighton, he says: ‘It's crazy, I got diagnosed with ADHD when I was younger.
‘I didn't really pay much attention to that until in my adult life when I realised if you're not careful you can be the guy who does everything 100 per cent of the time, all the time, which has been quite an interesting learning curve...’
Run-ins with viral mengitis and glandular fever in quick succession forced him to re-evaluate things.
‘I basically got to the point where one half of me was this energetic, unable-to-stop human being that had hyper-focus for the things he chose to do, and then the other side of me being absolutely exhausted and ill.
‘The two sides of me were at war.
‘I had to sort a lot of stuff out, so I got re-diagnosed and got some help with it!’
Michael was able to go on a ‘pre-tour’ for Salt around Europe in autumn 2019, ‘because we were itching to get out and play it with the six-piece band, which was quite an ambitious tour, and it came off pretty well.
‘And then we were going to go on tour in the UK March when it came out, but obviously everything went to pieces.
‘I feel like the most inspired I ever get is at the end of an album, weirdly enough, and that makes it a neat circle – you work at an album, and then as soon as you finish it, the inspiration strikes again for you wanting to do a new one.
‘I think lockdown made that process insanely quick, and I also had the opportunity to work with so many people who just didn't have anything else to do!’
‘I think Salt's in the rearview mirror now.’
Unable to hit the road, Michael says: ‘I was living with one of my band members Andrew (Stuart-Buttle), he is as much of a right-hand man as I've ever had.
‘We were locked down together so we made a record together out of old demos that I had lying around, which I loved but had never had the chance to put out. There's tracks on that record that I wrote years ago, maybe even before I was 20, so they went right back. I had these rough acoustic demos which we built up together.
‘And then that lockdown ended and I had booked in what was going to be my third, and is now going to be my fourth album, in Somerset with a guy called Luke Potaschnick. That was recorded in Van Morrison's old studio and I'm really excited to put out.’
‘Then I went to try and tour in Europe and got locked down in Frankfurt, and there was a studio underneath the hotel with a producer, and so it was like: “Do you want to make an album?” And I was like: "yeaaah, let's do it!”
‘And now I'm currently making a fourth album since Salt – it's been a bonkers time.’
Of course, we can’t forget the four-track covers EP too.
‘I've just finished the covers EP, which I want to put out first because it fits nicely with How Come You Sleep.’
‘I wanted to do some covers of some of the tunes that I'm really digging at the moment. I made the EP in my room, and the same guy who mixed How Come You Sleep mixed it, so it fits nicely after that.
‘They’re very naturalistic. The next album will be a bit different.’
So far, he’s released two of the EP’s tracks into the wild, Sylvan Esso’s Ferris Wheel and a radical reworking of his favourite disco tune, Got To be Real by Cheryl Lynn.
‘I absolutely love that song. It reminds me of the best summer festivals I've been to through my life – it always seems to be on at a festival at the exact moment when you're like: this is awesome!’
And Michael doesn’t see the point in making a carbon copy of the original when he tackles a song.
‘I think that's what makes a good cover – you almost don't get it until you go: “Oh, it's this track!” I'm so pleased with how it's come out.’
He admits he’s not sure which album is coming out next after the EP.
I've got to the point now where it's starting to get scary and I don't know if I can keep up with the workload with everything coming up,’ he laughs.
In the meantime though, he is starting to gig again, and will be playing here as a trio.
‘I think it's the favourite line-up I've ever had with me. I’ve got a guy called Alfie Weedon on double bass, who's incredible, and Andrew, who made the third record with me, playing every instrument you could think of – he's got four synths, a violin, a mandolin and a drum machine.’
Whatever happens next, catch Michael live soon, or he’ll be another half dozen albums down the track.
Michael Baker Trio with support from Emilia Tarrant
Portsmouth Methodist Church, Southsea
Sunday, August 8
A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron
You can subscribe here for unlimited access to our online coverage, including Pompey, with 70 per cent fewer adverts for less than 20p a day.