Nat Baldwin is a gifted singer, song-writer, upright bass player and all-around good athlete from New Hampshire.
Nat Baldwin is a gifted singer, song-writer, upright bass player and all-around good athlete from New Hampshire. He has carved out an interesting musical path for himself, performing in various New England and New York based avant-garde ensembles, releasing an improvisational solo bass record, performing and recording with the Dirty Projectors and releasing a couple out-pop albums for Broken Sparrow Records.
How did you come to play the upright bass? Did you come from a musical family?
When I first started playing, my senior year of high school, I was really into jazz. I liked bassists like Charles Mingus, Scott Lafaro and Charlie Haden. I was attracted to the lower register and also its traditional function. I liked how it was in the background, almost unnoticeable, but if it wasn’t there, its presence was definitely missed. It is the foundation in jazz music.
My dad is a musician too. He’s a singer and a saxophone player. He’s had a band called “Ben Baldwin & the Big Note” for over 30 years. They play old r&b, jazz and swing. I grew up watching them and loved it, but I was much more interested in sports as a kid. My dad was supportive no matter what and never forced music on me. I think that’s why I’ve immersed myself so passionately in it now, because I took it up on my own terms, when I was ready to do it and not for anyone else. Starting late motivated me to work very hard in order to catch up to people who had been playing their whole lives, so I was forced to improve dramatically in a short amount of time. I actually got into music school after only playing for a few months. Listening back to myself then, I can’t believe they let me in, but there must have been some signs of potential.
What people or events have helped shape your songwriting?
I started writing songs in 2004, after years of focusing on experimental and improvised music. Nothing in particular influenced me in the beginning, I didn’t even plan on writing songs the first time I did, they just came outta nowhere. As my songwriting has developed and I realized it was the direction I was gonna go, I’ve come to come to a greater understanding of what I want to express. I’ve also traveled a lot since starting out, and the experiences I’ve had have definitely affected my songwriting and have given me inspiration. It’s always inspiring to travel around and meet all kinds of new people that are making incredible music. When I get home from tour, I’m always excited to make new music and move forward.
Tell us about the songs you will be playing on this tour.
We’ll be playing songs from the new album, Most Valuable Player. It’s a different instrumentation, so it’ll be a different sound, but most of the arrangements are staying the same. I’ll have guitar, drums, alto sax, and trumpet with me.
You’ve worked with Dave Longstreth of Dirty Projectors on a few things. How did that collaboration begin and what connected you two musically?
When I first started playing songs, people would say I reminded them of him, with the high male voice and the behind the beat phrasing approach. I had never heard him, but the first time I did I was blown away. He asked me to play in his band and I was excited to do it. I went on three national tours with them and played on the last two records. He played with me a bunch too, adding some amazing 12-string guitar parts for Most Valuable Player, and I’ve met some great friends and collaborators through the many lineup changes the band underwent while I was a part of it. I loved playing in Dirt Projectors while I did, and I’m very psyched about the much deserved attention they are finally getting.
What albums or artists are you listening to currently?
My favorite album right now is World of Echo by Arthur Russell. I’ve also recently revisited Was Da Ist by the late german bassist Peter Kowald, which is an amazing document of the capabilities of solo bass. Bob Dylan’s Another Side of Bob Dylan and John Wesley Harding have been making there way on the record player almost daily, too.
My favorite record of the past year is Tiny Mirrors by Sandro Perri from Toronto. My favorite band is Xiu Xiu, and I’m psyched to hear their new album, Women as Lovers. Extra Life is a new band from NYC that has an album coming out in February called Secular Works, which is ridiculously amazing. A few other things I’ve heard recently that have gotten me very excited are Hearts of Animals, Julianna Barwick and Kurt Weisman.
You have a new record coming out in April, your third release on Broken Sparrow Records, what was the recording process like for the new album?
It was recored during the same time that we recorded Rise Above by Dirty Projectors. Chris Taylor of Grizzly Bear was engineering and he just left up all his equipment in the apartment and we got it together in about a week. I’d been playing all the songs live for over a year, and they had gone through many transformations, so everyone was very prepared when we actually started recording. The arrangements mostly came out of two of my bands I had toured with the previous year. One with Dave Longstreth on 12 string, and Will Glass on drums. The other with Charlie Looker on guitar, and Brett Deschenes on trumpet. Once we got all that together, we added a few finishing touches and that was it.
What sort of other projects are you working on for the new year, musical or otherwise?
After this tour, I’m hoping to record a new album. I’m living in a big empty house in Maine for the spring which would be perfect to record in. I’m hoping to do more shows, both with the band and also solo, and will start lining up another tour for the summer. I’m also gonna start booking shows at a space in Kittery, Maine, which I’m hoping to get off the ground soon and have regular performances there by the summer.
Finally, your show at Ipanema falls on “Super Tuesday,” an important day in the presidential nomination process. Are you partial to any particular candidate?
Dennis Kucinich should be the president of the United States. It baffles me that people don’t understand that.
Nat Baldwin plays at Ipanema with the Great White Jenkins on Tuesday, February 5th beginning around 10:30pm. The show is free, but bring some cash to donate for gas money. More at: www.myspace.com/natbaldwin and www.tgwj.com.