Scotty Baker is an marvellous performer. Where others within the Rockabilly fold seem to mimic, Baker encompasses the true spirit of his influences and presents as a bona fide creator, with mega strokes of Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley coming together in the body of one very smooth (and sometimes silly) man. His talents have been recognised across the world and soon he’ll be heading to London, but not before playing select country-rockin’ tracks from his debut album Just Like That at the Camperdown Cruise Rockabilly Festival this week.
Just Like That serves up an impressive 14 tracks, featuring stories about life’s experiences which easily knock on your heart’s door with their candour. “Well it could have been a lot more, I had to cull a few,” Baker laughs heartily. “It was looking like being a CD full of car-related songs, because old American cars are my passion, but I sort of changed tact a bit and got a bit of inspiration for a few different songs; there’s a few leading to the life of heartbreak.” Having married at just 22, after a decade wed Baker was devastated when his marriage decayed into divorce, in pretty sad circumstances. “Since this breakup I’ve got songs [in which] I speak pretty frankly about my feelings on all that and I’ve had a lot of people contact me, who’ve gone through marriage breakdowns, and they totally relate to the words of those songs. In some ways I guess I wear my heart on my sleeve and people really resonate with it,” he says.
I’m amazed that Baker has gone through all this because it’s extremely difficult to tell how old he is. When singing, jauntily strumming his guitar and flipping his knees up in a wild do-si-do with his lead guitarist, he looks like a masterful 40-year-old, performing with all the experience that comes with that age. However when speaking between songs his unaffected enthusiasm and easy humour make him seem much, much younger. “I do agree with you that my singing and speaking voices are two different [things],” he chuckles. “Well, I’m 37,” he confirms before quickly ducking off the phone to “shut the kids up for a tick,” who are loudly frolicking in the background of our call. “Ah, the joys of parenting,” he says wryly when back on the line, and laments that he “peaked too early” by putting Toy Story on for them a good 20 minutes before our conversation. “It’s funny, kids love my CD,” he laughs unabashedly. “Not just my kids, other peoples’ kids. People are always telling me, ‘Oh! My kids love your CD, they just want to hear that in the car every time we go somewhere.’ I feel like I’m the Rockabilly Wiggle or something.” Imitating these people, he yells out in this very amusing jabber, and it’s clear what a happy-go-lucky guy this is despite his recent personal difficulties.
Baker’s ability to connect with his audience has brought in praise from many different corners. “I often get messaged from people [on Facebook],” he says. “The songs I write, most of [them] tell a story, they’re don’t just like repeat the word ‘rock ‘n’ roll’ over a million times like some other people do. And so, lots of people relate to the different stories. Like I said before, most of them were car songs before everything went haywire.” The titular track of his album strikes a particularly firm chord with listeners who share Baker’s interest in old cars. “It’s the story of inheriting your dad’s old – in this particular case – Cadillac, and restoring it and taking it driving around. You’ll be stopped in the street be people whose grandfather or uncle or schoolteacher or whatever, had a car and it was ‘just like that.’ And the conversation goes on, and as they’re describing this car that’s just like yours, it turns out it’s not at all just like yours. Nothing! Not even close, like maybe the only connection is it had chrome bumper bars like yours does,” he laughs.
In June of next year, Baker has been booked to play an exclusive gig at one of the world’s two biggest Rockabilly festivals, the Rockabilly Rave held in East Sussex (UK). The event’s colourful promoter, Jerry Chatabox, scoped Baker during his performance at last year’s Camperdown fest. Chatabox thought Baker so perfect for the Rave, which is now in its 17th year, that he is covering all costs associated in return for the promise that Baker will not play any other gigs while over there. “I was told by the guys I did the CD with that he was going to be there and whatever I did, to perform well because if he likes you and you get in with him, then you’ll be set. He travels all around the world looking for acts for his show; he said he’d come over here to watch his wife perform and had no idea he’d meet me, and had never heard of me – of course, because I’m only small-time,” Baker laughs. “If you look at the Rockabilly Rave poster, out of the 25 acts he has performing this year he chose me to be the poster boy! It’s got my big smiling face on it.”
BY ZOË RADAS