Monday, October 18

Julien Baker, pain and addictions for a new musical generation | Culture

The American singer Julien Baker, in 2020.
The American singer Julien Baker, in 2020.ALYSSE GAFKJEN

The singer-songwriter Julien Baker (Tennessee, 25 years old) could be one of the characters in the series Euphoria. Young woman with precocious addiction problems, worried about showing sexual diversity and anxious to control her mental health. So are the protagonists of the popular series and so is she. The singer, who participated in the Primavera Sound 2016 festival, talks about suffering, faith and love in Little Oblivions, his third album, released last week. “Life is painful and difficult,” he muses in a video call with EL PAÍS. Before his own affirmation, he wants to show the tendency, “so human”, to flee: “I could drink to turn off my brain, run to distract myself or do something else obsessive. All of these behaviors are ways to create little trips into oblivion, where you can escape your feelings. That is not always good. But that’s what the album is about, ”he explains.

“I could drink to turn off my brain or run to distract myself. Those behaviors are ways to create little trips into oblivion. That is not always good. But that’s what the album is about “

Baker’s first two records were austere in instrumentation: his heartfelt voice was enough to convey the unease he felt. In Little Oblivions he dresses with instruments and thus the songs have a base that brings them closer to two of his references, Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell. The letters remain open grave. In one of his songs, Faith Healer, She admits that she misses being high, because it attenuated the terror and the beauty. The lyrics were written when I was experiencing frequent anxiety and panic attacks, and it is a plea: “I wish I had an immediate solution to my pain. I realized, as I continued writing this song, that we not only self-medicate with alcohol and drugs, we also do it with relationships, with fanatical political ideologies, with bingeing on television shows, and with isolation. He says there are many ways to try to feel better about unhealthy decisions, and that the song is about his relationship with them and finding out why.

With his guitar and his voice he shows realities that have often been overlooked or oppressed. In Hardline He asks if they would hit him so hard if he were a boy, to mention how different a fight is between men, women or LGTB people. In fact, throughout her life she has behaved as tough and tough in the face of the feeling that as a lesbian and because of her slim and small body, she was vulnerable. For this reason, he is happy that these issues are made visible without stereotypes: “The most interesting of series like Euphoria is that we are making progress in showing that being homosexual is not surprising. And I like that”. “When the drugs wear off, will the love kick in? (When the drugs are gone, will love start?) ”, He sings in Repeat.

In music, the singer-songwriter finds a way to confess, but she has also discovered in it the easiest way to get in touch with the spiritual. “When I play, listen or go to a concert, it is what I hope people feel when they believe that they are in contact with God.” Although she was brought up in the Christian faith, she admits that it has been a very long process to figure out her relationship to religion, and that ceasing to think of God as a single entity helped her see the divine aspect that is throughout life. “If you look for it,” he points out.

Baker is slow to respond. She remains thoughtful, ponders the question and seeks an answer without fear that the silence of the video call – without interruptions or distractions – seems longer. In a world of exhibitionism, immediacy and verbiage, he leads a reflection that brings to his melodies and his way of communicating. He regards music as a refuge because he says more than words: “I can think without judging myself and wonder why, and that helps me discover how I really feel; when I am neither afraid nor ashamed ”.

In addition to composing, Baker studied sound engineering and later literature with a double major in Spanish and secondary education. He is interested in languages ​​for the same reason that he is interested in melody: because they are forms of communication. “Human beings are desperate to find connection with others. And anything that helps us feel seen and understood is really interesting to me. ” She also wants to turn the school around so that it is not “an oppressive and scary place”, being a good teacher who cares about her students. “Yes, I want to change how things work. Oh my God, I almost just said ‘be the change’, like Gandhi, ”she interrupts herself, laughing.

She likes languages, but Spanish started as an imposition: her parents forced her. She preferred to study German. “You only had to take it for one year, but I continued eight; I studied it the whole time I was in college. I loved it”. She also had a teacher who introduced her to Spanish poetry and the reading of Gabriel García Márquez. “I thought, ‘Wow, this is a really beautiful language.’

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