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Caiti Baker: Compassion, education, and changing the date

“I don’t really know what it’s like to not be surrounded by music – put it this way I notice when everything is silent.”

Darwin’s Caiti Baker has a vocal range that surpasses any other vocalist on the Australian soul and hip hop scene today. Along with her natural talent for songwriting, her ability to jump from smooth honey-dipped tones to a controlled glass-shattering register is a secret weapon Baker has been honing from a young age.
 
“My parents didn’t really know that I could sing or project as much as I can until I was maybe 14 or 15. There was a Debelah Morgan song called 'Dance With Me' that really inspired me,” she says. “Debelah used to be an opera singer and then she went into RnB. Anyway, that song was a bit of a one-hit-wonder that came out in the late '90s or maybe early 2000s, and there's this really high note that she hits at the end and I used to try to emulate that for a very long time.
 
“Although I'm not entirely sure that I did it the right way because I did end up at the emergency department,” Baker laughs. “They were scared that I had developed nodules at such a young age, but it turns out I was just dehydrated, I wasn't drinking enough water.”
 
Faced with the prospect of damaging her chances at a singing career before it had even begun, she vowed never to make the same mistakes again. “From there I began exploring and learning everything I could about vocal technique and preservation. I've never done anything by the book but I know the more I sing, the more my range increases, and I’ll keep pushing it, I like a challenge.”
 
In 2017, Baker realised a long-held dream of releasing a solo LP. Having previously found national and international success as one-half of electronic-soul duo Sietta (together with producer James Mangohig) in recent years she has stepped out on her own and hasn’t looked back. Touted by the likes of Double J and Rolling Stone as one of the ‘Best of 2017’, her debut album Zinc is her most impressive work to date and cements her position as an artist no one can ignore. 
 
“I’m very humbled and honoured to be recognised in any way for my contribution to the music scene in Australia and I do so with acknowledging my privilege as a white person on Aboriginal land. January 26 is a sad, horrible and uncomfortable day for this country, for many of my family and friends are reminded of the true history that is yet to be fully recognised, understood and accepted by the wider population."
 
Born into a household that encouraged artistic expression and raised on a diet of female pioneers such as Etta James, Billie Holiday and Aretha Franklin, a love of all music flows through her veins – however, she has affection for one genre in particular. “I exist because of blues music. My father and my uncle used to play in bands together. My uncle is my mum’s brother so that’s how they met,” Baker says. “I never had a break from having music in my life. I don’t really know what it’s like to not be surrounded by music – put it this way I notice when everything is silent.”
 
To celebrate the success of Zinc, Baker has released a brand new video for her album track ‘Rough Old Town’ and will play a one-off solo show in Melbourne next month – and she has invited some friends along, NSW’s Tasman Keith and Victoria’s Alice Skye. “She [Skye] makes music that’s inspired by women that I’m also inspired by. She’s a beautiful piano player and she has a dulcet tone – it’s quite melancholy at times. I think she’s a beautiful artist who deserves as much attention as possible.
 
“And Tasman Keith is a good mate of mine who is like my little brother. He’s going to do big things in the future and I can’t wait for him to experience more of the industry. I believe in him and the contribution that he can make to the Australian and international scene in the future.”

Caiti Baker will perform at Northcote Social Club on Friday February 9, with Tasman Keith and Alice Skye. Zinc is out now via Perambulator Records/MGM Distribution.