Nina Baker is a talented piano player and singer-songwriter from Norfolk in the UK. Despite Nina’s incredibly hectic schedule that has involved countless gigs and writing new material for her forthcoming album, we were delighted when she completed a feature interview for Song Revelation. Read on to discover who inspires Nina musically, which modern day artists she is inspired by and what she’s hoping to achieve for the rest of this year.
Q: If you could use a tagline of less than 20 words to describe your music and who you are what would it be?
Quirky, quite intense, emotionally driven, intelligent song-writing, red-headed, blues-influenced, piano playing English Rose who likes cake.
Q: What is your musical background?
I was involved in musical theatre from the age of 5, so I guess I have always liked performing. I actually started playing the piano at quite a late age, I was bought a piano for my 14th birthday and this kick-started my love of composition. I completed all of the ABRSM examinations whilst at university, so I am very much a classically trained pianist now branching into mainstream. My early experiences in the music industry were with function bands, I was the quiet piano player tucked away in the corner, playing “Boogie-Wonderland” every night! I did that for a couple of years alongside teaching piano and working in a music shop (the instrument sort, not HMV!), but what I really wanted to do was to write my own songs and play solo – Which when you are used to playing in a big band is incredibly daunting. So in 2010 I took the brave step of going out there on my own, performing in and around my hometown of Norwich, and the response that I received was truly heart-warming. This gave me the confidence to write and perform more and more.
Q: How was 2010 for you?
Bonkers !! Wow, what a year, actually not even a year, I played my first solo gig in May and it has just been a whirlwind ever since. I played over 50 gigs in 2010 all over the UK to an array of different people; performing at small gigs in tiny venues, to main stages at festivals to award ceremonies. It was all very surreal particularly when people started pointing at me in my home-town!
The one thing that I wanted to achieve in 2010 was to get my music out there, so as well as performing I wrote and recorded my E.P “Breaking Rules” which we got out just before Christmas and it flew off the metaphorical online shelves. The trouble with doing the E.P though is that people loved it, but wanted a whole lot more! So this year has been all about writing that all important first full album.
Q: Who inspires you musically?
I love the emotion of Eva Cassidy and her music. She sang every song as if she was experiencing that emotion for the first time – I think passion and the ability to connect to your listeners is vital. Michael Jackson’s rhythmic control, musicianship and stage presence has always amazed me. He controlled his audience with such skill! As a creator of new music and exploration of styles, Michael really does inspire me.
Q: Which modern day artists do you look up to?
Where to start? There are so many that I could mention, but the ones that stand out are the ones that bring something new, very leftfield and make it mainstream, the likes of Coldplay, Adele, Bruno Mars and Imelda May. Even my good friends The Darkness (who live up the road!), are an inspiration as they never gave up and had tireless motivation to reach the success that they have.
Q: Is there anyone you would like to collaborate or gig with?
It would be amazing to write with Sir Elton John, his songs are diverse and full of intensity and emotion. I would also love to collaborate with James Morrison, his voice is rich and powerful and he has such a unique quality when he sings. I think our voices would work well together.
Q: What songs are on your iPod at the moment?
This sounds really sad but I only have one song on there at the moment and that is a piano track that I wrote yesterday. As I travel around I am putting a melody line to it – You do get some funny looks on the train!
Q: What is your creative process for creating a track?
I usually start creating a track by working out a basic chord structure on the piano. Once I have a strong foundation I can then think about altering or expanding the chords slightly and adding a few quirky twists to the song. The melody line tends to come to me as I’m sitting at the piano; I usually hum along and experiment with different melodic ideas.
The lyrics are usually the final part of the process for me. Sometimes lyrics will come to me whilst I am sitting at the piano but usually outside factors inspire me and kick start the creative process. I often write about emotions or situations, which move or inspire me. One of the tracks on the E.P – ‘Wot’s It All About’ was written whilst I was sitting in a little café in Norwich. I happened to have my notepad on me and started to write down all of my observations; the couple sitting opposite me, the waitress collecting coffee cups. I often place myself in the position of ‘the character’ and write about their situation and emotions.
I don’t just restrict my writing to outside observations though, like a lot of artists I draw upon my own personal experiences, highs, lows, & personal discovery.
