In the past couple weeks I’ve fallen in love with Julien Baker’s music. I’ve seen her perform at Exit/In in Nashville and had the privilege of meeting her. I think I’ve exhausted the number of friends I have to talk to about how unworldly her music is, so now I’m bringing my experience to you lucky readers.
Julien Baker makes me feel feelings that I didn’t know I could feel anymore. Her music takes me back to a time and place where the world was so heavy on my shoulders that the slightest trigger would throw me into a full blown sob session. Like accidentally running over a toad with my car. (Yes, this actually happened once upon a time.) But all joking aside, her music is nothing to make light of.
I discovered Julien Baker by clicking on a YouTube suggestion. I sat on my bed as I watched her music video for “Something” that was shot in a parking garage by someone who seemed to be a friend. There wasn’t a second videographer, any special effects or crazy cool editing. Just her and her guitar in a parking garage. It took me a moment after the song had ended to realize I should probably shut my mouth and blink a few times. I hadn’t even noticed I was starting to cry. Music hasn’t brought me to tears since I saw Bon Iver perform at Bonnaroo several years ago.
And this is how I felt before I met Julien Baker. Since writing for this website and working in the music industry, I’ve come to realize the importance the personality of an artist has on their music. Whenever I have a pleasant experience with an artist I always find myself loving their music even more. And when I meet an artist who is unappealing in any way it always takes the magic out of their music.
An old friend of mine contacted me on Facebook and informed me that he was roommates with Julien Baker. Obviously I totally geeked out because while every other twenty-something-year-old is following Kim and Kanye I’ve been sitting in my room looking for every single live session Julien has recorded. (And there’s a lot. In fact, now is a great time to check out her Tiny Desk Concert.)
So now that you’re all emotional, let me help you shed that tear. My friend was celebrating a year of being sober and invited me to a small party that was being held in his honor. It was a bit out of my way, but I hadn’t seen him in about 5 years and it meant a lot to me to be able to show my support. So I grabbed a good girl friend of mine and hopped into the car for a 45 minute drive in a full torrential downpour to Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
We finally arrived at the house, drenched and hesitantly opening a beer we desperately craved at a soberversary. After being greeted by a fluffy black cat, Julien Baker walked into the kitchen and I lunged toward her with my arms open and said, “I just saw you at Exit/In the other night and you were so fucking awesome I absolutely love your music it was so good!” (The lack of punctuation is not a typo. I honestly don’t think I took a breath.) She immediately hugged and thanked me and then apologized for hugging me, it’s just what she does. As I said, my interaction with an artist will make or break my love for their music, and that hug sealed the deal. So no worries, Julien.
But I think what really defines Julien Baker as an artist is the vulnerability she conveys in her music and her presence. After she left the stage at Exit/In, a group of people near the front started chanting “Jul-i-en! Jul-i-en! Jul-i-en!”. She returned to the stage, picked up her guitar and started to say something into the mic. She seemed to hesitate for a moment and then said “Are you guys chanting my name?” I’m pretty sure she was about to cry. And I’m pretty sure that everyone else in the audience was crying, too. I sure was.