Signing Story: Julien Baker

Julien Baker is a Memphis-based singer-songwriter who has a haunting and very personal take on solo guitar and vocal performance. She sings in a lush and darkly toned style and accompanies herself on acoustic and electric guitar. Her raw and deceptively sparse delivery has captivated audiences domestically, and soon in Europe, with the release of a debut 7” entitled Funeral Pyre on Matador Records. It dropped on March 17. Concurrently, the 21-year- old’s previous full-length recording Sprained Ankle will be re-released worldwide as well, with a bonus track from those recording sessions placed as the B-side of Funeral Pyre.

The prodigious Baker began her career in 2010 with a band, the Star Killers. They changed their name to Forrister in 2015. That same year she parted ways with them and, while attending Middle Tennessee State University, met Sean Rhorer of 6131 Records. He was instrumental in her compiling a number of songs she had been writing, which eventually became the album Sprained Ankle. “It was a distillation of a number of things I thought would not be released and I ended up posting them on Bandcamp,” says Baker. This turned out to be a fortuitous move for the young songsmith. Rhorer and 6131 label chief Joey Cahill had connections with Matador Records and were more than happy to facilitate in her climbing that next career rung.

“They like to do things a little bit different and they are innovative.”

“Matador seemed like the best fit because of the diversity of their artists,” says Baker. “They like to do things a little bit different and they are innovative. There is also a level of trust that they put in their artists where they want you to achieve the best concept of your art. They have a niche sound and a lot of their artists have been with them a long time. They follow the natural progression of your career.”

Early on, Baker was attending the MTSU audio engineering program, working a part-time job and trying to write songs and perform on the side. She is thankful that her deal with Matador Records has afforded her the ability to play music full-time. “Rationing out your time in that fashion prevents you from marinating in why you made the lyrical and song choices that you did,” says Baker. “As I move forward I can think more about how the instrumentation reflects the lyrical content of the song. I’ve just got more time to develop a song—when to tweak it and when to let it be.”

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