Q: What’s more important, melody or lyrics?
This is a very tricky question! Personally, I would have to say the melody. Maybe it’s because I am always drawn to the melody of a song first, I tend to listen to the lyrics of a song in detail after the music has caught my attention. The chord structure needs to be effective with a very catchy hook – if the melody is memorable it will have the desired effect and capture your audience.
Q: Where are you based?
I am based in sunny Norfolk, but continually on the road, performing, writing and recording. If there was a loyalty scheme called “Pianist-Miles” I would have many travel irons and kettles by now!
Q: What’s it like being where you’re from?
Norfolk is a beautiful part of the country with a huge amount of history and culture. The music scene is diverse and has immense depth and quality BUT it is probably one of the hardest places to gain recognition.
It only has one major conurbation in Norwich, so musicians in the area have to fight over the few slots that there are. It’s not ideal, it can be really tough at times and every gig outside of the region involves a long drive. Any musician in the area is very familiar with the 2am drive through Elveden Forest!
Q: What are you currently working on?
I am currently writing & recording material for my full album. It has been a lot of fun but has also provided some immense headaches, the main one being – finding a band! We have had a lot of talented musicians working on this project but getting the feel and dynamic right has been nothing short of alchemy and witchcraft. We have had a lot of change around with band members, but I think we are there now and it is a tremendous line-up – Former “Oli Brown Band” bassist Fredy Hollis, British blues drummer of the year Simon Dring, double-bass player Owen Morgan & guitar phenomenon Adam Moore.
We have a full string section, brass section and gospel choir for some of the tracks. The album promises to have “wow” factor and a very distinctive sound which harks back to the great albums with immense theatrical arrangements. We are also working with two very well known producers and will be recording at two very well known studios, but I’m sworn to secrecy at the moment, sorry to disappoint!
Q: What’s been the highlight of your career to date?
It has to be making the shorted listed for the 2011 Exposure Music Awards. For a little girl from Norfolk who plays the piano that is quite remarkable. To be alongside some of the names there is truly awesome.
Q: What are you hoping to achieve in 2011?
Finish the album!!! We should have that wrapped up in December. It would be lovely to win the Exposure Music Awards, but hey, it will be a great experience whatever the outcome. I would also like to record one, maybe two, new videos to coincide with the album. The few that we have on YouTube have been really popular and I have received lots of greats comments from all over the world, so it would be nice to get some great new videos for them.
Q: Do you have any gigs or shows that you’d like to tell us about?
I am currently writing and rehearsing for the album, so my performances have had to reduced in the past couple of months, though where possible I am sneaking in some gigs all across the country. Full details and listings can be found on my website www.ninabakermusic.co.uk
Q: What do you do to relax?
I love swimming, reading and watching classic films. I love the old black and white comedies from the 30’s and 40’s; they always make me giggle.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to let our readers know about?
Just keep watching this space. I wish I could open a magical doorway into our rehearsal room so you can see and hear what we are up to, as it is really very special and I promise you it will not disappoint! I’m just a normal girl from a very normal upbringing, and it means the world to me when people come to see me play, listen to my music and watch my videos – I would like to thank all of my fans and those that have helped me reach this point, if I didn’t have those believers then I would have stopped dreaming my silly dream that there was room for a ginger-headed girl on a piano….But I have been on an amazing journey so far and 2012 I think will be even better. So thank you all.
Editor’s Note: Nina Baker is an incredibly talented pianist with a passion for music, using it as a medium to express profound emotion from the first to the last moment of every track. We recommend that you check out her gig listings so you can listen and enjoy live.
If you’d like to contact or learn more about Nina Baker just follow the links below:
twitter link: www.twitter.com/ninabakermusic
facebook link: www.facebook.com/ninabakermusic
myspace link: www.myspace.com/ninabakermusic
web page link: www.ninabakermusic.co.uk
soundcloud link: www.soundcloud.com/ninabakermusic
reverbnation link: www.reverbnation.com/ninabakermusic
Youtube embeds: www.youtube.com/ninabakermusic
Vimeo embeds: www.vimeo.com/ninabakermusic